As another hot, violent Baltimore summer drags on, the organizers of “Ceasefire Weekend” are back on the streets, marking the third anniversary of their mission to stop the killings and comfort the survivors.
Baltimore Ceasefire365′s milestone comes as the city passes the grim mark of 200 killings so far this year, just five off last year’s record pace. And while their work hasn’t slowed the violence, organizers say they aren’t discouraged and will continue trying to make Baltimore safer.
“I know it seems like someone gets killed every day, but it is not true that someone gets killed every single day,” Erricka Bridgeford, an anti-gun violence activist and founder of the Ceasefire group, said this week. “Baltimore does go stretches of days sometimes without anyone getting killed. It matters to me when people get killed and it matters to me when nobody gets killed.”
The string of at least 300 people murdered for each of the past five years has sparked debate on whether police and city leaders are doing enough and taking the right approach to address the problem.
But the work of Ceasefire365 is important both as a reminder that those killed shouldn’t be forgotten and as an inspiration to others, the group’s supporters say.
“Ceasefire has modeled what it means to center healing and building relationships in the work of non-violence,” Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen said. “As I think about the vast trauma that Baltimore carries, we need people working together across every sector and silo to bring healing. That is what Ceasefire offers our city.”
Bridgeford and other organizers with the group visit murder scenes to “bless them,” and often meet with family or community members when they arrive. They also reach out to community members, urging them to get more people involved, in an effort to change the attitude in the city.
When days go by without someone being killed, Bridgeford sees it as an accomplishment, even though she thinks her work remains under the radar of the top city officials.
“Ceasefire has modeled what it means to center healing and building relationships in the work of non-violence.”
City Councilman Zeke Cohen
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She believes her group’s work over the last three years has helped but said the responsibility falls not only on activists but also on elected officials.
City Council President Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee running for mayor, said he looks forward to participating in Baltimore Ceasefire’s third anniversary weekend.
“The increased participation in the Ceasefire movement demonstrates that most Baltimoreans do not accept this loss of life,” Scott said.
This week provided a reminder of how difficult the task is for both city officials and activists. On Friday, police identified four victims of homicides that occurred over the course of two days.
Andie Wilson, 60, died of a gunshot wound Wednesday in the 700 block of Whitelock St. in Reservoir Hill around 9:20 a.m. Donya Short, 27, was killed that same day in the 1700 block of McCulloh Street near a convenience store in the Madison Park neighborhood, across the street from a funeral home.
On Thursday, William Bellamny, 56, and Yahannes Carr also became homicide victims, police said.
Over the last 30 days, the city has reported 32 homicides.
Most killings involved guns and some victims included teenagers and young children. A total of 56 people between the ages of 18 and 25 have been homicide victims, along with 61 other people between the ages of 26 and 34, according to the Baltimore Sun’s homicide tracker.
Other shootings have left teenagers, mothers and young children as victims.
In late May, the killing of 16-year-old Ala’Junaye Davis went viral on social media as demonstrations for Black Lives Matter began taking shape throughout the city. Friends, teachers and family remembered the teen who loved hip-hop music and always could be seen in her bright colored clothing as “studious and naturally gifted.”
A month later came the shocking killing of Shiand Miller, 23, and her 3-year-old daughter Shaniya Gilmore, who were found dead from gunshot wounds inside a car in the 200 block of Boswell Road in the city’s Westgate neighborhood. The mother and daughter had been dead for nearly 11 hours before police were notified.
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But for Bridgeford, that narrative of Baltimore’s troubles doesn’t capture the true scope of the work being done in the city on a daily basis. There have been days where the city has gone without killings, Bridgeford said, and sometimes that is often forgotten and not acknowledged.
The third annual Baltimore Ceasefire weekend began Friday and ends Sunday. Each day from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., there will be a caravan through various parts of the city with anti-gun violence activists honking for peace.