More than 40 people gathered Sunday by the tree in Douglass Homes to bring love and forgiveness to the area where Dante Barskdale was shot to death last week.
Baltimore Ceasefire 365 held a sacred space ritual, which the organization does for every killing in Baltimore. Erricka Bridgeford, the activist who leads Ceasefire, said it’s imperative that murder doesn’t have the last say.
“Their life and their energy is a very real thing and we can connect and honor that,” Bridgeford said. “The same way someone showed up to kill, we show up to say love matters.”
Barksdale, known as “Tater,” was the face of the city’s Safe Streets anti-violence program and worked more than a decade mediating conflict and striving to get individuals to put their guns down.
Southeast District officers found Barksdale suffering from the gunshot wound Jan. 17 near the 200 block of Douglass Court. He was transported to nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Days after his killing, police announced a cash reward of up to $7,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Menelik Hannibal said he knew Barksdale for almost 15 years and that he helped him understand how violence was not the answer. Hannibal said he hoped to spread his friend’s message and reach the person who killed him, as well as others who might not understand the rate of violence in the city.
The 40-year-old Douglass Homes resident said when he was 19, he couldn’t read and so the only language he knew was violence. Hannibal said Barksdale used to tell him, “violence is the ignorant’s man weapon.”
“At first I didn’t understand it,” Hannibal said. “But eventually I understood what he was saying. Violence is a call for help. It’s a cry out for help because an ignorant person just doesn’t know any better.”
As a group of men played the drums, people gathered by the tree surrounded by lit candles, deflated balloons, flowers and a purple wreath where Barksdale was killed. A new “No Shoot Zone #24” was freshly painted on the sidewalk along with “Tater Man” in big, orange letters.
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People peered out into the courtyard from their upstairs windows and listened as Bridgeford spoke about how Barksdale was an example of joy and that he was still with everyone in spirit.
“Tater, we want you to know that we love you and that you matter to us,” Bridgeford said. “We understand you did all you could do in your physical form but now there are no boundaries. You are free to move without limitations.”
Erica Ford, co-creator of the New York City Crisis Management System and CEO of Life Camp Inc., traveled with a group of people on a big orange “peace is a lifestyle” bus to help remember Barksdale.
The programs Ford oversees is similar to Safe Streets, she said, and so she had worked with Barksdale numerous times throughout his tenure.
“We have to show our support to our brothers and sisters who do this work and show that we are one,” she said. “We have to continue his legacy and continue to teach the young people to spread peace and healing.”