Using a handheld microphone in the middle of Park Heights Avenue on Saturday afternoon, 5-year-old Jurnee Jackson of West Baltimore let the crowd marching behind her know her mind.
“I loveeeee Baltimore!” she said, as signs reading “Nobody Kill Anybody” waved in the air.
“Ceasefire! Ceasefire!” little Jurnee said.
Her mother, Dr. Lashaunna Lipscomb, 36, giggled and gave her daughter an encouraging smile. As CEO of the Journey to Wellness counseling agency, Lipscomb said she often works with juveniles in the justice system and has lost several clients to city violence. She said the Baltimore Ceasefire parade and other events this weekend — aimed at halting violence for at least 72 hours — are an important reminder that the community cares about those it has lost.
“It just means a lot for Baltimore to address what’s been happening in the city with the violence,” Lipscomb said.
Saturday’s parade, in which community groups marched alongside Mayor Catherine Pugh, Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle and a sizable contingent of Baltimore Police commanders and officers, was one of many events organized as part of the anti-violence weekend, the fifth of its kind and a marker of the campaign’s one-year anniversary.
Attendees universally joined Lipscomb in praising the effort, which they described as grassroots activism. This, they said, was unity, a show of community pride in the face of so much carnage, a message of hope after three years in a row of 300-plus killings.
“This is what the community honestly needs: Unity,” said Natashia Anderson, 31, of Edmondson Village, as she pushed her 1-year-old son, Christopher, in a stroller.
Those not in the parade, but watching it pass by, shouted and honked from their cars in support. One Park Heights resident, who preferred to give her name only as “Big Momma” Jones, cheered loudly as the Epic Premier Marching Unit danced past her home to a heavy drumbeat.
Jones said her brother was fatally shot 12 years ago, and she thought a parade to stop the violence was a wonderful idea.
“All right! Give it to ’em brother! Park Heights! Go girl!” Jones said, cheering on the members of the marching band. “Ceasefire! Ceasefire! Yeah!”
Of course, such Ceasefire weekends do not always result in a perfect, violence-free weekend. On Saturday morning, a man was shot in the head in Sandtown-Winchester in West Baltimore, leaving him in critical condition. But, the parade-goers all agreed, the effort is what’s important.
“Just the hope, just the inspiration, to inspire life — people need images and positive visions that it’s still possible for things to get better. And actions speak louder than words,” said Tenecia Brown, 51, of Reservoir Hill. “The spirit of Ceasefire matched my spirit. The rest was just showing up and seeing how I could serve.”
Brown credited Ceasefire organizer Erricka Bridgeford — who was running around Saturday providing waters to people looking depleted by the 90-degree heat — with inspiring an army of volunteers like herself to commit time and energy to the effort.
“Erricka’s leadership and her integrity really pulled me out of my house and into these streets,” Brown said.
Alexa Del Piano, 26, community intake coordinator at Baltimore Community Mediation Center, held a sign that read, “There’s no love like Baltimore love” — a quote from a recent TED Talk by Bridgeford that Del Piano said resonated with her.
“There are different ways to show love, and Baltimore shows it in a way that is resilient and proud and brings light, even when there is darkness,” she said.
Val Jenkins, 51, who started the group “Hug Don’t Shoot,” has lost relatives to gun violence, including great-niece Jermiah Harper, 21, in June. Jenkins gave hugs out freely at the parade.
“These organizations,” she said, looking around, “are the blessing that Baltimore really is.”
As the day progressed, another Ceasefire event — a massive water-gun battle — got underway in Druid Hill Park, organized by the mentoring program Seeds of Promise. Kids squirted one another and laughed and laughed — summer at its finest.
“When I was young, this is what we used to do every summer. There was peace in our neighborhood because we were having fun squirting each other and staying cool,” said Corey Witherspoon, a mentor in the program, as he looked on.
“This day is amazing. It’s great for our whole community to come together and be able to enjoy each other’s company,” said dripping-wet 17-year-old Dominic Barden, a rising senior at Renaissance Academy. “If this day could be an everyday thing, our communities would be better and our city would be better.”