Baltimore guys with guns: Would you please take a few minutes to read this? Maybe you could read it out loud to your friends, who probably also have guns. Maybe hit the mute button on the TV and read it so everyone in the room can hear it.
I’m asking you, please, to stop shooting.
Just stop. And if you haven’t shot anyone yet, don’t start. We can’t keep going like this.
We’ve had seven straight years of 300 or more homicides, and that’s a long hard rain of violence. You could make it stop.
Wherever you live and whatever your state of mind right now, let’s agree that your life is worth living. Let’s agree that shooting and killing other human beings — even the ones you hate — is against the laws of God, the state and humanity. If you’re involved in life in the street and have a gun, you know, you absolutely know, that you’re at high risk of getting shot or shooting someone. If the latter, you might think you can get away with it. But, if the police don’t get you and you don’t go to prison, you know, you absolutely know, that whatever harm you do will come back at you.
Retaliation is like a virus in Baltimore.
Why continue to risk dying over nonsense before age 30?
And let me go back to the even bigger picture — what all this violence does to our city. It makes people not want to live here, not want to visit and spend their money here. If you think that doesn’t concern you, think again. If the violence continues, it’ll be even tougher than it is now for you or your relatives to find and keep a good job in Baltimore.
Maybe you haven’t thought enough about the future. Maybe no one has ever talked to you about it.
Let me ask the old-guy question: Where do you want to be five years from now? Dead or alive?
If alive, would you like to have a decent job? Would you like to get away from guns? Would you like to own your own house?
Any of that is possible if you make a change.
We just can’t continue this way, with street shootings like the drive-by the other night that left three young guys in East Baltimore dead, including DaShawn McGrier from Safe Streets. All killings are disturbing, but the killing of a Safe Streets peacemaker — if you don’t find that disgusting and depressing, you can stop reading here because this appeal is to men who still have a heart, men in touch with their souls.
The people who work in Safe Streets around the city — they’re all-in for the fight, heart and soul. They’re trying to save their neighbors and neighborhoods. After DaShawn was killed, 20 of them — Safe Streets team members who work, as DaShawn did, under the auspices of the Living Classrooms Foundation — gathered at the foundation’s building in Fells Point.
“It’s a heavy situation we’re working through,” says James Piper Bond, president of Living Classrooms. “It’s really rough. … Our guys were just together, sharing, crying. They’re heartbroken, but they’re resolute. They are passionate about wanting the best for their community. What happened underscores the need for violence intervention. Our guys are heartbroken, but at the same time fired up to go out and do the work even more.”
So, here’s a suggestion. If you don’t have a job, if you’re looking for a new path, call Living Classrooms on Monday (410-685-0295) and say you want to join Project SERVE. It’s one of several get-out-of-the-game programs that prepare you for a new job. But since DaShawn worked for Safe Streets under Living Classrooms, let’s start here, as a tribute to him. Call that number and say you want to get into Project SERVE. You’ll be on your way.
For more information about getting a new start, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
You know I’m right about all this. Whatever’s going on in your life, you can’t keep taking up a gun to solve those issues.
I know: Easy for me to say. Here’s this old guy in the newspaper saying you should just snap out of it, change your brain and put down your weapon, get out of the neighborhood, get away from the people you know, find a job that gives you a steady income and a safer, stable life. I agree: Easier said than done.
But I’ve been down this road before — trying to talk sense to guys I don’t even know with words in a newspaper column.
Seventeen years ago, when some of you were just boys, I pleaded in this column with drug dealers to stop all the shootings that erupted during the early summer. That was 2005, and I’ll make a long story short: Thousands of guys, and some women, between 25 and 55 years old, called me, looking for help finding jobs. All of them had been to prison. When they came out, no one would hire them because of their criminal records. But you know what? Hundreds of them decided to keep trying because they knew going back to the street could mean either death or prison.
From that, learn this: The life you’re living today does not have to be the life you’ll be living next year or even next week. As they say in Safe Streets: Stop Shooting, start living.