Baltimore, Maryland’s predominantly Black residents survive every day through what Reuters calls "a record 204 homicides for the first seven months of the year"—a number that aggressive racist policing cannot fix. One Black woman, Erricka Bridgeford, took on the murder rate herself by mobilizing hundreds of fellow Baltimoreans toward one cause—stopping all killings for 72 hours last weekend. A story published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Tuesday (August 8) takes a day-by-day look at how Bridgeford attempted what seemed impossible and cleared a path for sustained action toward stopping the violence.
"We want to purposefully have a pause and a sacred space where everybody’s intention is ‘nobody gets killed,’" Bridgeford explained to the BBC on August 4, the first day of the ceasefire. "A cultural shift, so that it dawns on people that they can make this choice. I hate the idea that people think, ‘Oh, Baltimore is violent. Chicago is violent. Detroit is violent.’ These places are a reflection of America."
Bridgeford and her allies tell the BBC that they built momentum around the #BaltimoreCeasefire campaign largely through direct action, including posting flyers with the image above at corners with high rates of drug-related crime, which is linked to many of the city’s murders. She even implored people in the trade to pass the word on to suboordinates. "There have been people who have called to say, ‘I am gang affiliated and I’m letting you know whoever I’m responsible for is chilling that weekend,’" she said. "If people get killed that weekend, even if we don’t know who did it, we know who didn’t do it."
The campaign’s success in rallying hundreds to daily actions ultimately could not stop the deaths of two men—identified by the BBC as Lamontrey Tynes and Donte Johnson—in that 72-hour period. The BBC lists the current number of killings in Baltimore in 2017 at 212—a rate of nearly one per day.
Still, Bridgeford remains optimistic about what the movement inspired. "I’ve had to experience what it’s like to be Baltimore. To look broken and have to find wholeness," she says. "Don’t be numb. … We need to remember that feeling of how it was when we cared."
That care manifest in newfound attention from city officials. The Baltimore Sun reported yesterday (August 9) that Mayor Catherine Pugh announced an updated anti-crime plan. Despite the plan’s reliance on an increase in patrol officers, the Sun says Pugh also advocated for a holistic approach that includes job growth, community health reform and a proposal to "[make] Baltimore City Community College free for city public school graduates."
Read the full story at BBC.com.