On The Real Baltimore: Eze Jackson sits down with Councilman Kris Burnett, Erricka Bridgeford and Kevin McCamant to discuss holistic approaches to violence prevention
Eze Jackson: Welcome to The Real Baltimore. I’m Eze Jackson. For decades Baltimore has been one of the most violent cities in the country, and during that time politicians have chosen the same method to stop it: policing. But recently a group of residents decided to take a different path. It was called the Baltimore Ceasefire, a weekend where organizers sought peace on the streets for 72 hours. Despite a 41 hour stretch without a killing, two murders occurred late Saturday, but the supporters of the ceasefire say they will not be deterred. In fact they are now calling for year round efforts to address the root causes of violence, like poverty, racism and isolation. Joining me to discuss how this movement will grow in the future are several people involved in organizing and supporting the Baltimore Ceasefire. Erricka Bridgeford is the founder of the Ceasefire movement here and the Director of Training for Community Mediation in Maryland. Councilman Kristerfer Burnett represents Baltimore’s Eighth District on the west side. He’s also a member of the Public Safety Committee, which just released the Live to Be More Crime Plan. Kevin McCamant is a former prison psychologist who recently fasted for over 22 days to stop violence in Baltimore. But first we have a package from our reporter, Taya Graham. Taya Graham: It was a meditative pause for a city plagued by violence. Day two of a citywide call for a 72 hour ceasefire, that so far has yielded positive results. Erricka Bridgeford: We figured out yesterday that 7:00, so like, Alan G was like 7:00 is the magic number. That’s 19 hours. So if we get to 7:01, something shifted in Baltimore today. When we got, when it was 8:00, I said, “Are we about to hit 24 hours of nobody getting killed in Baltimore?” When it was like 10:00 we were like, please everybody just stay calm, you know, like. But I think that’s the thing, right? It’s spiritual science I think that’s happening right now because there are so many people whose group consciousness, like we’re all thinking the same thing. Taya Graham: Here supporters of the efforts to stop murder silently walked the labyrinth next to the YMCA near Charles Village. The difference between this movement and City Hall’s recent attempts to quell murders through tougher laws was this: Engaging the spirit. Charlene: You can’t lock up folks. You can’t just, just throw people away. It’s a time for all of us to come together and be involved and find out what’s going on in our community, really talk to people, engage in a real conversation on what we need to do going forward with … Tea Graham: Many who had gathered had suffered violence but had learned to experience that its source is the pain of poverty and racial isolation. Matt Prestbury: I think the thing with this is just connecting and as the song and the anthem, one of the songs that’s connected to the ceasefire event says lift your vibrations higher. I think it’s just an effort to become in tune with a higher vibration by concentrating on what’s inside of you and also working to bring that and put that positivity out into the atmosphere. Taya Graham: A recognition among the people that only patience and giving can heal what ails us. This is Taya Graham and Steven Janis, reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. Eze Jackson: All right. Thanks for coming to the show, y’all. Erricka, I want to start with you. We’ve spoken a lot over the course of the last month or so about the ceasefire. Right after, literally like the day after ceasefire weekend, you started doing something interesting. That was every time a murder happened, you now post something about them, who they are. And you kind of require people to take a moment and reflect on that. I want to read this one you posted last night. Erricka Bridgeford: Okay. Eze Jackson: You said, “Dear Baltimore family, we lost our brother today. T-Roy is 23 years old and not long after 12:30 pm, he died from gunshot wounds. This breaks our heart. I knocks the wind out of us. Realizing the T-Roy was taken so abruptly, it stops us in our tracks. We have to pause. We can’t go about whatever we were doing without pausing and feeling. We just can’t. Rest in Peace, T-Roy. #VibrateEvenHigher #DontBeNumb” What made you start doing that? Erricka Bridgeford: When my brother was murdered in 2007, it was the first time that it dawned on me how unfair it was that I went outside and the world just kept going. People were still going to work and to the store and looking at me, going, “Hey, how you doing today?” That question never landed the same again because I wasn’t doing good for a very long time. That was something that stayed with me. Every time somebody got murdered after that, I just noticed only for the loved ones did it just like stop your life. All of Baltimore went through that during the ceasefire weekend. That 41st hour, we didn’t even know Trey’s name, but we were just devastated and everybody that could stopped whatever celebration they were attending and just came over to that spot together, to go, “What?” We let it knock the wind out of us. I had to be honest in realizing that two weeks before the ceasefire, that’s not what I did when I found out somebody got killed, unless it was somebody that I knew. I didn’t know people who had recently been murdered and it did that for me, but in between, when it was people I didn’t, who I had never met before, I didn’t feel it in that same way. When I had been asked recently was I numb to the amount of murders in Baltimore, I was offended and I said, “No, I’m not numb. You see me out here doing this work all the time,” so how we felt during that five hours in the ceasefire when we lost two people. We were aware that we lost two people. It wasn’t just those families. It was all of us because we were looking for it. For my own personal growth and my own personal walk and my talk and not letting the numbness set in anymore, I needed to be able to give that life exactly what I wanted for my brother’s life, for people to recognize and just stop whatever you are doing and say, “No, the world shouldn’t just keep going forward the way it was before because we have lost somebody.” Eze Jackson: All right. Yeah, we definitely learned over the ceasefire weekend I think how desensitized we are around murder, when people would die. Especially just seeing it as a report, but those posts definitely make it close to home for everybody. Councilman Burnett, you are, I think the first day of the ceasefire, released a plan called Live to Be More Plan. You, yourself, Brandon Scott, several other council members came up with a plan to address the violence in Baltimore. Can you tell me about this plan and how this plan is different from other plans that the city has put forth? Kris Burnett: First, thank you for having us, all of us on the air to tell these stories. The plan really focuses on trying to get to the root causes of violence and not focus completely on policing, which do play a role, but not the role. For a long time, the strategies that have been implemented by city government have focused on mass incarceration, have focused on resources for policing. We’ve spent billions of dollars on policing over the last 10 years and have not seen a reduction in violence. Myself and my colleagues, under the leadership of Councilman Scott, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, worked together to put together a plan that would really focus more on a holistic perspective on violence reduction, that really hits on a few areas but all kind of rooted in looking at violence as a public health crisis and not a policing crisis. It’s five areas that we focus on being preventative. So focusing on education, pushing for the community schools model, trauma informed care, mentorship, reading proficiency, reducing chronic absenteeism, as things that we know won’t, if we reach young people at an early age and see those, the symptoms of violence early and treat them early, which we know are kind of rooted in education and rooted in economics and also rooted in trauma, right? We talked about the neighborhoods that our young people are growing up in. They experience trauma at a young age and then they go into the school building with that, carrying that baggage, and it prevents them from being educated, from wanting to be active in school and participation and activities and out of school time programs. I think as a city we have to really focus on rebuilding the whole person and rebuilding the whole family and making preventative efforts to move. I know we’ll talk about it a little bit later, but this effort around mandatory minimums I think, it’s kind of moving backwards in that sense because it’s really kind of looking, focusing on mass incarceration and not the real reasons why people commit acts of violence among each other. We also focus on expanding Safe Streets. We look at, it’s stop shooting, start living and expanding the Safe Streets model, which folks know we, you use people who’ve come from that life, who’ve returned from incarceration and have used them to do direct outreach, to do community mediation, literally on the block and the neighborhoods that they live in, which is an evidence-based model that is run by the health department and run by health departments all over the country and has proven to reduce violence. Looking not only to expand it, not only into other neighborhoods, but I’d like to see alternatives. In Philadelphia for example, their Safe Streets Programs goes into the prison system and recruits Safe Streets outreach workers who are, from men who are going to be coming back and trying to reach them early so that, one, they have a job opportunity when they come out and two, that they’re coming back into the neighborhoods that they left, but with a different perspective. And they carry that credibility, right? It’s different when me as an elected official’s walking down a block, trying to talk to guys on the corner, than someone who’s been in that life or lives in that neighborhood and can connect with them in a different way. Not that folks don’t like seeing me out there because it- Elected officials do need to get out there but it’s still different, it’s a different conversation and I’m not trained mediator, which is also another piece, I need to get that. Erricka Bridgeford: We will put you in training. Eze Jackson: There you go. Kris Burnett: Good. The other couple pieces, and I’ll move quick. I know we’re short on time, but we focus on jobs and workforce training programs. We want to expand the youth opportunity centers. We only have two of them right now, but they focus on workforce training, GED, job readiness, those soft skills and hard skills that our young people need to go on into the employment, and expanding Youthworks, right? Which is this five week youth, summer jobs program we have in Baltimore. I’d like to see it year round. It’s always about funding and money, but this year, and this isn’t mentioned in the plan, but myself, Councilman Cohen and Councilman Sneed put together a pilot program where we took 30 students and really did some workforce training as a part of their experience in our Youthworks sites. Fridays, they weren’t working. They were learning everything they needed to know about working a job, showing up on time, how to dress. All those things that if you teach a young person at an early age, they carry that through the rest of their life, but also making sure that they had meaningful experiences. My youth worker said she wants to run for office one day. I’m like, well, good. Let me show you how I operate. I had her out there on the block with me, reporting vacant houses, taking her to illegal dumping sites and showing how 311 operates, and taking her to hearings with me and helping, explaining to her the policy process, so she understood it a little bit better. Also having her plan events and things in my district. I have a district event coming up this weekend and she did all the work for that. Erricka Bridgeford: Yes. Kris Burnett: She got a better job now, so she’s going to come by, but trying to make sure that it’s not just you’re filing paperwork, you’re answering phones, but that you actually get an experience that helps develop and grow our young people. We’re pushing all of the Youthworks sites that has this small cohort of students to do just that. The idea is that we’ll use this as a way to kind of grow out the Youthworks program so that it’s more meaningful for our kids. The last two pieces focus on neighborhoods, making sure we’re investing in community led programs like Baltimore Ceasefire. Helping build capacity which is a huge issue for … There’s a lot of neighborhood-based, community-based organizations that operate but they are really small oftentimes and they don’t have the capacity to grow. They don’t have grant writers to help them raise the money or the networks and social capital or real capital to really expand their operation. Those are the best programs, right? Because when, again if you are, if I’m working with a community-based organization that’s working in the community and is led by the community, anything that they implement is going to be specific to the direct needs of that neighborhood. Those are the kind of things that I think move the city forward, when we talk about rebuilding communities and rebuilding neighborhoods. So really building capacity and investment. The last piece is, like I say, police do play a role, but we know a lot of our officers don’t come from or live in Baltimore. There’s a cultural competency gap, and there’s a training gap that exists for a lot of our officers that, they’re not trained in mediation. They’re not trained in de-escalation techniques or really understanding the history of the city. I know that the Commissioner has made that a requirement for incoming officers as a part of their training, but I’d like to see, and I know we’d like to see all officers go through a retraining and constant retraining process, in how to interact with the community and focus really on community policing strategy. Also, rebuilding relationships and trust because that’s really, when we talk about neighborhood safety, folks don’t trust the police and they don’t trust the people that are committing acts of violence. So then you end up with this thaw-mate where nobody’s saying anything because they’re concerned about either retribution from the folks committing an act of violence, or that the police themselves are allowing it to happen. Really pushing to rebuild those relationships. Basketball, community activities and just having police get out of their vehicles and go back to really building relationships helps them, one understand and be a better investigator if you understand the neighborhood that you’re operating in, but two, it rebuilds that trust in relationships, that we know we don’t have, which is why we’re under consent decree by the Department of Justice. Also really pushing for more local hiring. One of the things that we passed on the public safety committee was to try and unfreeze cadet positions, so that we had more young people who have a pathway into the police department that come from Baltimore. The final part of the plan is to focus on reforms to the police department. We know one big area is trying to have officers who are from the community in the community, but also making sure that we’re pushing for retraining for officers who don’t live and aren’t from Baltimore. Because there’s a big distinction when you come into a community that you’re not from and you don’t understand the culture. Really pushing for retraining and deescalation and community mediation and cultural competency, which we know is occurring on the front end, when officers are recruits and in training, but also pushing to retrain all of our officers who’ve been on the force because there are systemic issues there as well with officers who’ve been here for a long time and they are kind of set in their ways. Really pushing for that training piece, pushing for more community-based policing and partnerships with the community and with our young people, so pushing for basketball programs and recreation programs and any effort to really rebuild trust between communities and the officers. Because it’s a safety issue, right? If you’re afraid of folks who are committing acts of violence on your block and you’re afraid to report things to the police, it makes communities unsafe altogether because there’s nowhere to go, right? Folks feel trapped. Really trying to rebuild those relationships so that people do feel like the police represent their interests and are not allowing or perpetuating acts of violence in their communities is a big piece. The last thing we’re really pushing for is unfreezing cadet programs, the cadet program and bringing funding for that so that, because there’s a gap right? You graduate high school at 18 but you can’t become an officer til you’re 21, so making sure that we have more cadets who are pushed into the police force who are from Baltimore, because I think that makes a huge difference if you come from the city and you understand the dynamics of the neighborhoods. Those are where we want to focus on. Eze Jackson: Okay. Let me ask you, just quick, the mayor, Mayor Catherine Pugh, I like, you mentioned taking a holistic approach, which is not normal, which is a new approach for Baltimore city, but Mayor Pugh recently did something that was a little holistic too. That was making community college free for Baltimore City residents. Are we seeing City Council and the mayor work together a little more on this? Kris Burnett: We certainly could do more together. Eze Jackson: Okay. Kris Burnett: I think it was a great plan to do that. I think that that was something that is way outside the box and when we talk about one of the big challenges entering the workforce, whether you are a young person or you’re coming home from incarceration, having an opportunity to get an education, go back to school, whether for free. We don’t want costs to be a barrier? Right. Erricka Bridgeford: Right. Kris Burnett: If that’s the only thing holding you back, then let’s remove that barrier so that you can get your associate’s, you can get your GED, you can get involved in any kind of academic opportunity that can lead to training and workforce and entering the workforce, right? Because we know these days you need like a masters degree to do entry level positions, so so many of our people are left behind and I think expanding opportunities at BCCC is a good thing. Eze Jackson: Kevin, you’ve been, you were a prison psychologist for 22 years. Kevin McCamant: 22 years, yup. Eze Jackson: Tell me about, what goes on in the psychology of a person, not just that may have been violent but also going to prison and does locking people up work to prevent crime? Kevin McCamant: You know, it’s a little bit of a complicated answer to that, which I’m going to, in the interest of time here, have to simplify. I don’t think … I don’t have really anything much good to say about the Maryland prison system. Eze Jackson: Why is that? Kevin McCamant: Well, because it does not really address the needs of the people who get locked up there. The, you know, Baltimore City, about six of every ten people who are incarcerated in the Maryland prison system are from Baltimore City. Then I don’t know exactly how it breaks down, but PG and Montgomery Counties are right behind Baltimore City. Of that, six of every ten prisoners that are from Baltimore City, 90% of those are African-American from disadvantaged economically and socially challenged communities. Same is true for Montgomery and PG County. 90% of those folks, those African-American folks are involved, are incarcerated for crimes related to the war on drugs. That runs the gamut from just CDS possession and distribution, armed robberies related to drugs and even homicides. It’s all … Erricka Bridgeford: About drugs. Kevin McCamant: Yeah, part and parcel of the war on drugs. There are, there is treatment available. It’s very piecemeal. I mean, this is, we’re talking about a huge number of people. It doesn’t happen at the right times in incarceration. It doesn’t, it’s not, what do I want to say? Evidence-based practice. Right? Erricka Bridgeford: I mean there is evidence, but it’s not that it’s healing anything. Kevin McCamant: Right. Right. Erricka Bridgeford: With the issues. Kevin McCamant: Actually, there’s been money that has been spent by the department to address these issues. There’s been no follow up. They know what works in terms of correctional treatment, but they don’t do it. Another aspect is that there’s no respect for the culture from which folks come from, who get locked up. Even African-American clinicians, in my experience, are so trying to distance themselves from anything ghetto that it creates a kind of condescension, as it were, at best and an antagonism towards … Erricka Bridgeford: Yes. Yes. That makes so much sense. Kevin McCamant: … Guys who are, in one way, shape, or form trying to get help. What you end up with, really, is a city, Baltimore, that bears the brunt of the war on drugs through a system of incarceration that does little to nothing to address needs of the people who are locked up. They come back out and by and large they are in a revolving door. Yeah, so prison is a traumatizing experience. I think that people have a great deal of difficulty adjusting when they come out. You know, the first 90 days really are a crucial period for people trying to transition. There really are no support services. The transitional aspect of moving from incarceration to reintegration into the community, there’s not much that’s being done there. Erricka Bridgeford: And not well-funded. Kevin McCamant: Yeah. Yeah. It’s not, not at all. Erricka Bridgeford: The ones that do operate. Kevin McCamant: I mean if you talk to, if you like look on the website for DOC and the various prisons, they’ll talk about having this stuff. They have it but it’s in name only, really. Like for, I forget how many thousand guys it were, at JCI which was the last prison where I worked. They have one social worker and she was mostly trying to deal with guys who had some combination of mental illness, physical illness and substance abuse. That means that there … Erricka Bridgeford: Everybody else. Kevin McCamant: Yeah, everybody else pretty much is on their own. Eze Jackson: Oh man. Erricka Bridgeford: One person can’t even handle all of the caseload that she had, right? Kevin McCamant: No. She was absolutely overwhelmed. Eze Jackson: This is an interesting point, because we had the City Council yesterday passed a mandatory minimums bill that asked for a mandatory year sentence for anybody possessing an illegal firearm at which … Kevin McCamant: I’ve been very vocal about this. That’s a form of violence about the African-American community. Erricka Bridgeford: Come on now. Eze Jackson: A lot of activists have been concerned about this bill because, I mean as you stated just now, police, then locking people up is not working, has not been working but this is … Kevin McCamant: It’s a form of … Erricka Bridgeford: It’s traumatizing. Eze Jackson: Yeah right. Kevin McCamant: It’s traumatizing. It’s a form of violence. I’ve been, you know, being in the community, coming from prison, then working in the community for the last four or five years, I witnessed people that, you know people who are dear to me, being mistreated … Then I’ve also been mistreated by the police myself. I know. It’s a, it just is, it’s a paramilitary organization. It’s become more so, over the course of this war on drugs. It’s a form of violence against people. Eze Jackson: But it gets support. Bills like that I think get a lot of support because it plays on fear. Erricka Bridgeford: Absolutely. Eze Jackson: From the general public. I sat in the hearings, and Councilman Burnett, you were very vocal in your opposition to the bill. I sat in on the hearings and the first thing that was brought up was like, look, we got a problem with murder in this city and we got to address it. This was the first thing, you know, they come up and address it. It is a weaker bill in that, there was, I think there was, there was some negotiation around the bill. Some Council people voted for it because it took out things like first time offenders and things like that. I want to get a sense from y’all about this bill, what it means going forward because there are some mandatory minimum bills that are already in place. Kris Burnett: Sure. So the amendment that passed with the bill basically mimics the already existing state law. The difference is it adds a $1000 fine that isn’t in the state law. When we talk about, and I think that part hasn’t got enough play in the media because it means … Erricka Bridgeford: Because … Kris Burnett: $1000 is a lot of money. Erricka Bridgeford: That’s a lot of money. Guess what we’re going to do to go get that money? Quit. Kris Burnett: It’s coming from the family. Erricka Bridgeford: Right. Kris Burnett: It’s coming from the family. Eze Jackson: Same way that bail bonds – Erricka Bridgeford: Yes. Eze Jackson: All that, yeah. Kris Burnett: Right. It’s problematic. Yet, I was vocally opposed when the bill, upon its introduction just because we know the history of mandatory minimums and the impact that they’ve had on the black community and black communities all over this country as a part of the war on drugs. As folks try to make the distinction between drug minimums and gun minimums being somehow different. It’s the same thing. It removed judicial discretion. It takes away context and it creates a one-size approach to situations that may be different, right? There’s three reasons people, I would say, I’m oversimplifying it, that people carry weapons. They’re usually murderers, they’re robbing people or you’re protecting yourself from the other two. I know it’s more complex than that, but in some neighborhoods, you would be dumb to not have a weapon to protect yourself, right? Some blocks. Let’s be real about where folks live in the city. We have a lot of work to do to fix that but right now we have to look at what people are living in and why you may carry a weapon. This bill, I think that aside from the fact that it isn’t holistic, it doesn’t look at public health. It doesn’t get to the root causes of violence, which is what I said yesterday before voting no for the bill, was that I’m happy to continue to work with you guys on things that actually will reduce violence in the city and this isn’t it. The opposition has tried to play myself and others for being opposed as somehow being for violence or for keeping violent, repeat-offenders on the street. It’s like, no. There are people who do need to be incarcerated for killing people. That’s real, but that doesn’t mean that I have any less respect or empathy for the families who lost loved ones to violence. This is not, those are two separate things. I even, in the hearing, there were family members there who were for the bill and were angry that there were folks who, because they see this as a solution and I was … Eze Jackson: Because it’s playing on fear. Kris Burnett: Right. Erricka Bridgeford: It is. It’s playing on fear of getting hurt. Eze Jackson: They don’t want to see other people murdered, you know what I mean? And so it’s being sold as that. I think it’s interesting that I’ve talked to ex-convicts who have said they’ve been willing, pushing, trying to get in and work with, work with criminals, going in the justice system and work with people coming home. They’ve been blocked. Erricka Bridgeford: Have they? Eze Jackson: A lot of that is because as you know, and we all know, a lot of money goes into locking people up. Erricka Bridgeford: Yes. Yes. Eze Jackson: I think we see that, but with the ceasefire effort and the Live to BMore plan, we’re seeing a different approach that hasn’t been taken, especially here in Baltimore. I want to talk about this because this also brings up a lot of fear from people. Erricka Bridgeford: Absolutely. Eze Jackson: We saw, in the process, we saw a lot of people going, “This is not going to work. This doesn’t make sense. Why are we doing this?” But in the end we saw, you know, a start. 41 hours as opposed to every 19 hours somebody being murdered. Erricka Bridgeford: Absolutely. Eze Jackson: We saw people coming up and stepping out. We saw mothers of victims of gun violence come and see a community of support. Can individuals make a difference, even though these problems are so systemic? You know what I mean? I mean we have a city that’s, generally let’s be honest, is not very educated on voting and the political process enough. Erricka Bridgeford: Absolutely. Kevin McCamant: I mean, to answer your question just directly, yes. Nobody but individuals really can do this. Look, you have the ceasefire right? Erica, and I guess with some assistance from some other people, but my understanding from the people that I’ve talked to, was that it was really Erica who spearheaded this thing. If it hadn’t been for an individual and all the individuals that sort of collected around that and made decisions to do that sort of thing, then you’re no where without that individual constituents who contribute to this. Just one thing that happened with me, and this was like, one of the reasons why I wanted to choose a hunger strike because I felt that it would connect with some people. Then through six degrees of separation, it would connect with the people that I wanted to connect with. Indeed, not last Friday but the Friday before, a guy came down from a real serious drug block where some people had been killed recently and he told me, “Listen, I got to tell you, there was some guys up there who left their guns home after they saw you.” He said, “Man this white man’s out there doing this for us. We should show him the respect of not taking our guns.” Eze Jackson: That’s powerful. Kevin McCamant: Yes. Eze Jackson: That’s powerful. You had gang members and groups say … Erricka Bridgeford: Yeah, I think what people … People don’t realize what their individual power is because that is how we are programmed to believe, so we are programmed to believe that we have to accept the conditions in which we are handed. You were born a certain place. This is the place you go to school. This is the place where you live and have a supermarket near you. Like whatever all of your conditions are, you just think this is life and this is all I can do. I really believe that I am fortunate to have been born in a place and in a body that looks broken, because I have had to learn that I am not this physical thing. This physical thing is extremely temporary. I existed before I took this body and before I was born in Baltimore. I’m going to exist after I leave this body, and so it is up to me, what I decide to do with my time in this body. Who will they say we were while we had our chance in this space? Because I’ve had to learn that my body can do a lot more than it looks like it can, that I come from a neighborhood that taught me everything I know, everything that people say. “Oh she is so great. She’s so inspirational. She …” Normal court put that in me and West Baltimore is what put that in me, and I know this. So I know my people. I understand what Baltimore is, but I also know the attempts to beat Baltimore into the ground, to forget what Baltimore actually is. The Baltimore ceasefire wasn’t my first experience. The only reason I could pull it off, with other people, is because I had previously done things with my one little voice where I impacted death penalty repeal in Maryland. Where a law got created to put a homicide survival on the criminal injuries compensation board, because Lisa Gladden who was vice-president of the Senate at the time, watched me move through years of using my voice about the death penalty. I watched, particularly white legislators in the government try to beat my voice down into the ground in a moment. They treated no other victims that way, but there was something about my voice that they panicked around and tried to beat into the ground. It dawned on me, that’s what people do to Baltimore, right? That you see this power, you see this brilliance, you see this talent, you see this strength, and you go harder at removing resources and creating traumatic imagery around it, from the blight of our abandoned homes to the way schools look when you walk into them. You do all of these things that should destroy a people and for some reason, we are still here. For me to have a feeling in my chest that goes, “I can’t go another day without calling or going and saying what did you say about wanting to call a ceasefire two years ago?” I cannot go another day without calling PFK Boom and saying, “Yo, you got connections to the street. Don’t you want to use those connections to the street to call a ceasefire?” It doesn’t matter if people think I’m naïve because people don’t know what I’ve already done with my voice. I knew that I wasn’t doing anything with my voice that other people couldn’t do. I just know that people don’t realize that they can. They didn’t know how to and because I’ve been through things that taught me how to, I just said if we all say it together, group consciousness is the reason we’re in the predicament that we’re in. We believe that violence is power and so we live in a violent culture in America. If we shift our perspective about celebrating violence and saying no to violence and healing the reasons we are violent in the first place and we all put our focus on that, it’s going to be amazing, what we are able to do together. Eze Jackson: Yeah. I think so. I like that this conversation is happening. I like that it’s going to continue to happen. I appreciate you all coming on this show specifically because you are three individuals who have taken different approaches, which we need. We all have to hit these problems … Erricka Bridgeford: Every angle. Eze Jackson: From different angles, you know, community organizing, personal sacrifice and of course through policy. So I thank you all for joining me on this episode and having this discussion. Erricka Bridgeford: Thank you. Eze Jackson: Cool. Well, thank you for joining us for another episode of The Real Baltimore on The Real News Network.