Activists Erricka and Paul Bridgeford talk about what causes violence in Baltimore and explain why civilians are calling for a murder-free weekend Aug. 4-6
EZE JACKSON: Violence continues to plague Baltimore. Homicides are up 20% this year to date, but frustrated city leaders are turning to punishment. Last week, they proposed stricter gun laws with mandatory sentences but a group of activists are offering a different approach. They’re calling for a 72-hour ceasefire. One of them, Erica Bridgeford, says the move will show that it’s possible to curb crime without violent policing. ERRICKA BRIDGEFORD: I want to first start by saying that the idea of a ceasefire is not … I didn’t come up with that idea. It’s ancient. In May, my son Paul said … We were driving home from here actually and he said, “Mom, do you know that the murder rate is higher than it’s ever been in Baltimore?” I said, “No, I did not know that.” PAUL BRIDGEFORD: We were listening to a song that was on the radio and this guy … The specific line was I can’t … What was it? I can’t trust you. (Singing). These are one of the many reasons actually that killing is still popular. Killing is still a thing that happens is that we now have the highest our murder rate has been in history. It’s things like what’s said in the music. It’s things like just what people see on a day-to-day, the culture of America. E. BRIDGEFORD: The only part I really remembered was being so angry that I just vented for a long time, almost all the way home, about what people should be doing in this city and all the reasons why it’s happening and somebody should call a ceasefire. It became very clear pretty quickly that I been hearing this my entire life. People talking about somebody should call a ceasefire. People have called ceasefires. I had never seen it done in a way where the entire city was involved in calling the ceasefire, though. You [who 00:02:07] not see a flier with my name on it, with any organizations I’m affiliated with. Nobody’s logo is on it except that Baltimore ceasefire logo that [Scott-awk-bought 00:02:16], shout out, made. That was very purposeful that it not be about one organization because if people don’t, or one person … If people don’t bang with you or let organization like that, they will immediately dismiss it. If you tell people, this is not about me, it’s about you, you are calling a ceasefire, you are committing the peace. Now, they got to say out loud I’m not banging with … I don’t want to commit the peace. Okay, be that guy then. EZE JACKSON: Many say that there are two Baltimore’s. Some call it a White L and a Black Butterfly. There are rarely murders in the L areas with access to jobs, transportation, investment, and hope. Meanwhile, east and west Baltimore are plagued by crime, poverty, and a lack of opportunities. The contrast is especially sharp when these two worlds meet which is why we went on a walk with Erica. ERRICKA BRIDGEFORD: See this? This little thing you can go into. It just looks totally different. This looks like a different world right here. [crosstalk]- SPEAKER: Yeah, let’s walk over here. ERRICKA BRIDGEFORD: This looks like a different world. SPEAKER: This district, this area, is indicative of what people call a lot of times the two Baltimore’s- ERRICKA BRIDGEFORD: Oh, yeah. SPEAKER: Right? EZE JACKSON: We walked with Erica around Waverly, a neighborhood in Baltimore. Waverly is located just north of a neighborhood called better Waverly and west of Ednor Gardens-Lakeside. The three comprise a community that overall has a 22% higher violent crime rate and 16% lower median income than Baltimore City as a whole. The area itself is full of disparity, too, with little access to healthy food and green space. ERRICKA BRIDGEFORD: You got pizzas, subs, and wings right here. We got the brothers convenience store. They got tobacco is one of their main things that they letting you know they sell. EZE JACKSON: One of the challenges the Baltimore ceasefire faces is from naysayers who don’t believe the weekend will be a success. Erica says that those people are insensitive to what it really means to be the relative of a homicide victim. ERRICKABRIDGEFORD: It is people’s misunderstanding in not being real about what it means to be a homicide survivor. If people don’t know anything else about me, they know my brother got killed. If they don’t know nothing else about the work I do or anything, they know my brother got killed. I feel like once you lose somebody close to you, you can do whatever you want then try to make other families not go through what you will never recover from. It’s triggering enough for me and people who are involved in this movement who have lost people, it’s triggering enough for us to be constantly out in the streets going, yo, can nobody just kill anybody. That’s hard enough. Then to be attacked, you re-triggering all kinds of stuff for people. Are you about the work, or are you about your ego? I think that this movement has brought a lot of those conversations to the surface about how we don’t celebrate each others activism and don’t come together enough. EZE JACKSON: Organizers of the Baltimore ceasefire hope to include the whole city in taking responsibility for their areas to keep peace during the weekend of August 4th to August 6th. With Jaisal Noor, this is Eze Jackson for the Real News Network.