Eze Jackson: Baltimore citizens have called for the city’s second 72-hour ceasefire. The city just saw its 300th murder of 2017, but Baltimore Ceasefire activists’ efforts have increased to stop the violence, and continue the Baltimore Peace Challenge. The first 24 hours went by without a killing. But shortly before one AM on Saturday morning, Tony Mason, Jr. was murdered. Mason was a 40 year old sergeant for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. He was sitting in a parked car in the 2800 block of Elgin Avenue in West Baltimore when the unidentified shooter opened fire on the vehicle.
One passenger survived. Mason succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital. Ceasefire organizer Erricka Bridgeford and others showed up to the scene Saturday afternoon to declare it as a sacred space, a ritual that recognizes the value of human life. People in this particularly neighborhood in West Baltimore told us that they’re not used to violence, or hearing gunshots. They say it’s usually a fairly quiet neighborhood.
Sheron Muse: These people come around here that don’t live around here, stuff happen. But it’s quiet round here, right nice around here. We don’t be having this around here.
Eze Jackson: In August of this year, the first Ceasefire weekend saw the city go 41 hours before a murder occurred. Two people were killed in total that weekend, but Erricka says for the first time people felt it. She said that the hashtags that the activists created, “Don’t Be Numb” and “Vibrate Higher”, were created to encourage people to have empathy and compassion for the lives that have been lost to senseless violence, instead of simply seeing the victims as just another statistic.
E. Bridgeford: Because, the truth is, the weekend before there were like six murders. And people didn’t feel it. There was no outcry. There was no going to the space and making it sacred ground. Like none of that happened. But then, during Ceasefire weekend, when two people were murdered, it felt like six people got murdered to us. And so, we were honest about that and started a new narrative about our own numbness and not staying in that numbness. Using it to push forward sometimes. Like in a moment, you have to be numb just to stand, but not to live there, not to be there. But, also to then vibrate a little bit higher because that pain pushes you deeper into, “Okay, what more should I be doing?”
Eze Jackson: During Ceasefire weekends, people come together. Events are held throughout the city. And prayer circles happen at the sites where victims were murdered. After the first weekend in August, organizers decided to call a Ceasefire weekend once every quarter. During the first weekends of February, May, August, and November, there will be an ask that “Nobody kill anybody until the murder rate is no longer an issue.” A big task that Erricka Bridgeford says they’re all up for.
Speaker 3: It’s been amazing because now people know about the Ceasefire, and it is a real thing to a lot more people. So people have been coming consistently for the last three months to get flyers, to get posters, doing outreach all over the city. We hit, people hit South Baltimore this time, because I think South Baltimore didn’t even get touched last time. And, a lot more young people. Schools competing against each other to see who can do more than the other school is doing within their school, stuff like that.
So, there’s a lot more energy leading up to it. And there’s been more conversations about what resources people need, not just the Ceasefire weekend, but really trying to address root causes.
M. Shellers: I think it’s really important that Baltimore experience a culture shift. During the first Ceasefire, the air just felt different. And I wanted to see that collaborative energy continue, throughout the years to come for Baltimore City. It’s really, really important to me that the narrative has changed for Baltimore City.
Eze Jackson: Michelle Shellers says they’re looking to change the way the world things about her city, and the people who live in it.
M. Shellers: A lot of times when I travel, and I say I’m from Baltimore, the first thing that people ask me is, “Is it really like The Wire?” So, people need to understand that Baltimore is not just The Wire. That we have a lot more going on than The Wire. And the Ceasefire gave the world something different to talk about. So, the next time I travel, I hope that people ask me, “Isn’t that where the Ceasefire happened?” So, that would be really dope.
Eze Jackson: In Baltimore, for the Real News Network, with Will Arenas, I’m EZ Jackson.