Image by Megan Campbell
By JOHN EICHER
Last February, Baltimore went 12 1/2 days without a single murder, the longest streak in more than two years.
The peace can be accredited to The Baltimore Ceasefire, a grassroots movement founded by Erricka Bridgeford. The campaign was created to remedy the city’s homicide epidemic, calling for citizens of Baltimore to abstain from violence during the “ceasefire weekends”.
On March 5th, Bridgeford and the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) hosted “Nobody Kill Anybody: The Ceasefire Movement in Baltimore” at Salisbury University, informing students and faculty on the impact of her campaign and how it was received by the mainstream media.
Bridgeford was an emphatic speaker, emotionally pleading for the audience to pay their attention towards the smaller details of tragedy. During ceasefire weekends, Bridgeford and her followers convene at the final sites of the deceased, declaring the location to be sacred ground.
The practice is among the most important of her campaign, not only providing an outlet for a community in grief, but also shining a light on the lives often lost in numerical data. The practice consists of Bridgeford touching the concrete, and bringing the moment to reality. It forces passive bystanders to acknowledge the loss on an emotional level, providing a level of empathy glaringly absent from the national conversation.
“I think her words really emphasize the war and the realities that happen to the people in the city every day, and emphasize how it got there,” said Abiodun Adeoye, an SU student that attended the event. “It may show the horror that is these people’s lives, but it also shows that these people are human beings, and they deserved to be recognized. It is about taking time to just pause, and absorb the reality that somebody just died. Not a number or a statistic, but a real human being as left the earth.”
When addressing the issues happening with the city, Bridgeford went on to acknowledge conflict within the movement itself. Previously appearing live on MSNBC, Bridgeford played a clip of herself being interviewed in relation to the movement.
While Bridgeford spoke on the successes of the ceasefire movement and the prosperity it created from within the community, b-roll footage of Baltimore riots played behind her. The dichotomy between MSNBC’s footage and Bridgeford’s narration inferred a paradox between the movement’s goals and Baltimore’s reality, undercutting the city’s morale.
The ceasefire movement is more than a call for peace, it is a fight for Baltimore’s moral. Contrasting the message of the ceasefire to a violent protest implies that the campaign is failing, where evidence proves that it is actually doing the opposite.
Although the homicide rate in Baltimore is the highest it has ever been, the murder rate during ceasefire weekends have been lower when compared to average weekends, often creating multiple day streaks where no one gets murdered at all.
The ceasefire only works because people want it to work, and therefore needs encouragement to prosper. Downplaying the success of Erricka Bridgeford’s movement can potentially stifle its message.
Baltimore may have a major homicide problem, but it is also the home to hardworking people dedicated to fixing it from within. Activism is built upon belief, and needs to be fueled with the enthusiasm it deserves to survive.
The ceasefire movement not only deescalates violence within the city, but also gives the citizens something to be proud of. The Baltimore Ceasefire movement has been one of the most successful attempts at within the city in years. It is only fair it gets the recognition it deserves.