By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
August 2017, Erricka Bridgeford, Letrice Gant, Ogun Gordy, Darnyle Wharton, Jakia Jason and Michelle Shellers, launched the first “Nobody Kill Anybody”
Baltimore Ceasefire weekend.
It was two short years after the Uprising of 2015, two dreadful years that saw the city easily eclipse the 300 murder mark, and we were in the midst of a third consecutive year of 300 homicides. By August 2017, the city and the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) had been slapped with an historic Consent Decree by the U.S. Department of Justice, in the aftermath of the homicide of Freddie Gray while in BPD custody. The garish quality of seemingly ubiquitous police corruption was headed towards an all-time high (The Gun Trace Task Force and the homicide of Det. Sean Suiter were still on the bleak horizon), and community confidence in the police was at an all-time low. The audacity of six Black people to come forward and command a cessation of murder in Baltimore, the most violent city in America seemed remarkable. Their request seemed implausible.
Yet, despite tremendous doubt, outright resistance and ridicule the Ceasefire crew pressed forward by faith. At the end of 72 hours, the Ceasefire movement mourned the deaths of Lamontrey Tynes and Donte Johnson on day two of the Ceasefire. However, there were no murders recorded for a total of 67 of the 72 (41 continous hours without a murder) hours at a time when the city was averaging a murder approximately every 19 hours.
The eyes of the world were on Baltimore for that first Ceasefire and although we tragically lost the lives of two more young Black men, the majority of the city responded positively to the challenge.
Thousands of Baltimoreans eschewed violence, murder and mayhem and celebrated life, at least for 72 glorious hours. The concept of Ceasefire had fired the imaginations of many. The three subsequent Ceasefire weekend after the first, the homicide numbers came down from two to one, to none, to none again.
Now, two years after the first Ceasefire there is empirical evidence available as we head towards the August 2019 Ceasefire, which supports what many believe, the movement is working.
In a study called, “Modeling the Effect of Baltimore Ceasefire,” published June 13, by Open Baltimore (a city agency), statistical data on shootings during the Ceasefire weekends indicate there have been 60 percent fewer shootings during the 72 hour period. “The effect of the Ceasefire is classically significant and suggest an approximate 60 percent reduction in shootings during ceasefire weekends,” according to the report.
Further, the report indicates, “Without a ceasefire, we would expect about three or four people to get shot on the first day of the weekend, on average. But, this will be a Ceasefire weekend, so the model expects about two fewer shootings each day.” It is a stunning tangible result born out of an organic grassroots movement, an answer to mind-numbing violence (one of the group’s mantras is, “Don’t be numb.”)
The statistical affirmation is welcomed by the leaders of Baltimore Ceasefire, although they knew in their spirits that their work was making a significant difference in the city.
“Having this data confirms things we knew instinctively. With over 30 events every Ceasefire weekend, we knew Baltimoreans were shifting the atmosphere,” said Erricka Bridgeford, one of the Ceasefire co-founders, who has become the face of the movement globally.
“When people told us they were going to keep their neighborhoods safe, we knew they were keeping their promises. But now, with proof that there are 60 percent fewer shootings during Ceasefire weekends, we can see that the more people know about a Ceasefire, the more peaceful Baltimore becomes,” she said.
“This also proves that it is a good choice to believe in Baltimore.”
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.