Voices of Baltimore: Black, White and Gray
August of 2018 marks the anniversary of the first Baltimore Ceasefire weekend. Created to combat soaring murder rates, Baltimore Ceasefire consists of life-affirming events around the city, and a commitment from participants to respond more mindfully to violence.
Although the Ceasefire movement is decentralized, Erricka Bridgeford is widely regarded as a driving force behind it. Born and raised in West Baltimore, Bridgeford recalls a spike in gun violence during the 1980s, concurrent with the entrance of crack cocaine into neighborhoods during the Reagan administration. Increasingly concerned that children today will see more violence and trauma than she has during her lifetime, she began organizing Baltimore Ceasefire.
According to Bridgeford, “people who are vulnerable to being involved in violence [are] living their lives every day in spiritual suffocation,” and the Ceasefire events can offer a reprieve. She also sees the project as facilitating a grassroots referral system for different types of care that city residents may need.
In addition to the Ceasefire weekends, which are quarterly, Bridgeford visits murder sites around the city to ritually cleanse the negative energy from them. She describes this work as “taking a journey with murder,” and says that it’s made her more purposeful in her own relationships.
Bridgeford hopes that even people who don’t see themselves as directly impacted by what she refers to as “America’s violent culture” can understand the importance of paying attention to the ways in which they respond to others. She looks forward to a future where Ceasefire weekends are unnecessary, and the city can celebrate life every three months with what she envisions as “peace challenges.”