By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
Though the Baltimore Ceasefire 365 has been rebranded to become the Baltimore Peace Movement, the work will remain the same. The notable Baltimore-based volunteer organization aims to end the epidemic of violence through the power of peace and the importance of paying attention to what a person wants to manifest.
“The name change represents our shift in focus,” said Bridgeford. “Our services have not shifted, but how we articulate what we’re doing has changed. We are not an anti-gun organization anymore but a peace organization because that is what we want to attract.”
The “Baltimore Peace Movement” team expects to finish the total rebranding by the end of January.
Over the past two decades in Baltimore, 83 percent of homicides have been gun-related, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research. Baltimore has been on a decades-long streak of 300-plus homicides a year, making it one of the most violent cities in America.
Bridgeford, with cofounder Kevin “Ogun” Beasley, a Baltimore-based hip-hop artist, have garnered national attention for their work. Bridgeford has even appeared on TED Talk, an inspirational think tank forum, speaking about the peace movement in Baltimore.
Bridgeford said Beasley had the original idea for Ceasefire, but she found inspiration to help spearhead the campaign through a conversation with her son.
“In 2017, my son shared with me that the homicide rate was the highest it had ever been, which hurt me,” said Bridgeford. “I had been working in the community, but it wasn’t enough to decrease the rate. I started blaming others for not creating a ceasefire or taking significant action until the next day when I realized it’s my responsibility to take significant action.”
Peace has always been a part of the Ceasefire Movement, but the rebranding brings a more intentional effort to center positivity.
“Being an ambassador for the peace movement has been life-changing,” said David Johnson, 45. “The movement has made me less numb to violence, helping me realize violence is at the center of society and helping to spread the good word about peace can make a difference.”
An ambassador helps communicate with the community regarding what the Baltimore Peace Movement is about and how people can choose to be peaceful instead of violent.
The group holds peace-centered events for four weekends a year to encourage calm alternatives to violent tendencies and help those in danger or mourning a loved one.
“Baltimore has peaceful days, moments, hours, but the news won’t tell that story,” said Bridgeford. “The news depicts Baltimore as a place where everyone chooses to be violent all the time and that’s just not true. We are looking to show the people of Baltimore that they can have hope for their city.”
The Baltimore Peace Movement also offers youth services via “ceasefire schools” that they partner with, which are now “peace promise schools.”
One mother and board member in Baltimore spoke about her school’s partnership with the Baltimore Peace Movement.
“I thought the Baltimore Peace Movement would be a great partner with City Neighbors Charter School,” Heather Harrison, 47, said. “Since 2020, we’ve held public meetings, ambassador training and school assignments centering on the Baltimore Peace Movement’s work. Though it can be hard to get a lot of responses from middle schoolers, they’ve shown interest in the program and have fun with it.”
Harrison said the peace movement has offered events like art workshops, skate night and a spring fling.
“The program is great with schools,” said Trinisa Brown, the dean of culture at City Neighbors Charter School. “They show kids how to dissipate conflict, help them be aware of community events and how to come together positively.”
Bridgeford hopes the Baltimore Peace Movement can continue to comfort families suffering from the impact of murder and help them love Baltimore again, as murder can make people feel hopeless and powerless.
The first Baltimore Peace Promise Weekend of 2023 will be held on Feb. 2-5.
Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member
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