'Nobody Kill Anybody': Working For A Pause In Baltimore's Violence
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The number of killings in Baltimore this year has reached more than 180. Erricka Bridgeford wants to bring a stop to that, if only for a few days. She's organizing a 72-hour cease-fire in Baltimore for the first weekend in August. Nobody kill anybody. That's the motto. And she hopes the city can go three days without a shooting, stabbing or any kind of violence.
Erricka Bridgeford joins us now from WEAA in Baltimore. Thanks so much for being with us.
ERRICKA BRIDGEFORD: Thank you so much.
SIMON: How are you going to do this?
BRIDGEFORD: Well, first I want to say that it's not just me. There's an organizing team of six people. And the goal is to have all of Baltimore involved. And so we have flyers and posters. We're talking to people about what it is they need that can help keep them out of violent situations. It is also about celebrating life that weekend and doing things that affirm life.
And so people are planning small events and large events. And it's not that we expect that this is going to be a cure to violence. If someone gets killed that weekend, we won't believe that this effort has been a failure because it is already impactful or else I don't think I would be on your show right now.
SIMON: I wonder if when you get out in the community and talk to people - well, if you've talked to people there who frighten a lot of people, some of the members of crews who are held to be responsible for most of the violence.
BRIDGEFORD: Absolutely. We are talking to people who have been involved in violence, are involved in violence consistently, people who are vulnerable to be involved in violence. But please make no mistake, this is not a target for the streets. People are dying in random arguments. People are dying because someone cut them off in traffic. America is a very violent place.
And I think what's shocking to other people but not to us is that these people are also very tired of the violence. They are burying their loved ones and their friends. Even though people feel skeptical about whether or not everybody will agree to not kill anybody, they still say I want you all to keep trying.
SIMON: You know people, your own family, your own circle of friends who've suffered in the violence?
BRIDGEFORD: The first person I saw die, I was 12 years old. I heard the gunshots around the corner, watched him fall on the blacktop. I heard him saying, God, please don't let me die while he was waiting for the ambulance. Ever since then, I've been going to funerals. In 2001, one of my three brothers was shot, and he was dead on arrival. And a close family friend shot him in broad daylight in the middle of an argument.
And in 2007, we lost my brother Corney (ph) to violence. He was the 21st murder victim on the 22nd day of the year in 2007. And my aunt has three sons. Two of her sons have been murdered. And these are just the people I can think of off the top of my head. So I'm often heartbroken about how violence is happening.
SIMON: I'm sorry for all the friends and family you've lost. Do you hope, Ms. Bridgeford, that if your city can make it through three days without an act of violence or at least fewer acts of violence, that eventually, that can be 30 days, 90 days?
BRIDGEFORD: That is absolutely the hope. Right now, Baltimore is an example of what happens when a lot of people come together and going up to people that they would normally call unapproachable. And they are humanizing one another. And so, yes, the hope is even if there are less murders that weekend, once Baltimore sees that we have really done something big and loving, then that starts to help people see what more we can do if we continue on a path of really trying to understand each other's journeys and what it is that people need right there where they are.
And I think because there's been so much conversation about hoping that nobody gets killed, if someone dies that weekend, I think the outcry that Baltimore is going to have is going to be huge for those families and that they're going to get a lot of support.
SIMON: Erricka Bridgeford in Baltimore - thanks very much, and good luck to you. Best wishes.
BRIDGEFORD: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.