Cease­fire walk­ers of­fer prayers to the dy­ing

Or­ga­niz­ers hope ‘sa­cred week­ends’ will help curb vi­o­lence in Bal­ti­more

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Lor­raine Mirabella

Tot­ing Cease­fire signs, men and women made their way through snowy streets in West Bal­ti­more on Satur­day, head­ing to pray on yet an­other corner where a shoot­ing vic­tim had died.

Pass­ing driv­ers honked their sup­port, res­i­dents called out “thank you” and Amira Boyd emerged from her house in Gil­mor Homes ask­ing if some­one could spare an ex­tra sign.

The prayer walk to com­mem­o­rate the 11 men and one wo­man killed in a two-mile stretch in the past year, one of sev­eral events mark­ing the city’s first Cease­fire week­end of the year, came as a wel­come sign to Boyd and oth­ers.

The 27-year-old mother of three said her chil­dren’s fa­ther was shot and killed in the city in 2017. Now the Sand­townWinch­ester res­i­dent, who lives near the spot where Fred­die Gray was ar­rested in 2015, won’t let her 7-year-old twins and tod­dler out in the court­yard to play.

“There’s too much stuff that goes on around here,” said Boyd, who said she be­lieved in the Cease­fire ef­forts. “It helps a lot. It stops some of the killings that’s go­ing on.”

The quar­terly Bal­ti­more Cease­fire, with its slo­gan, “No­body kill any­body,” was to run from Fri­day through Sun­day. Bal­ti­more had 309 homi­cides last year and 25 in the first month of this year. But even as peo­ple prayed on side­walks and held peace vig­ils, the city added to its count Fri­day, when po­lice re­ported a 27-year-old man was shot and later died.

For Er­ricka Bridge­ford, a Cease­fire founder, the move­ment is all about chang­ing peo­ple’s at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iors to­ward one an­other, if only for a few days at a time. Bridge­ford launched Cease­fire in Au­gust 2017, urg­ing a 72-hour pe­riod with­out any killings. On Satur­day, she joined the prayer walk or­ga­nized by the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese of Mary­land that be­gan at the Church of St. Katherine of Alexan­dria on Divi­sion Street.

“The goal is that we cre­ate a tra­di­tion of hav­ing sa­cred week­ends in Bal­ti­more, that over time, peo­ple know when it’s Cease­fire week­end just like they know it’s Christ­mas,” a time of year when “there’s a dif­fer­ent feel­ing in the air,” Bridge­ford said. “We want the Cease­fire week­ends to be like that … that we’re cel­e­brat­ing life, we’re be­ing peace­ful on pur­pose, and that peo­ple un­der­stand it’s not just about shoot­ing, that it is about peace. How can you be peace­ful on pur­pose for three days straight?

“That is the goal,” she said, “that one day we won’t have to call Cease­fires any­more.”

Mem­bers of the Epis­co­pal Dio­cese have been or­ga­niz­ing prayer walks in city neigh­bor­hoods for the past 3½ years, said the Rev. Canon Scott Slater, who led Satur­day’s walk. It’s a way to keep the mem­o­ries of homi­cide vic­tims alive and to re­mem­ber they have fam­ily and friends, Slater said. The group prays for each by name at the spot they died or were found. Most were black men un­der 30.

At the first stop, in the 400 block of Gold St., Slater led a prayer for Damien Clar­idy, who was 18. A me­mo­rial of red, pink and sil­ver bal­loons and a teddy bear marked the spot where he died Dec. 30.

“Rest eter­nal grant to Damien, oh Lord,” Slater prayed.

“And let light per­pet­ual shine upon Damien,” par­tic­i­pants re­sponded.

The vic­tim’s cousin, Ken­neth Jor­dan, joined the walk.

“It’s a sad sit­u­a­tion, be­cause he had his whole life ahead of him, you know, only 18 years old. He was a kid,” Jor­dan said. “It’s time for some­body to do some­thing. I don’t know what. I don’t know how, but time for some­body to take a stand.”

An­gela Fur­long came from New Mar­ket in Fred­er­ick County to lend her voice to the prayers.

“I felt called to come here and pray for the vic­tims of gun vi­o­lence, what­ever the cause,” Fur­long said. “We’re all one com­mu­nity, no mat­ter where we live.”

The Rev. Canon Scott Slater speaks dur­ing Satur­day’s walk, which he led. The quar­terly Cease­fire week­ends seek to put a halt to shoot­ings in Bal­ti­more.

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