Chris Ervin sees his group, the Lazarus Rite, as a resource for Baltimore after the violence ceases.
Through 12 weeks of free classes and training sessions, his non-profit helps ex-felons rebuild their lives and get certified as commercial truck drivers.
“We have heard people say, ‘If people stop shooting each other, then what? What have we done to replace why they were shooting at each other?” he said. “That’s where we come in.”
Despite his successes after more than a year in operation, Ervin and his group are never far from the sad reminders of the urgent problem they are trying to combat.
“One of my program students was killed in September – a good father of two,” Ervin said. “I had just texted him not long before it happened. He’d had to miss a couple of classes because he was working clean-up jobs.”
It’s the kind of loss that brought Ervin and others together for a candlelight vigil last Friday, plus hundreds more for events across the city – all part of the weekend’s grassroots Baltimore Ceasefire.
“Nobody kill anybody” is the simple message of this Ceasefire, the same as the previous Ceasefire that was held in August.
Giving Thanks for Relative Peace
The 72-hour event included a film presentation, a barbecue, a candlelight vigil, a “human chain” down Edmondson Avenue, a poetry slam, a basketball tournament and more.
Bright orange Ceasefire signs were plastered on shop windows, social media sites and vacant boarded-up houses across the city.
Two locations were chosen to bridge the gulf between Baltimore communities whose experience of violence varies widely.
Ervin’s group, whose students primarily come from Sandtown in West Baltimore, joined with the Mount Washington Improvement Association for a candlelight vigil at a church on Pimlico Road on Friday. There was a resource fair and potluck at a Mount Washington Park on Sunday.
Ceasefire began with a terrible milestone for a city already reeling from a record-setting year of violence – the 300th homicide occurred last Thursday.
And on the second day of the truce, Anthony Mason Jr., 40, an off-duty Washington, D.C., police officer, was shot and killed in the Panway/Braddish neighborhood.
Considering that homicides have been piling up on almost a daily basis in Baltimore and some weekends have ended with multiple killings, the organizers both mourned Mason and gave thanks for the relative peace.
“Many people kept their word to accept the #BaltimorePeaceChallenge this weekend,” said Erricka Bridgeford, one of the Ceasefire organizers, writing on Facebook. “If they had not, we would have seen more murder. Baltimore is DOPE & POWERFUL! Period.”
“In a time where the homicide rate looks like a red ocean, we added enough blue drops of REAL WORK to experience a purple ocean,” Bridgeford wrote.
She and others went to the spot where Mason was killed in the 2800 block of Elgin Street, burning sage and mourning his passing.