The day after a teenager was killed and four others were injured in shootings in Baltimore, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young suggested an unconventional approach to preventing gun violence.
Mediation is one option to settle disputes that might otherwise erupt into the shootings plaguing the city, he said. Another alternative? Lace up some boxing gloves and slug it out, the mayor suggested.
“If they want to really settle them, we can have them down at the Civic Center [now called Royal Farms Arena], put a boxing ring up, let them go and box it out, those kind of things,” Young said. “[May] the best man win, and the beef should be over. Those are some kinds of things I’m thinking about, and hoping that we can get these people to put these guns down.”
The mayor, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and City Councilman Robert Stokes Sr. joined hundreds of people from Walk By Faith Ministries, which held its Sunday worship outside, in the parking lot at Parkside Shopping Center, to kick off the “Bmore United” rally against gun violence, sponsored by the city.
City employees staffed recruitment tents and other tables at the event, and neighbors and a few City Council hopefuls posed for pictures with the politicians, while children dribbled basketballs, munched on hot dogs and jumped in bouncy castles.
The rally served as a prelude to National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 7 and a series of weekend “pop-up” youth engagement events by the state’s attorney’s office on Fridays this summer. The first pop-up will take place this Friday from 6 p.m.to 9 p.m. at the Shake & Bake Family Fun Center at 1601 Pennsylvania Ave.
Mosby referenced the six youths arrests amid a ruckus at the Inner Harbor on May 25 and said her office wants to provide positive alternatives for young people on weekend nights.
“We saw what happened last week with the young people in our city, and we want to make sure we are supportive of them,” Mosby said. “It’s time for us collectively to come together and change the trajectory and find productive activities for our young people, especially when we know they’re getting out of school.”
The state’s attorney said the events represent a proactive stance by her office, reaching out to children before they enter the criminal justice system. She quoted Frederick Douglass: “It’s easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken men.”
“We have to focus on our babies before it’s too late,” Mosby said.
Damon Dorsey, Walk By Faith’s pastor, told his congregation someone recently asked him, “What happened to our city?”
The pastor said the question reminded him of his elder family members, who could sleep with their doors unlocked. He lamented the removal of prayer from schools and many homes in the U.S., and urged the adults to pray for their children when they send them off to school each day.
“What we’re missing is the faith our ancestors had,” he said. “They had some great faith back then.”
Vance and Jocelyn Chambliss, who live nearby in Cedonia, took a seven-minute walk with their children to attend the rally.
Vance Chambliss viewed the event as a nice distraction for the community from the unrelenting violence — a way to “take their minds off the things that go on daily.”
The free food, he said, was an added bonus.
“Nothing wrong with hot dogs,” he said.
Dawn Means, who leads the children’s ministry at Walk By Faith, said she was glad the weather cooperated for the event. She said she looked forward to hearing from Young and Mosby about the city’s violence-prevention efforts.
“There’s too many young children dying on the street today,” Means said. “Something needs to be done.”
Olenthia Dishmon held a pair of mini-basketballs for her 7-year-old twins, Joseph and Joshua, while they played nearby in the parking lot. They live in the Goodnow Hill Apartments nearby and discovered the event after hearing the booming music across the parking lot.
Dishmon said the rally was “definitely a blessing,” and she hopes for an end to Baltimore’s rampant violence. City leaders must redouble their efforts to engage the community if they are serious about solutions, she said.
“At the end of the day, nothing’s going to happen without action,” she said. “You can speak all you want, but you need actions to back it up.”
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