By LORRAINE MIRABELLA, BALTIMORE SUN
About 60 strong, the group of mostly African American men walked the streets of East Baltimore on Saturday, talking with residents on porches, greeting drivers at stoplights, handing out flyers about jobs, drug treatment and family support. They invited passers-by to join their growing ranks.
“We’re all we’ve got,” they chanted as they left Faith United Baptist Church on The Alameda. “We’re all we need.”
The men — pastors, activists, residents and others — have been walking three times a week for several months now through different parts of the city. It’s not a march, they say, but a movement. Their mission is to save lives in a city beset by violence.
They see themselves becoming a consistent and trusted presence in neighborhoods where shootings and homicides have become all too common, making connections, mediating disputes, helping residents feel protected and safe. The city ended the year with 348 homicides and the worst homicide rate on record.
“We have to be at the center of the change of saving lives,” Dr. Andrey Bundley, an organizer and director of African American Male Engagement, a division of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success, told the group setting out from the church. “If the state of black men is going to change, it’s going to take black men to inspire and guide black men, first, and then other people of good will.”
The group is calling for 1,000 men to march during the city’s 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade on January 20. If their ranks can swell to 1,000 men, they eventually can reach a goal of 10,000, organizers said.