“Our Hearts Exploding All Over The City”: Erricka Bridgeford On Ending Violence
Erricka Bridgeford is a co-creator of Baltimore Ceasefire 365, an organization that seeks to end homicides in the city. The group organizes quarterly ceasefire weekends, asking Baltimoreans to handle conflict nonviolently while celebrating life and sharing resources. They also practice healing rituals at the sites of homicides and offer support to the surviving friends and families of homicide victims.
Bridgeford spoke to Future City producer Mark Gunnery for a special podcast extra to accompany this month’s episode "Baltimore’s Different”: Gangs, Youth, And Stopping Violence.
Listen to the full interview above and check out highlights below.
Root Causes Of Violence In Baltimore
“The root causes of violence have come from oppression...Within violent systems of oppression, what you’re going to see is people reacting to poverty, joblessness, and underemployment...Blight in Baltimore. Our education system...Access to healthy fruits and vegetables which you need to feed your brain so that you can make good problem solving decisions when you’re facing conflict...And even incarceration is a cause of violence. We know that trauma makes you more likely to be violent and when you have someone in your home who is snatched away and incarcerated, it is now a trauma.”
Supporting Homicide Survivors
“You’ve got to really listen to people. Don’t say things like ‘it will get better with time, time heals all wounds”...We absolutely need safe spaces to process our grief, so really good grief counseling that includes not just talk therapy but also different kinds of art therapy. What we know about the brain is that we don’t process trauma in the same space where we have language, so often that kind of brain you don’t have words for. But music, colors, dance, those kinds of things helps you work through things when you can’t find words.”
Communication Between Youth And Adults
“People treat children as if children are not people. We treat children as property often, as things that should just listen or obey whether we are right or wrong and no matter how they feel about it...But also we forget how young children actually are. There are some processes that you don’t fully have yet...I think adults trigger young people a lot. In our tone of voice we are disrespectful to children. We don’t honor their humanity a lot of times when we’re talking to them. And especially authority figures. Teachers. Police officers. Parents. We often dismiss children.”
Women In The Movement Against Violence
“Often in the history of activism there are men out front and then you find out all the work that women were doing in the background. So to have a movement in Baltimore’s history where you see the women front and center making the thing move, and it’s our hearts exploding all over the city...along with men, that is not something that society is used to seeing.”
Combating Negative Narratives About Baltimore
“When you have a negative narrative about yourself and you give faith to that narrative, that’s the experience that you’re going to have. So as long as we say things like ‘Bmore Murder Land’ and ‘just throw the whole city in the trash,’ and ‘what’s wrong with Baltimore,’ we don’t really think about what’s happed to Baltimore. The average person who’s talking trash about this city doesn’t understand that where this city is right now, through Baltimore’s history, it has been planned to end up this way.”
“A huge part of it is just changing our minds about who we...and nurturing the beauty that we are...the power, the dopeness that we are more and more. Because once you begin to believe in your own greatness, you walk like it, you talk like it, you look for it in other people and you create it in your circumstances and situations. And that mindset helps you to problem solve and figure out what the way forward needs to look like."