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Street organizations work for peace

Richard B. Muhammad | 5/13/2015, 6 a.m.
In the heat of an “apocalypse” in the streets of this city of over 600,000 people, a group rushed to ...
FOI with youth from the community who helped restore peace. (Final X/The Final Call) (Photo: Final X/The Final Call)

— Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

In the heat of an “apocalypse” in the streets of this city of over 600,000 people, a group rushed to the frontlines to try to save lives, protect some property and keep Black men, women and children away from heavily armed police officers.

The small core group on the streets early and in the midst of fires, smoke, looting, rioting and an urban insurrection weren’t those usually mentioned in mainstream media as heroes: The group included members of street organizations—the Bloods and the Crips and the Fruit of Islam, the men of the Nation of Islam.

Speaking at Muhammad Mosque No. 6 on May 3, Student Minister Carlos Muhammad described how the young Black men and the Muslims came together on a mission of mercy and peace. We understand the anger and the legitimate frustration of our people, but we, and the street organizations, knew it did not make sense to burn down where you live, said the Baltimore representative of the Nation of Islam and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

As the Fruit of Islam moved to stand between police and angry throngs of people April 27, the streets organizations worked to try to bring an out of control situation to order, he said. Our young people are not thugs, they are a fearless generation fed up with oppression and ready to go free, he said. This generation doesn’t want scared leadership and won’t respond to it, said Student Minister Muhammad. These are our children and we love them, he added.

The young minister described how after the initial unrest calmed, it was the same street soldiers who cleared the way when the F.O.I. showed up with free pizza to help feed people at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenue, a central point for gathering and where a drugstore was burned and looted.

These brothers asked us what we needed, cleared the way, organized the people, with women and children fed first, he said. The pizza giveaway was peaceful and orderly.

The good that the young Black men set out to do through a peace treaty among themselves and standing on the front lines was condemned and mischaracterized by the Baltimore Police Department. The department declared quickly that a peace pact was crafted to allow the groups to target officers. It cited “credible sources” but never named the sources. A chance encounter with a local TV reporter allowed for the youth, who had also been getting their message out via social media, to speak directly and counter the lie. The truce was never aimed at police, it was always about protecting our community, they said.

As their message went out, the police department retracted its claim but never named the credible source or issued a public apology.

“Really when the situation kicked off most people saw it was school kids from the very beginning,” said Gary Johnson, who helped restore order and reach out to angry youngsters.

A lot of guys in the community and street organizations had banded together and decided they would do something before anything happened, said the 28-year-old West Baltimore resident.