Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s federal holiday on the third Monday of each year is often described as “a day on, not a day off.” He was born on Jan 15, 1929. Some students and adults elect to serve the community and celebrate the legacy of a civil rights leader on MLK Day since King worked tirelessly to fight for equality for all people.
“He [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] stood for so much and certainly we want to make sure that that dream remains alive through us and our work. We want to continue to impact his legacy here in the city of Baltimore,” said Antoine Burton, president, We Our Us.
We Our Us is a Baltimore City-based men’s movement and nonprofit that has been going strong for five years. It is composed of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and men of diverse backgrounds and ages who do not designate a faith. They unite to serve for the betterment of others in various capacities.
Burton—who is also lead pastor of Changing Lives Ministries of Baltimore— noted that We Our Us is one of the biggest faith-based movements, if not the largest, in the city of Baltimore.
“We currently have over 1,500 men that are active participants with the movement,” Burton said. “We go out to some of the toughest hit communities, and we provide resources to Black men in those communities.”
Burton mentioned that resources consist of employment, expungement, treatment, life coaching and even mediation to reconcile conflicts between individuals.
A 24-hour “Stop The Beef Hotline” has allowed We Our Us to mediate hundreds of “beefs” or worsening conflicts in Baltimore City, according to Burton. There is no police involvement, although We Our Us partners with the Baltimore Police Department. Callers reach out through the hotline to de-escalate situations. Burton explained that We Our Us is connected to community influencers who have established trust.
“While we’re not able to stop every shooting or every murder, we’ve been able to be impactful and try to neutralize situations before they escalate,” Burton said.
Seven-year-old boys to 25-year-old men are typically served through We Our Us. Every service that is offered is provided free of charge.
Micah Robinson, 18, is among young men who has benefited from connecting with We Our Us. He recalled walking and engaging with people from different neighborhoods We Our Us has visited while gaining more than the total number of service hours required to graduate high school.
“I have met some of the most motivated and powerful people in the state of Maryland like current and prior mayors, state attorneys, and many more wonderful people,” Robinson said.
Burton described men who comprise We Our Us as “connectors, protectors, mediators and messengers.”
He added, “As connectors, we serve to guide boys and men to appropriate resources. As protectors, we mobilize young men in these prominent roles in communities as models of positive and constructive behavior.”
Burton noted that We Our Us has ties to the Mayor’s Office of African American Male Engagement (MOAAME). Dr. Andrey Bundley is the director of MOAAME. Andrew Muhammad currently serves as the executive director of the nonprofit organization.
“It was the brainchild of Dr. Andrey Bundley and Andrew Muhammad. They birthed the movement. Since then, it has absolutely grown beyond anything that they could have ever thought or imagined,” Burton said.
Muhammad mentioned that continuing to build relationships with individuals from all walks of life, train new and younger leaders, and creation of long-term service is how he would like to see the movement grow.
Burton added that We Our Us wants to bring communities together in Baltimore on MLK Day on January 16, 2023. Individuals are invited to meet at the corner of Eutaw and MLK Blvd. in Baltimore at 12 p.m. A parade will be held, in addition to a grocery giveaway at Poe Homes projects, live entertainment, drug treatment support, expungement opportunities, and partnering organizations offering support and information.
“At the end of the resource fair, we’re going to have a community walk. We’re going to end up at the Poe Homes, which is the former Lexington Terrace community,” Burton said. “We’re going to be giving out so many resources to the communities and to the residents of that area.”
We Our Us has partnered with ex-offender friendly employers who will be available onsite.
Although We Our Us focuses on helping men, Burton explained that women partner with the nonprofit. We Our Us participants venture out in the community three times a week while extending love and providing tangible resources to promote change. Men have even been taken from the streets directly to drug treatment facilities. Other men have been given interview dates on the spot when the movement shows up in communities.
Robinson reflected on King’s motivational speeches, legacy and work. He is reminded that Black men should know their worth and stand for what is right.
“I will be attending the MLK parade this year. There’s no better place to be on MLK Day than the parade,” he said.
Visit www.weourusmovement.org to learn more about We Our Us and the MLK event. Early arrival is recommended on Jan. 16, 2023.