The Baltimore Urban Peace Program is the key organizer of a new effort to respond to violence in the Govans Community. There has been an upsurge in violence in the Govans neighborhood of Baltimore where the AFSC-MAR office is located. In early September, a young man was killed on the street in front of the AFSC office. Two bullets hit our building.
The Baltimore Urban Peace Program pulled together an organizing committee to respond to the violence and explore preventive actions. The BUPP staff has been facilitating planning meetings and leading the working group through strategic actions.
A vigil was organized in front of our office on October 4. We handed out flyers in the surrounding community and contacted surrounding organizations. Sixty-five people attended the vigil.
AFSC-BUPP organized a follow-up meeting of the organizing committee, which decided to develop a youth initiative that will create safe spaces for teens and young adults by keeping them from the streets and gang activities. The initiative was named the York Road Alternatives for Youth (YAY), which has launched “Y.A.Y! It’s Friday. Y.A.Y! Its Friday.
YAY! Its Friday involves four congregations providing alternative spaces and activities to neighborhood youth each Friday evening. The four churches that BUPP has organized to be involved in the program are Govans Presbyterian, Holy Comforter Lutheran, Pleasant Hope Baptist and St Mary's Roman Catholic. We began the program on January 8th with 15 teenagers at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church. The activities include food, games, and short program pieces that increase the teen's skills in nonviolence and social change. We have two Help Increase the Peace trainers that will be leading brief HIPP exercises each evening.
The next phase is for a team of volunteers to do outreach to teens and young adults on streets and shopping areas and for church vans and buses to pick up the young people and take them to sponsoring churches. In this next phase, we also hope to expand to Saturday nights.