With the recent surge of shootings in Baltimore—about 40 in the past two weeks—members of The Intersection are taking a stand against the spread of gun violence in their city.
The 30 Baltimore teenagers in the leadership program are set to meet with citizens and engage residents in a listening campaign about the issue that has police working overtime, city council members organizing prayer walks and has Baltimoreans struggling. “I see gun violence as a disease that is really plaguing Baltimore,” said Taikira White, a student leader for The Intersection. “We want to find the cure, we want to find what that issue is that we can campaign around that would reduce gun violence.”
The Intersection is a Baltimore non-profit organization based on multi-year leadership development. Led by Executive Director Zeke Cohen, The Intersection’s student leaders and staff members concentrate on one major issue in Baltimore every summer. At the same time, staff members mentor the students to become better leaders, communicators and further their academic careers.
In last year’s election, the group galvanized city youth to support the “Dream Act,” which affords certain illegal immigrants in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. They also protested against the city youth jail. This year, the rise of gun violence was an issue that was impossible for them to ignore.
“I am sick of people losing their lives. I am sick of funerals. I am sick of brothers and sisters killing one another,” said White, in a speech at the kick-off of the Summer Listening Campaign on June 25. Intersection members plan to speak to more than 400 students, teachers, parents and community members to get their ideas and opinions on how to curtail gun violence.
While Cohen admitted the program does not have a specific solution for resolving gun violence, he believes the answer lies with Baltimore City residents. “I want to see our community become empowered enough that they find the solution,” says Cohen. “We want to turn back to them and involve them in this process of trying to identify how we can fix gun violence in Baltimore.”
Intersection students chose to concentrate on gun violence because they knew the impact on residents’ lives as well as their own. “By me telling my story and letting my story be heard by everybody in the community, somebody might trust me enough to open up and tell me their story,” said White. “And then another person might tell their story, and then you create this network of people who are all sharing the same story and all want to change it, and that’s how you build power.”
While the mayor’s office has been trying to reduce gun violence in the city, The Intersection has taken their own steps to try to solve the problem. “I truly believe that the only solution lies from within our community and that my role as an educator is just to create space for the conversation,” said Cohen.