The Baltimore Teacher Network hosted an Interfaith Prayer Vigil and Call to Action on the steps of Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) headquarters Saturday, Sept 28, 2019. The city's leading advocacy group for professional kindergarten through twelfth grade educators celebrated a partnership with the interfaith community to appeal to the estimated 30,000 fathers of the 85,000 students who attend BCPS.
This event follows concerns raised by some BCPS students who told community leaders they are arming themselves with weapons due to the violence in their surrounding neighborhoods on the journey to and from school.
“The problem is so big. It’s so massive, that it really needs divine intervention in this fight to get more men in to our schools,” explained Bishop Dwayne Johnson, a special education teacher and advocate for the interfaith community.
“We want to show the children that this is a problem that needs prayers. We just don’t want one faith battling this problem in our schools. We need all faiths: Jewish, Muslims, and Christian. It really takes a village, and this call to action is showing the city of Baltimore that we’re ready to be the village.”
Last school year, BTN gathered students and teachers in meetings to discuss concerns. Student safety was the number one issue raised. The organization said many of the deaths that take place in Baltimore involve school-aged students, making their peers scared that they could be next.
The rally was meant to address those concerns and to encourage fathers of BCPS students and men in the surrounding neighborhoods to help. Men are being asked to volunteer in schools and walk students back and forth to school to ensure their safety.
“Our women are already serving on the front line, now it’s time for us men to stand up, show up, and take place in our community,” said Elijah Etheridge, executive director of BTN.
“This event means a lot to me, because growing up in Baltimore is hard. We don’t have enough role models in our life, which leads some people to choose the wrong path,” said 14 -year-old Kentrell Everett.
“When you’re trying to get support it just doesn’t come from one piece, you have to have some type of contingency or long-term plan. In addition to this event today, there are many things that we are doing in order to reach the men in Baltimore,” said Kelvin Bridgers, deputy director of school administration for BTN. Bridgers said each Monday the organization joins an interfaith walk through the more challenging communities handing out information about available resources and informing men that their help is needed to reshape and reform Baltimore.
During the next few months, community leaders will host training sessions to raise awareness about their cause. Their goal is to recruit six men for each BCPS building.