Block parties are a thing around here in Baltimore city. Throughout the summer and early autumn, you’ll hear the music blaring and see the bounce houses inflating here and there on various weekends throughout the season. Kids flock to the activities, middle-schoolers and adults alike bust dance moves that I only ever dream of trying. Popcorn is munched in plenty and hot dogs line the grills as neighbors sit and enjoy a meal together.
It’s a welcome break from the tensions that characterize this area. Homicides are another summer “thing” around here in Baltimore city, the death count soaring higher than it has in years this past season. Gun shots ring in the streets at night, condoms litter the side walks, neighbors yell and curse until you wonder if you should intervene. Hollowed out homes line the streets as the drug dealers work the corners, calling for people to come get their next high.
It’s the difference between community and isolation. The block parties bring residents together, outside of their homes, away from their troubles, out of their fears and into one another, into healing, into hope. Whereas the every day happenings of the neighborhood push individuals to pursue their own isolating “healing” through the next hit, the next revenge, the next high. But the drug never delivers on its promise and instead leaves nothing but hollowed hearts on broken Baltimore streets.
The respite of the block party isn’t lasting either, but it’s a door, an opportunity to give a hurting community a taste of what life together could be. Watching it take place is like witnessing a tiny spark try and work itself into a strong flame. Conversations happen, relationships are built, connections are made, and hope is inspired. I’m praying we as a city have the strength to run with it and see peace thrive in this land, between officer and citizen, between white and black, between poor and rich, between old and young. That dividing lines would be broken down and reconciliation would be made between God and man.