BALTIMORE — For two years a large group of Black men has teamed up to hit the streets of Baltimore with purpose.
“We Our Us” is fighting the violence that plagues Baltimore with a solution-based strategy.
The group takes a strength in numbers approach, coming to people's doorsteps and providing opportunities and not just words.
Pastor Marvin McKenstry Jr. said one of their most sacred missions is something they purposely don’t talk about.
On Wednesday, McKenstry Jr. and other members of the group invited me to Erick Brown's barbershop on W. Belvedere right next to Pimlico Racecourse.
The men in the barbershop have been in the shoes of the people who they are trying to turn towards peace.
They’ve worked hard to earn the shot callers respect and are using it to save lives through the Stop the Beef Hotline.
“What we know as beef is some sort of altercation between two people," said McKenstry Jr. "It normally winds up with somebody losing their life. What we’ve been blessed to be able to do is do direct intervention. In most cases, right amongst this group of men or the group of men known as We Our Us, we raised money to either pay off someone’s debt to preserve their life. Or put them on a plane, a train, whatever we got to do to get them out of town. Hope they will go and not put themselves back in the same situation.”
They talk the talk and walk the walk, helping over 600 people get employed, feeding people 1 million pounds of food, and setting up treatment for hundreds of people.
“We walk the communities mostly at night in the areas where violence and crime are hitting the hardest," McKenstry said. "What happens on those walks, over 600 people have gotten employed.”
We were sitting in Erik Brown’s barbershop.
He learned about We Our Us when he was in prison, and now he walks with them.
“Plenty of guys who come from out of prison they see me," said Brown. "Thanks to you guys y’all help promote the walk a great deal and promote what we do a great deal. They’ll send for me and say 'hey man I’m trying to get a job'. I can help them now because I’ve joined the walk and I met Marvin McKinstry. I’ve took ten ex-felons and sent them to him, and we got jobs for them.”
Brandon Wilson takes pride in seeing mother's smiling because they see these men investing in their sons.
The jobs are more than a paycheck—they provide a doorway to a new future for so many.
“Not only do we have a job, but we will teach you how to develop that into a career," Wilson said. "We have free CDL training, free HVAC training, free automotive and drone training as well in the We Our Us movement.”
On Sunday, McKenstry Jr. and I talked about his lifelong friend and Safe Streets legend Dante “Tater” Barksdale who was killed in the community he was working so hard to protect.
“I have an obligation to him as a brother to make sure that I stop somebody from being him or I where it’s on the side of our lives where we did wrong," McKenstry Jr. said. "Instead give them the opportunity to be him or I on the side of life where we’re now giving back to our community.”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day they created the Baltimore Peace Agreement.
These men will take that with them on their walks to continue to collect signatures.
“Our mission and our goal is to help curb murders to 200 or less during this year," said Pastor Antoine Burton. "It’s very important we get out in front of the narratives in our city and change the culture in our city. It’s going to take us to do that.”
You can call or text the Stop The Beef Hotline 24/7, here are the numbers: