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A city in healing: Community center helps Baltimore's youth stay away from path of violence

Posted at 9:18 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 21:18:23-04

At first glance, there's nothing unusual about N. Rose St. in East Baltimore, but the conversations happening on the sidewalk are anything but ordinary. It's home to the Rose Street Community Center, run by Clayton Guyton, or Mr. C. 

"We are part of the healing process for the whole city. The whole city is in a transition because we are experiencing so much pain, trauma, loss of loved ones," Mr. C said. 

He founded the center 25 years ago to help young people, especially young men, choose a path away from violence.

"It’s all about our young people. They are dying in the streets," Mr. C said. 

He connects them with resources and helps them get important documents like drivers licenses, social security cards, and jobs too. He also helps keep the streets around East Baltimore clean. Over the course of his work, he says he's helped hundreds of people. That includes Walker Gladden III.

"His practices came to me when I was on the corner as a young man and he offered resources. He became the extended family that I needed because my father spent most of his life incarcerated," Gladden said. 

Now Gladden helps Mr. C reach more people. A cause that is underscored by his own loss. His son Walker was killed in 2016, just down the street from the community center. Graffiti near the scene says "Learn from yesterday, dream of tomorrow. RIP Walker always and forever."

"I would teach him and he would teach and the community would teach him what we could, and for my son, my firstborn to become a homicide victim was … mind blowing," Gladden said. "It's critical that we get involved in the life of our young people because his life gave me the reflection that they are all my sons."

Their next main focus is juvenile justice and reducing recidivism. 

"It's time for them to stop returning there and return here, back into the community where love, care and consideration resides," Gladden said. 

Their work is highlighted in the new film "Charm City," which documents Baltimore's three most violent years, showing the relationship between the community and police. 

"It encourages all of us in Baltimore city and beyond, but especially in city, to be the best that you can be," Mr. C said. 

He has high hopes that this documentary will create real change on the streets.

"Real people were involved and they were themselves, and anytime you do that, you gonna have an impact so there is going to be a change in relationship between the communities in Baltimore city. They have no choice," Mr C. said. "The community and police department in Baltimore city is gonna find a better way to work together and have a healing relationship that is going to go far and beyond."

Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa announced they will be using the documentary for officer training. 

"The documentary shows the lens of the community and it shows the lens of police officers. It shows at the end of the day, we both strive for the same thing: peace, no violence. We are very much similar in what we do each and every day, and if it helps bridge the gap, we are gonna use it as a training tool," De Sousa said. "To see a documentary and hear the actually voices of young men and young women, not just in the community but the police department, means a lot."