A group of East Baltimore churches were there to let their communities know there is a "CURE" for the problems that trouble the city's streets.
Clergy United for Renewal in East Baltimore, better known by its acronym CURE, attracted more than 3,000 churchgoers yesterday afternoon to the Eastside District Court Building at North Avenue and Harford Road, where they demonstrated with signs and speeches that they believe religion is the way to rid the streets of drugs and crime and deal with poor housing and educational and family problems.
"Our message today was that there is a cause for our current crisis, and there is a definite cure," Gordon Marshall, treasurer of CURE and former pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church on Eden Street, said after the demonstration. "And that cure is the spirituality that has been a part of our people since slavery.
"We've not always had homes, we've not always had jobs, but we have always had [spirituality]."
CURE officials consider all 186 East Baltimore churches members of their organization, but the number of participating churches is 45 to 50, said CURE President Marshall Prentice, pastor of Zion Baptist Church on Caroline Street. Twenty-five to 30 church congregations of many denominations walked from their churches to the rally.
Prentice said CURE is "a solid group of churches working to be a voice to let our city officials know that we are here, pretty much to not always listen to their agenda but to the people's agenda."
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and City Council President Mary Pat Clarke were among city officials at the rally.
The 2-year-old organization held a similar rally in May 1989 and plans to take its message further by setting up a tent in "one of the major drug-infested" East Baltimore communities for a week this spring and in another such community next fall, Prentice said.
Teams of workers will knock on doors and stop people in the street to ask if they or someone they know needs help with drug problems, Marshall said.
"We're just not going out to celebrate one time . . . " Marshall said. "We'll go right out there and put up a tent."
Prentice said the group also will be looking to identify other situations that need correcting in public housing, health and education.
"We're trying to identify problems at large . . . homelessness, people who are unemployed or underemployed," he said. "We are trying to bring hope into these areas as well as technical assistance to bring about a better self-image and self-esteem."
CURE plans to work with members of its various congregations to set up the drug intervention program as well as other assistance programs, Prentice said.
Most of those attending yesterday's rally believed they had a good purpose for being there.
Ulysses Richmond, a member of the Mount Zion Baptist Church on East Belvedere Avenue, said he came to help "stop the killing and do away with the drugs in Baltimore."
It was a frequently heard sentiment.