Children bang drums, sing for Safe and Sound drive Anti-crime campaign waged in 6 areas of city

April 20, 1997|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

On any given day, people at the corner of Edmondson Avenue and Poplar Grove Street in West Baltimore are more likely to hear the patter of a drug dealer than a schoolchild's song.

Yesterday afternoon, however, a gaggle of youths sang and banged away on tumba drums there -- one of six city sites where young people tried to gain attention for Baltimore's new Safe and Sound Campaign.

"Even though we're surrounded by negatives, they are positive," Joyce Smith, executive director of the Franklin Square Community Organization, said of the children.

The Safe and Sound Campaign, a combined effort of Associated Black Charities and the Baltimore Community Foundation, is a fledgling effort to get youths involved in addressing neighborhood ills. It is also an attempt to secure a grant worth several million dollars from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in a competition with seven other cities.

"Some people pulled up in their cars," said Terrell Smith, a 15-year-old City College freshman who helped to arrange the Edmondson Avenue event. "They wanted to know what were we doing and why were we on the street corner with drums."

The Smith youth -- who is not related to Joyce Smith -- said the goal was to get participants in "community conversations" seeking ideas for solutions to local problems. Small associations and civic groups in each of nine city areas intend to hold a series of meetings where concerned people can offer perspectives on tangible goals and how to achieve them.

And that's why, on any of six street corners across Baltimore yesterday, children, some just starting elementary school and some nearing high school graduation, were clasping bullhorns and proclaiming their desire for a better future.

While the events did not attract crowds, they did catch the eyes of passers-by.

"Society has pretty much kicked the kids to the curb, leaving them to fend for themselves," said Larry Scott, who was hawking T-shirts from a card table as he watched students at Greenmount Avenue and 33rd Street in North Baltimore at a speak-out earlier in the day. "I think it's good, what they're doing here."

At Edmondson and Poplar Grove, the students spoke on a corner frequented by addicts and prostitutes, where nearby alleys serve as drug markets, weary residents and police officers said.

The illicit activities make it a popular destination. Some storefronts near the intersection are boarded; others have been turned into liquor stores. Nearly all bear spray-painted "tags" representing different groups of drug dealers.

Participants signed up about 80 people there for meetings of Safe and Sound, said Hathaway Ferebee, project director for the initiative.

"I don't know how many drug dealers we signed up," Ferebee said.

About half of those who expressed interest will take part, she said, and with their help, "We're going to write up a plan to make things better for children."

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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