Dr. Phillip Leaf is a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health. He also works with a high school program that supports under achievers to make sure they have a positive trajectory.
“It came to our attention that a program participant had his life threatened. The first thing we did was contact Captain Andrew of the Baltimore Brothers. He’s known for doing interventions,” Dr. Leaf told The Final Call. “I know this is not one of the things where I have any expertise. But from what I understand, Captain Andrew was able to essentially save this young man’s life. That’s because of the interaction he had with the young man,” explained Dr. Leaf.
“Baltimore has a very bad reputation because of the number of murders that take place here, but the reality is we have assets in our community like Captain Andrew. This young man didn’t get off to a great start, but he was able to get his life turned around from many challenges.”
The Baltimore Community Mediation Center recognized Andrew Muhammad as their Peace Maker of the Year 2020 for interventions like that and more. They sought nominations via social media. He received the most nominations and the most votes.
“We celebrate peace work in Baltimore,” Erricka Bridgeford, director of Training for Community Mediation Maryland at the Baltimore Community Mediation Center told The Final Call. “Not just the work that we do to help create and keep peace in the city but also work that’s being done with partners around the city. The Peacemaker of the Year award is for someone who is a constant presence, creating peace in the city.”
She explained that Mr. Muhammad has the conflict resolution phone number folks can call if there’s a fight or argument being observed or some other type of conflict brewing. “He’s one of the main people anyway, not by himself, but he’s one of the main people that’s constantly promoting that message and making sure that people have that phone number and he’s very responsive,” said Ms. Bridgeford.
Serving the people is just what Andrew Muhammad is all about. It all started when he heard a tape by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called “Obedience is the Highest Form of Sacrifice.” Mr. Muhammad is a member of the Nation of Islam and serves as student captain of the Fruit of Islam (FOI, the men of the Nation of Islam) in Baltimore at Mosque No. 6. He said that message from Min. Farrakhan changed his life.
“The Minister told us to go in the street and save our people. That’s what I did. I started the Baltimore Brothers and we hit the streets. I bought a 15-passenger van and picked people up and brought them to the mosque. I was determined to come in between people and guns. That’s how I got the call from Dr. Leaf,” said Mr. Muhammad.
“One of Dr. Leaf’s students had a hit on him. Dr. Leaf called me in to mediate. I met with his group to understand what was going on. We talked for maybe about two weeks before I talked to the student since he was kind of reserved, he didn’t want to trust anyone. Then finally, I talked to him on the phone.”
They met a week later, and Mr. Muhammad shared with the student ways he could help him. He didn’t ask a bunch of questions about what the student had allegedly done. “Who did you shoot? Who did you kill?” That would have broken the trust and stopped the interaction, explained Mr. Muhammad.
“I found him a job in Philadelphia and a group to pay his rent for two months. Now he’s making $17 an hour. I told him, don’t come back for holidays; don’t come back for graduations, and don’t come back for birthdays; stay there for five years. Get yourself together,” Mr. Muhammad said he told the young man. Mr. Muhammad has stayed in contact with him and checks on him regularly to make sure he stays safe.
The Baltimore Brothers were started in 2015 in response to the ongoing crime and conflict in the city. Nation of Islam Student Minister Willie Muhammad of New Orleans trained the group on conflict resolution and mediation.
“Many people think you can just say something to people and that will end a beef but it takes special skills to do this work. Every one of the Baltimore Brothers is trained before they interact with our community,” explained Andrew Muhammad.
The Baltimore Brothers respond to the needs of the community. He recalled an incident about conflict some men had with a pastor in the city. The pastor in turn contacted Student Minister Carlos Muhammad of Mosque No. 6. “The street brothers had attended his church and liked the pastor but misunderstood some things he said. They were going to shoot him in his church. That’s when we intervened. We met for over four hours. The brothers had taken what the pastor said personally when that’s not what he meant. The pastor was in tears, the brothers felt disrespected. We didn’t leave until it was resolved. I helped each side to see how the other felt,” Carlos Muhammad said.
“We’ve resolved hundreds of conflicts over the years, small and large. We’ve been in seven schools across the city. We have a hotline people can call to have us resolve conflicts. The good news, once we resolve a conflict, there is no blowback, it doesn’t resurface again. We are working with the Bloods and Crips now in High Point, North Carolina, to help them resolve their beefs. We have six on staff and 30 volunteers. It’s a good feeling to know we can help our people avoid death and disaster.”
Mr. Muhammad is in the life-saving business. This means helping Baltimoreans learn that some beefs cannot be squashed by going from one side of the city to the other and thinking no one will know where they are.
“Baltimore is very small so somebody knows somebody who knows you and they will find out where you live. It may not be 30 days. It may not be six months but within a year. They will find you. That’s why we send you out of town. That’s why when these brothers have these beefs, I get him out of the city. If we can squash it, that’s my preference, if not I get him out of town.”
That’s what a peacemaker does.