He said, 'I helped to destroy part of the community.' Now he's making it safe again.

You've heard of the movie "300," where Spartans battle to the death with the Persian army. But you may not have heard of the 300 Men March Movement in Baltimore, started by one man committed to putting an end to community violence. And with more murders than New York, his city desperately needs him right now.


All photos via the 300 Men March Movement.

Munir Bahar, known as Buddha on the streets, was raised in Baltimore. Between the ages of 13 and 20, he was charged with everything from assault to felony drug possession. But, by age 20, he says, "I woke up and I began to understand that I had to educate myself, so I went to college. I also understood that I had to play a role in this community because I helped to destroy part of the community. So now I'm out to help uplift and regenerate a better community, and I'm starting with the youth."

True to his word, Bahar went on to found 300 Youth COR, a violence-prevention program that pays local youth an hourly rate to participate in training sessions that focus on developing physical education and leadership skills.

Shocked by Baltimore's rising homicide rate, Bahar declared his own “state of emergency" in May 2015. He put out the call for men in the community to help save Baltimore's youth. Organized in groups of volunteer street-engagement units, the men canvassed the hardest-hit areas of Baltimore every Friday night.

The goal was simple: engage young men on the streets in the most dangerous neighborhoods and keep their communities safe. That straightforward tactic worked. In the last two years, the 300 Men March Movement noted a substantial decrease in violence in the Bel Air-Edison neighborhood.

In August, Bahar led youth and volunteers on a 35-mile march to the White House to share their message and successful tactics with President Barack Obama. According to the organization's website:

“We want to inspire communities across America that are challenged with high levels of gun violence. We want community residents to be inspired and mobilized with a common mission as their focus. There are many organizations across the nation that have been formed to address gun violence. We believe we must strengthen the network between us, share successes and failures, and offer support where we can."

When they arrived, they were met by an audience of officials from the president's My Brother's Keeper Initiative.

Bahar and the 300 Men March movement are in it for the long haul. Right now, they're raising funds through a GoFundMe campaign in order to grow their community initiatives and employ 120 more youth. Over the course of 52 weeks, Bahar and the 300 Men March plan to replicate the results seen in Bel Air-Edison, reducing the murder rate by 50% in five of the Baltimore neighborhoods most affected by gun violence.

Sure, it's ambitious. But, as Bahar says, love and peaceful resistance can be powerful weapons.

"We come in with love," Bahar told NPR. “And I don't care the hardest, most thorough-est gangster killer, whatever — every human being recognizes love to some degree, especially when it's genuine and when it's pure."

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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