BALTIMORE - On Tuesday school officials held a meeting with students and parents from Digital Harbor High School in South Baltimore, trying to calm the tension after reports surfaced of fights between African American and Hispanic students.
Edgar Reyes and his group "Open Hearts" have been trying to bridge the gap between Latino and African-American communities in East Baltimore for several years. The group uses art, video, photography and design to highlight the communities working together.
“I faced the same struggles as these kids do now, going to high school and being afraid of getting beat up just because you're a minority,” he said, after appearing at the meeting at Digital Harbor Tuesday night.
Off camera, school officials said there have been tensions inside the high school, but they said a very small minority of the students are involved.
“It's a handful of students. It's not all of them,” Reyes said.
Last week, a fight left one young person cut and bleeding on Baltimore Street. The young person was reportedly a student from Digital Harbor.
And last month Oscar Torres – who was just 15 years old -- was killed in West Baltimore. City police are looking for an African-American man in connection with that murder.
At a vigil for Torres, community activist Angelo Solera said crimes against Latinos are a problem that has not been properly addressed.
“Violence period needs to stop but unfortunately Latinos are victims of crime in this city and that needs to stop. The city and the police department have to do a better job,” he said.
School officials say Oscar Torres was never a Digital Harbor student, but they acknowledge he may have had friends here.
This week, police have stepped up their presence at Digital Harbor. Edgar Reyes says the solution can’t come from them.
“It's not black against brown. We need to come together as a community in Baltimore and respect each other and work together,” he said.
Reyes’ group asked students to sign a pledge of non-violence; they got more than 200 signatures. They're also asking people to leave messages on Twitter with the hashtag #onebmore.