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Profiles in Courage: Erica Ford

Erica Ford was chosen as one of five amazing people we are featuring in our "Profiles in Courage: Five On The Black Hand Side" during Black Writers Week because she works tirelessly as a violence interrupter, putting herself on the line to aid in reducing gun violence, disrupting retaliatory actions among gangs, acting as a conflicts resolution counsel, and advocating peace as something that starts within and spreads throughout the community. She says she had gone to far too many funerals witnessing the loss of our talented young people, and she decided enough is enough. Recently at the White House, President Biden singled her out for well-deserved praise. And it is partially through her actions that we will see more funds and programs dedicated to alleviating this national pandemic of violence. Thank you Miss Ford.—Chaz Ebert

PEACEMAKER

ERICA FORD is an internationally-recognized and widely-respected peacemaker who has been at the forefront of reducing youth and community violence in New York City and beyond for over 30 years. Her recollections of the impact gun violence had on her community in Jamaica, where she has lived since age 5, led her to found LIFE (Love Ignites Freedom through Education) Camp, Inc., in 2002 to aid urban youth. According to a 2016 profile authored by Patrick Donachie of QNS, The organization runs “Urban Yogis” in South Jamaica, holds support meetings for families and individuals affected by gun violence and supplies job training and resume development for community members. Camp members also travel to crime scenes or hospital bedsides in an attempt to avert retaliation after a shooting has occurred. 

When the Sandy Hook shootings shook the world a decade after Ford founded LIFE Camp, Inc., she was selected to be a part of a gun-violence task force established by President Barack Obama and headed by then Vice President Joseph Biden. In a recent NPR article by Juana Summers, Ford praised President Biden's $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan, which aims to deploy more than $5 billion to support community-based violence prevention programs. She is quoted saying it is fitting that the funds are being included in a measure "that is going to rebuild the roads and the blocks that many of our children died on. Because recovery is real, recovery for our people is real. And yes, it's jobs, but it's a lot of hope, and therapy, and services to help heal from the generation of death and destruction."

The official site for LIFE Camp, Inc., states that through the organization's groundbreaking programs, Ford has empowered thousands of individuals and families to break the cycle of violence and promote peace. Her concept for increasing safety has been adopted and implemented by New York City resulting in a 10% reduction in violence citywide. Ford’s dedication to reducing violence among New Yorkers has garnered countless awards, accolades and praise by notable public figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey and hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. Her recognized leadership has brought extensive travel and teaching opportunities in prisons, community centers, high schools, college campuses and conferences throughout the world. She remains uncompromisingly dedicated to improving the lives of Black and Latino youth and the community-at-large. 

"I co-founded LIFE Camp because the number of funerals I was attending for young people made me think there HAD to be something else," Ford said. "There had to be another way… Gun violence is not a problem that is specific to one neighborhood, city or state. Gun violence has permeated our national conscience.  It is a disease that is spreading and needs to be stopped.I believe it’s imperative that we attempt to understand people on both sides of the pistol. They both need our help, because hurt people hurt people. This is the philosophy of LIFE Camp and this is why we have been able to stop so many potentially violent situations."

Watch Ford's 2016 TED Talk below where she "speaks to her personal realization that we can't stop the violence around us if we don't create peace within."

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