Erica Ford remembers what it was like growing up in Jamaica, Queens back in the 1980s, where crack use and gun violence was an everyday occurrence. A resident in the high crime neighborhood since the age of five, Erica grew up attending countless funerals for friends and seeing mothers left alone to raise their children after losing their husbands to death or prison.
With a burning desire to help effect positive changes in her community, Erica attended a rally for the December 12th Movement, an international human rights’ group. Joining the December 12th Movement empowered Erica, then 18, and solidified her life’s ambition to become a change maker. Shortly after, she founded the Black Consciousness Youth Move- ment that not only helped create and develop student governments in New York City high schools, but also organized action against police brutality, while calling for self- accountability.
While at York College (The City of the University of New York), where she earned a bache- lor’s degree in political science, she served as President of the Black Student Caucus, Vice President of the Evening Student Government and co-founder of The Code Club, formed in 1994, with her friend, the late Tupac Shakur, and others. The group’s mission was to keep young people out of jail and to decrease “Black on Black” crime. In 1998 and 1999, The Code co-coordinated the Million Youth March where tens of thousands of young people from across the country assembled to rally against injustices and strengthen their platforms.
In 2002, the tragic murders of two children in her community inspired Erica, along with Jef- fery “Ja Rule” Atkins and others, to create the monumental LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Free- dom Through Education). LIFE Camp provides at-risk inner-city youth, ages 13-24 years, the valuable tools they need to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. The pro- gram also offers these individuals educational, employment and social opportunities they might not otherwise have. LIFE Camp has even spawned an I Love My LIFE tour which high- lights young entrepreneurs and visits schools and prisons with the LIFE Camp message of anti-violence and self-love. Another offshoot of LIFE Camp is Erica’s Peace is a Lifestyle pro- gram, featuring holistic guru Deepak Chopra. Chopra, an outspoken supporter of Erica’s work, makes monthly visits to LIFE Camp where he talks to and meditates with the group participants.
Through the years, Erica’s dedication to reducing violence among young New Yorkers has garnered, countless awards, accolades, praise and recognition by notable public figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Reverend Al Sharpton, and hip hop mogul Russell Simmons. Her recognized leadership has brought extensive travel and speaking gigs in prisons, community centers, high schools, college campuses, and confer- ences throughout the country and internationally.
Erica’s made numerous appearances in print, television, radio and Internet outlets and has partnered with numerous entertainers, and athletes, such as Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Salt & Pepa, NBA Allstars Kenny Smith, Stephon Marbury and John Starks, NFL Superbowl Champ Michael Strahan and TI, to name a few, encouraging them to give back and play an active role in transforming lives and communities:
After practically 30 years of dedicating herself to championing for today’s youth, Erica Ford shows no signs of stopping. Her current ‘Bury Da Beef’ campaign has put together a citywide coalition/campaign to reduce gun violence. Another recent brainchild, her NY Peace Week, occurs each January and honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of non- violence. Organized by LIFE Camp, Inc., the collective goal is to create a culture of peace throughout NYC for seven days by hosting an event, performing an activity or simply taking one personal action toward creating inner peace and setting a positive example for young people.