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 Movement 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.
In 2002, the tragic murders of two children in her community inspired Erica, along with Jeffery “Ja Rule” Atkins and others, to create the monumental LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Freedom 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 highlights 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 program, 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.
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.