LIFE Camp Inc. Founder and CEO Erica Ford provides high-risk, inner city youth with valuable tools needed to stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. She has been working successfully on the front lines of violence intervention and prevention for more than 30 years and is one of the lead architects of the NYC Crisis Management System, New York Peace Week and the Orange 4 Peace campaign, all of which bring attention and awareness to the current work and continued needs around violence prevention across the nation.
The Crisis Management system, a $36 million investment by the NYC Mayor’s Office among 22 sites throughout the five boroughs, is one of the major reasons for NYC being recognized as the “Safest big city in America” two years in a row, with LIFE Camp Inc. being celebrated as one of the leaders in co-producing public safety under the innovative and tireless leadership of Erica Ford.
In the 1980s, crack use and gun violence were occurring daily in South Jamaica Queens, where Erica has lived since childhood. Her earliest days of activism began at York College (CUNY) where she received a B.A. in Political Science while serving as President of the Black Student Caucus and the Evening Student Government; for three consecutive years, she successfully led thousands of youth in protest against tuition hikes. In 1994, she co-founded The Code Foundation with her friend, the late Tupac Shakur and others, with a mission to keep young people out of jail and to decrease gun and gang violence. In 1998-99, The Code co-coordinated the Million Youth March, whereby tens of thousands of youth from across the country rallied against injustices and strengthened their platforms. In 2002, the tragic murders of two local children inspired the creation of LIFE Camp (Love Ignites Freedom Through Education).
Her consistent dedication to reducing violence among youth New Yorkers has garnered Erica countless local, national and international awards and recognition from notable figures in government, business, education and civil service. When asked what inspires Erica to do this work, she affirms: “This is not a job, this is my LIFE; my undying love keeps me committed to my people until my glory day takes me away.”