Erricka Bridgeford

Fearless Five | Baltimore

Erricka Bridgeford in Fearless Hoodie with BLM imprint
Baltimore
Ceasefire
bio-photo@2x

Biography


  • Mediator
  • Champion for peace
  • Believer

Inspirations

I am constantly pausing and thinking, “What is the kind, necessary, true response right now?”

Career

Co-Founder, Baltimore Ceasefire 365

Executive Director, Baltimore Community Mediation Center

Most people in Baltimore are familiar with Erricka Bridgeford because she’s often in the news.

I had to admit that I was still nervous about interviewing her. Though Erricka and I both grew up in West Baltimore and we are both passionate black women, when you are around her, it is abundantly clear that you are in the presence of a spiritual energy.

Fearless Sports is headquartered in Baltimore, MD located in the Spark Building which is a co-working space at Power Plant Live in downtown Baltimore. Upon entry you feel relaxed and subdued by the chic vibe and expansive wood-grained floors. From studded leather couches to brush copper track lighting, it’s a mood. And, it is a far-departure from the street corners and back alleys of Baltimore, where Erricka Bridgeford, co-founder of Baltimore Ceasefire, has blessed the sacred ground of where a life has been taken.

Every three months since August 2017, the Baltimore Ceasefire team has rallied residents to be present and band together for a peaceful weekend.

Inspiration can come through tears, through laughter.

Since the beginning of the Baltimore Ceasefire there has been an estimated

52

reduction in gun violence during ceasefire days

and no evidence of a postponement effect on either the next 3 days or the next 3-day weekend following each ceasefire weekend. Erricka and her team have developed a working formula, but there is still so much more work that needs to be done. We sat down with the Fearless Five model, to understand how a person can become fearless.

Erricka Bridgeford

Baltimore Ceasefire 365

Erricka’s Videos

In their own words

One thing about our Fearless Five role models: They are always on the move. We’re grateful they slow down long enough to drop diamonds of insight and share what motivates them. Check out the videos.

Her Fearless Story


Would you say your name and what you do?

My name is Erricka Bridgeford, and I “inspire”. Which is different from “motivate”, I realized, right? Inspiration is a spiritual thing. So, motivation, I perceive it as more physical, “Yes, I’m getting pumped, I’m getting pumped, I’m getting pumped!” But inspiration can come through tears, through laughter. So, because I’m having my own inner experience, I’m letting things download into me, I’m being used as a vessel. Inside of you, your quiet nudge, you are [feeling], “Oh yeah, that’s right. I recognize that as truth.” Right? It’s a spiritual, unseen kind of thing that happens. And people may not always clap, people may not always laugh at the joke, and still, they walk away different than they were when they came.

Your mother wanted to name you Malcolm?


Yes, my mom and dad. So, my parents were teenagers at Carver High School. My mom was 15, my dad was 17. My dad was a Black Panther. They had a conversation at the bus stop across the street from Carver, where they said, “We’re going to have a son who will change the world.” That was their goal when they laid down with their teenage selves to have a baby. That’s what they wanted. So, my first name would have been Malcolm after Malcolm X. My middle name would have been Patrice, after Patrice Lumumba (former Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). And because I came out a girl, they named me Erricka after Ericka Huggins, who was a Black Panther then and is now still a wonderful, amazing activist in the world, addressing mass incarceration and anything else that’s wrong. My middle name is Angela after Angela Davis.

I got to meet Angela Davis virtually. I was so excited! And she told me I was beautiful, and I was like … And I had a chance to talk to Ericka Huggins through email. Meeting Angela Davis, it dawned on me like, “Wow. Because I was born a girl, I’ve gotten to watch the women that I’m named after living their truth and be powerful in the world.” Had I been a boy, I would be carrying the legacy of assassinated Black men. Right? So, while that has its own power, it’s different, right? The conversations I’ve been able to have with these women, though small, have been amazing to me. They’ve poured into me already, they’ve both said they want to meet with me in person. I’m getting to see these women grow old and beautiful. And so, that does something for my journey.

You have said that somebody has to remember our greatness. Have you ever had to be reminded of yours?

I’m constantly having to learn and grow and accept myself for where I am and who I am. Even if I’m not everything I want to be yet, I’ve got to love me right now, right here. Right?

Ceasefire started in August of 2017, and by October of 2018, I was in bed. I realized the life that I had been living, I did not elevate my vibration enough to handle “You face murder every day.” I had started blessing murder spaces because God said do that. So, when you answer your call, you can’t see the road. I know that if God had been like, “So this is all the stuff that’s going to happen just in the first two years,” I would have been like, “Never mind,” right? But I stepped into it anyway, so by the end of 2018, I was just done, I was completely fried. Now, I have learned how to be that depressed and still show up when necessary. So, I was still doing panel discussions, I still returned emails. I did just enough that I didn’t lose my job or become a bad headline in The Baltimore Sun, right?

I’m constantly having to learn and grow and accept myself for where I am and who I am. Even if I’m not everything I want to be yet, I’ve got to love me right now, right here. Right?

I literally, one day, just had to take a piece of paper and write on it and say, “You are Erricka Bridgeford, you are great,” and just put it on my wall. And I still didn’t get out of bed for another month after I did that, but I realized that I had not accepted my own greatness. Right? And I had to process that, “Why am I not, like, “Oh, this is a really big deal!” No matter how much people were saying I was a big deal, Baltimorean of the Year, Marylander of the Year… Right? But I really, deep down inside, didn’t believe it.

So, I had to own my magnificence in a new way that I was comfortable with, that aligned with my values. I’m magnificent, not better than you, sis, but my shine is serious out this bitch. Like, I had to accept it, and it’s something that I constantly work on every day. I’ve evolved more and more, and when my birthday came last year I decided, “I’m wearing clothes and makeup and I’m having three outfits a day.” So that whole weekend, my birthday was on a Friday, I just was like #newerricka. I jumped out of a plane at the end of September, and then my birthday came right after that.

What is fearlessness in your life?
What does that look like?


In my life, it’s not that I don’t have fear, it’s just that I fear less and less. I have been one of the most afraid people you will ever meet in your life. I have worried most of my life, about how people are going to view me because I was born with one hand and society pities me. Am I too loud? Am I too thick? Am I too West Baltimore? You know what I mean? Constantly worrying. Poverty has been a huge trauma in my life, right? So, a lot of my life has been having the feeling like I’m constantly pushing through struggles, pushing through struggles. Right? And then one day I saw this Audre Lorde quote about how your fear just becomes less and less relevant…in comparison to what you have to do in the world, what your purpose and your destiny are. It’s not that you don’t fear, it’s just not as relevant. I’m at a point in my life, I just do whatever God says. I’m very Harriet Tubman. At the moment, I don’t always know why I’m doing things. And sometimes it’s things that are outside of my personality. Getting on the concrete all over Baltimore and kissing the ground… I don’t walk in the grass with bare feet, I’m not that girl, you know what I’m saying? So, to be out here literally smelling like the streets of Baltimore because I’m putting my physical body in alleys, wherever a person’s body dropped…it was not ever a part of my personality. And so, I just fear less and less because fear is not relevant to me. I notice it, I notice that I’m afraid, but it’s like, “Yeah, that’s not important.”

Peace is not often my default. It’s becoming more and more my default, because you get good at what you practice. Right? So, I practice loving responses.

Erricka Bridgeford
On responding with love

You are doing hard, hard work. Has there ever been a time when you have found it difficult to respond in love?

I tell people all the time that we call it the Baltimore Peace Challenge, because it’s a challenge for us first. Right? Peace is not often my default. It’s becoming more and more my default, because you get good at what you practice. Right? So, I practice loving responses. My filter for myself is, “Is it necessary, is it kind, is it true?” If it passes all three of those, I can say it, I can do it. Right? And, I’m a beast with words and I know how to fight. You know what I’m saying? Society has always said, “Oh, she’s not as much as we are because she doesn’t have two hands.”

Because I have to choose peace, peace doesn’t automatically rise up in me all the time. When my brother got killed, it was me plotting on getting the other person, right? I cried when I made the decision not to take this boy’s life…cried. It was a hard decision, recognizing that revenge was an empty energy, and I needed all my energy to survive the rest of my life without ever hugging my brother again. Right? That decision process was very hard. I am constantly challenged with pausing and thinking and going, “What’s the kind, necessary, true response right now?” So, I’m not ever swallowing my truth, and I have gotten rid of being nice because “being nice” is about people’s comfort, how people think I should be responding. I’m not responsible for how you hear it, I am responsible for what I say. I’m constantly challenged to be like, “Do I respond to that? Do I not? If I do, what do I say?”

What do you think it’s going to take for someone to realize that taking someone’s life, or in turn losing their own, is not worth it?


As you’re asking me that, it makes me think about what I would love to do is have dialogue circles with people who have killed people. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have killed people, probably more than the average person, right? No matter what they do, they can’t un-remember that moment that they took somebody’s life. In their own quiet times, on their way to sleep, whatever, it’s a haunting thing, no matter how they try to [justify it]. Why does it keep popping up when you least expect it, shaking you at the roots of your soul? Why, if it was the right thing to do?

And so, I think that murder is a worse choice than people think it is. But there’s not enough conversation, because it gets glorified, right? Because killing gets glorified, there’s not the [voice saying], “But here’s what you really deal with after you kill somebody, for the rest of your life.” Why do you pop so many pills now? Why do you smoke so much weed now? There’s something you are trying to forget and suppress and self-soothe, because you know, you carry this weight, you carry the weight of a life. Many people say, “Oh, well now I’m compelled, I’ve got to do good stuff in my neighborhood. I’ve got to help my grandmother more. I need to be nicer.” And that’s the thing about losing somebody to murder, and about murdering somebody. It gives you the same feeling. So, when I deal with the loss of my brother and all of my loved ones that I’ve lost, I recognize that pain is either going to swallow me up whole, or I’m going to have to use that pain and push it out into the world to help heal the world. That’s the same thing people who kill people go through. You can’t have a sober mind for the rest of your life after you do that, unless you’re doing something with it to pull goodness into the world.

Walking the Walk

Around Town


One day I saw this Audre Lorde quote about how your fear just becomes less and less relevant.

You have said that somebody has to remember our greatness. Have you ever had to be reminded of yours?

A lot of times, we don’t learn our magnificence unless we go through something that we overcome. And that’s how we learn something new, that we have something in us that we didn’t realize was there. Right? Those are the fear thoughts. It’s just a fear of being your greatest vision of you. I have decided that being me, being my essence, what I call me, defies oppression because it does. So, I don’t spout off, like, “Oh, you should just do this, and oppression won’t impact you.” That’s unwise and unfair, right, to somebody’s journey. But in a one-on-one conversation, if you’re really asking me how to get through and how to get over, I’m going to say, “Go beneath that thought.”

So, you’ve got a thought up here that goes, “But there’s too many systems that’s trying to stop me from being.” I’m going, “Yep, that’s true, there are systems that’re trying to stop you from being. OK, what’s under that thought?” Right? “Well, it’s too hard for me. I’m too tired, I’m too lazy, I’m too this, I’m too that. I’m not motivated.” Okay, probably because you practice being unmotivated and lazy and not following your gut. So, as we keep going under and under and under, we find out that your real essence is just buried underneath all of this social conditioning and fear and systems of oppression. Who do you decide to be in relation to those things? Who do I decide to be in relation to this person coming for my throat right now? Who do I decide to be in relation to this person viewing me as broke because I’ve got one hand? Who do I decide to be in relation to murders that won’t stop while I’m out here trying to stop them?

I promise you, that the more you believe in your essence, the more you believe in whatever is at the bottom underneath all those things, the voice inside of you that just won’t let you go… You’re responding to something inside of you that’s calling you forth. You have to get to a point where you start believing…baby steps…that while all of these things are happening in the physical realm, none of that shit can touch what I’m actually created to be.

Erricka, who would you be if Ceasefire
no longer was needed?


I’m going to be contagious, regardless. So, people often say my smile is contagious, my laugh is contagious, even my way of thinking about the world and perceiving things is contagious. And so, I’m just really accepting how contagious I am. So, as my mom says, I’ve been a trip since I was born, and I think that has a lot to do with why people are drawn to me and go, “Ooh, me too.” It gives them permission to be whatever is their beauty, their light, their fun, their joy.

Interviewed by Dionne Joyner-Weems, Director of Brand and Social Impact, Fearless Sports

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