Erica Baker: Passion to Serve and Perspective to Succeed

G8/20 Protests, Global Citizenship, and Youth Voice; Arts student tackles tough and timely issues

“I’ve always been an Arts kind of person,” said Erica Baker, First Nation Studies and Visual Arts student.

A true mobilizer, Erica interned at Me to We in Toronto, a social enterprise and the sister organization to Free The Children founded by Craig Kielburger. Earlier this summer, she traveled to Guatemala to teach art skills to youth. She has been heavily involved with UBC as part of the Blog Squad and in student residence. With her passion for social justice and youth voice, she has a lot to say after witnessing the G8/20 protests in Toronto in 2010.

Bringing together world leaders for a conference was an opportunity for the kind of positive change Erica advocates for; namely, youth justice and support. Protests were peaceful until Saturday, June 26th 2012. Then, police cars were set on fire. Shop windows were smashed. Massive amounts of people were arrested, including bystanders. Working in downtown Toronto at the Eaton Centre, Erica was stranded for hours. When she left, riot police were on the scene. “Everything was broken, people were shocked,” she shared. “Seeing a hundred riot police marching towards me was the scariest thing ever.”

After witnessing a non-violent protest a couple days earlier, Erica was confronted with a harsh new reality. Nobody knew what was happening. “I would go on Twitter, and people would be talking about the World Cup. You feel like you’re voiceless. I wanted to say ‘Come on world, how are you not interested?’.”

It’s the big picture that counts, according to Erica. “We can’t just focus on the violence that happened. Yes, it’s a shocking part of Canadian history but we need to think of the Millennium Development goals and who is keeping these leaders accountable. In some ways, protestors are taking away from the attention we should be paying to those goals.”

Erica felt that this experience helped her to be more sympathetic to communities who frequently undergo civil unrest. It adds to the global perspective she started to develop in the Faculty of Arts.

“I noticed what education does. I think critically about everything, all the time. Even by Christmas, I couldn’t turn my mind off. I feel like I’ve become more of myself, found my true passions and loves.”

Entering UBC in the BFA program, Erica was set on visual arts. It wasn’t until she took first-year classes in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies that she began to reroute her academic journey. Erica discovered the First Nations Studies Program, which allows her to take an array of social sciences courses and learn about BC history. “Majoring in First Nation Studies and minoring in Visual Arts is a great way to balance two things I love,” said Erica.

Outside of the classroom, Erica is a very active student growing up in Ontario. She started volunteering with Me to We in high school and was appointed MOB-Lead for the West-Coast (Mob)ilizers program, which covers the entire province. She has also volunteered with the Wells of Hope charity, planning curriculum of basic art skills for young women and girls in the Guatemalan community of Jalapa.

How does she do it all? Eating meals during Skype meetings, using Google Docs during class, and of course, a great amount of dedication.

To get some inspiration, and see how one Arts student can accomplish some outstanding goals, follow Erica on her blog and on Twitter.

Written by Katie Fedosenko
Article Published July 7, 2010