Feature Profile: Erica Baker: Overcoming All Obstacles
We all have that special something. That little glimmer of hope that shines inside of us. When it’s the right time to use it, we just know. Basic instinct calls on the terms of nature, casting that gut feeling inside our minds. For a person that has a story inspiring hope, Erica Baker, has been chosen for my profile spotlight this week.
Born on September 24, 1989, Erica Baker originated in Nashville, TN. Soon after being born, her parents up and moved to a small town 30 miles north of Nashville, in Springfield, TN. In 1999, Baker and family moved to Atlanta, GA and lived there for the rest of her childhood.
Looking back on high school, Baker describes herself as somewhat of an outcast. “I was a cheerleader for ninth, tenth and twelfth grade, but I wasn’t your typical mean girl cheerleader,” she says. “I had some very hurtful things happen to me.” Baker proceeded to share an encounter with me that occurred between her and fellow cheerleader bullies. Feeling that Baker did not fit enough with the mold, they excluded her from everything. The cheerleader bullies were so undone by Baker, they cold-heartedly persuaded the head coach not to choose her to be on the cheerleading squad in her eleventh grade year. Baker recalls how the bullying affected her. “It made me feel terrible; I had cheered on the team longer than some of members and I was tired of being picked on. But it made me a stronger person,” she said.
After high school life was over, in 2007, at only 17 years old, Baker traveled from Atlanta, GA to Tallahassee, FL. She was determined to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU or Florida A&M), majoring in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Spanish. Baker spoke of her decision to go to this highly praised HBCU (Historically Black College or University). “HBCUs have been a huge part of my family,” she stated. “Everyone in my family attended Tennessee State University (TSU) in Nashville. However, I did not want to go to Nashville. I love Florida so I chose to go to the largest HBCU in the nation—FAMU in Tallahassee, FL. FAMU is a rival to TSU. Some of my family members were not happy that I chose to go there.” However, her family was all the more excited when Baker graduated from FAMU in 2011, with the highest honors, Summa Cum Laude.
Like many, before graduating with honors, for Baker it was a struggle to get there. Baker shared with me one of her most personal, exclusive stories that entails the emotional and physical abuse from an ex-boyfriend she met while attending FAMU. Baker recalls the vicious memories of this dark corner in her life. “I was raped by a member of a black fraternity,” she declares. She continues to say that her boyfriend at the time, also in a black fraternity, heard from his friend, a member of yet another black fraternity, about the incident before she had the chance to tell him. Unfortunately, Baker’s boyfriend did not believe that she was raped, from word of his friend and merely thought she cheated on him. This is where she says the emotional abuse began.
Baker remembers the details of these hurtful actions from her now ex-boyfriend. She said, “I would cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for him and he would always get mad at me.” She continued on, “He was an alcoholic. We used to drink about a bottle and a half of gin every week. He would force me to drink and have sex with him. He would flip out on me and tell me I’m a nobody.”
Since her boyfriend’s license was suspended, Baker had to tend to his every need, driving him around wherever he needed to be. “A basic day in my life began at 5:30am. I would get up, and wake up my friend who lived with me and my neighbor,” she said. “They would ride with me to school. My boyfriend worked at Walmart over night. I would have to pick him up from Walmart by 7:00am, take him home and then go to school myself.”
All in all, throughout hardship and abuse, Baker still managed to keep her life in order. She remained a competition cheerleader at FAMU and graduated on the Dean’s list with a GPA of 3.8. Overcoming it all, Baker has a new sense of purpose and vigor for life. She overcame the addictive likes of her ex-boyfriend and moved on from a dark situation. She said, “I feel like I can take on anything. Through all of that I still managed to keep my sanity, keep my grades up and activities on campus. I didn’t let him take my life over to the point where I lost myself.”
In May 2012, Baker began to attend Full Sail University, majoring in the Entertainment Business Masters program. After graduating from Full Sail, she plans to start her own event management company. “I want to do music conferences, concerts, and parties,” she says. In the next three years, Baker sees herself back in Atlanta coordinating events and parties.
Leaving us with encouraging words that may be a span of hope for any other woman dealing with this similar crisis. Baker speaks as a voice to stand up and fight for what one believes in. “I think my story can help because sometimes women will lose themselves over a man. But, I feel we are worth so much more than that. I am so open about my story because I want for others to see you can overcome obstacles.”