By Errika Bridgeford
As teenagers, Mike and Jerri were very sure of a decision they’d made together: “We will have a boy who will change the world. We will name him Malcolm (after Malcolm X) Patrice (after Patrice Lumumba) Thomas.” In October of 1972, they birthed a girl, but they were not disappointed. This baby girl was born in anguish, enduring the pain of having a dead right hand on her body. Jerri and Mike knew that their baby girl would have even more obstacles to face than they’d imagined, but they were ready. They named her Erricka (after Ericka Huggins) Angela (after Angela Davis) Thomas, and they loved her with the fierceness of a thousand angels. When she started talking at five months old, they knew she was the child they’d prayed for… she already had a lot to say.
I was born to be a changemaker, so my parents named me after the revolution, not the rally. These young parents taught my three brothers and me that as Black people in America, we were responsible to be conscious of what we wanted to change in this world and to DO it. Consequently, I didn’t “become” an activist, I always saw activism as a part of my identity. In a world that was designed to crush me, I could be a victim or a warrior, and my birth story had already deemed me a warrior. On top of that, God sent me here with a heart to seek fairness, justice and love. My parents saw my heart, and nurtured my freedom to speak up for what I believed to be right. This sometimes angered teachers and administrators who wanted me to “stay in a child’s place,’ but my parents showed me that respectfully addressing wrongdoing WAS my place; if that’s what I felt was right. This taught me how to stand up to authority, and to stand in my power, refusing to let fear or intimidation stop me.
It was also important for me to understand that I had a say in my own happiness. As a small child, I wore a very uncomfortable prosthetic. Around age seven, it was time to be refitted for a new one. My parents came to me with a question that would change the game: “Do you want a new prosthetic, or not?” I had a SAY in how I showed up in the world? YES! This awakening shifted my perception of who I could be in my own life. In a world determined to tell me what I couldn’t do, I got to choose to stand with my nub front and center.
I am an activist because my parents nurtured my soul. They refused to see me as broken. When I felt broken, they sat me on their laps and listened to my pain. So, I am no superhero. I am a Black, one-handed girl from Baltimore’s projects who was loved and SEEN, from birth.
Now, go love somebody and be the revolution.