Josie Baker comes by her community-building ways honestly: “I grew up with a strong sense of community so as I got older, I continued to question what it means to be in community. Our work and our lives are all extensions and variations of community.”
This strong sense of community is evidenced in Josie’s dedication and commitment to cultivating safe and brave spaces where people can connect with themselves and each other. Josie is currently the Executive Director of PEERS Alliance and her background includes a variety of leadership roles with organizations like the Tatamagouche Centre, the Cooper Institute, and Katimavik.
We talked about the role that media can play in public education and awareness and the importance of ensuring a wide range of voices are heard on subjects of collective importance.
“There’s a frustration when things aren’t being done. It’s important to know when to speak up about an injustice and it’s as important to know when it’s not my place.”
Josie is no stranger to speaking up about injustice and she puts her time and energy where her words are. As an activist, she is/has been actively involved in a variety of social justice movements on PEI, such as abortion rights, migrant worker rights, and food security issues. “Being in a small place like PEI makes you feel like you can have a tangible impact and I have a strong faith in PEI that things can be better.”
I was struck by Josie’s perspectives on food security and hearing the ways she supports her family and community through sustainable food harvesting. She is active with the community seed garden and is instrumental in the CSA with Soleil’s Farm. “Food is pleasure, recreation, motivation, sustenance, and inspiration. Making foods locally and connectedly allows for sustainable community-building.”
During my conversation with Josie, it became quite clear that her passion about and dedication to community is wide reaching in all aspects of her life. “Justice in my home spreads to justice in community. We need to know our own personal and professional boundaries and it can be hard for some folks to learn these things about themselves.”
One of the ways that Josie encourages people to connect with themselves is through role play games (RPG) and live action role play (LARP). “Imagination is vital in how we define ourselves and in how we build culture and community. If we can imagine something, we can work toward it.” Josie’s eyes lit up as she talked about RPG and LARP. Some may think games are a thing to do outside of work to decompress and socialize but Josie is working hard to incorporate games inside and outside of the workplace.
“These games provide space to practice letting go of the stories we carry that no longer serve us through self-exploration and by grappling with dynamics in community and in relationships. It is a liberating experience and a powerful demonstration of imagination.”
Josie builds games into her work as an inclusive practice, opening space for folks who may otherwise be excluded. “Games help us connect across demographics and allows us to tap into parts of ourselves that we may otherwise not connect. Play is community building in action. It’s important to me to create cultural spaces by and for the people within that culture. We don’t want to let pop culture define our queer space, we must create it ourselves.”
I left my conversation with Josie feeling like anything is possible (and that I need to play more games!). “Everyone by definition is powerful,” she says. “This solidarity work is intentional, kind, and caring, and it can be difficult and challenging. Having space for imagination and creativity within ourselves and our communities is endlessly valuable. It is all community-building and all of it is important.”