Emily Baxter: Advocacy through Storytelling
Emily Baxter (BA ‘02, English), winner of CLA’s 2022 Alumni of Notable Achievement Award, recognizes the importance of stories. In her community, she amplifies the voices of those most affected by the injustices of the criminal legal system and looks forward to expanding this advocacy work through creative projects.
What do you do professionally?
I am an attorney, photographer, and founder of We Are All Criminals (WAAC), a Minnesota-based advocacy organization.
How are you involved in the community?
Through WAAC, I work with people who have experienced incarceration and detention, their families and loved ones, community groups, and organizations to highlight injustices within our juvenile and criminal legal systems, amplifying the voices and stories of people most impacted by the inequities and inhumanity of those systems.
How did your time in CLA inspire you to pursue your path?
As Jeff Young, a collaborator and currently-incarcerated writer says, "We are all protagonists in the story of society. We are all central and valuable to that story." My time in CLA gave me a deeper love of literature, and through it, a richer appreciation for the experiences, ideas, and complex inner worlds of others—a hunger not just to hear someone's story, but to better understand them through it.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a student?
Meeting fellow nerds and making lifelong friends.
What advice would you give to current CLA students?
Examine, embrace, question, consume every story you get your hands on—including your own.
How do you spend your free time? What "fills your cup"?
Taking golden hour photographs of people I love and admire.
What was your reaction to receiving this award?
I dialed my dad, a high school teacher who valued hard work, particularly within community. He passed away three years ago this November; I hung up before the call went through. I'd like to think he still got it.
What's next? What are your personal/professional goals for the next five years?
I'm always interested in new forms of storytelling and advocacy, or at least those that are new to me. In the spring of 2025, WAAC will launch a three-month-long installation at the Weisman Art Museum: an exhibit pairing currently-incarcerated artists with artists, activists, and academics on the outside. I'm looking forward to exploring ways of making the show as dynamic, challenging, and inviting as possible, from additional documentary work with photography and film, to community gatherings, to an exhibit-specific podcast.