Fifteen-year-old Gwen MacLean did what so many of us did when hunker down orders swept across Anchorage in March: she started to bake. This hobby was a way to pass time, but soon it would become a tool to create change and Gwen’s unique way of joining the fight for justice.

She had done a few baking projects here and there, but with more time to focus in the kitchen, she began to challenge herself with increasingly difficult recipes like pastry roses and braided breads. And then on May 25, George Floyd was murdered, and people across the nation took to the streets to demand change.

Gwen knew that systemic change was needed. She says, as a white-passing Inupiaq woman, she noticed she was treated better than her darker skinned family members. She desperately wanted to be out on the streets with her peers, calling on the community to end the systemic racism that was killing people of color with appalling frequency.  However, a few days prior, Gwen’s family learned that they had had contact with someone with COVID-19 and needed to quarantine.  

Then, she found Bakers Against Racism and connected with folks who had organized an Anchorage chapter. In a few weeks, she contributed baked goods to the small pop-up bake sale that multiple bakers coordinated, which raised more than $600. She was so happy to combine her passion for baking with her drive to make the community better that she wanted to do another one, on her own, to see how much she could raise.

Just a couple of weeks later, Gwen had baked 11 loaves of bread, 26 braided rolls, 5 dozen cookies, 4 dozen donuts, 2 dozen muffins, 16 pastry roses, and some assorted banana breads. Her kitchen was covered in flour for more than a week.

Then Gwen made a generous donation to us, the ACLU of Alaska. All the proceeds from her bake sale totaled $432, and she gifted it to our organization so we can continue to fight for justice and equality in the place she calls home.

We are truly honored to have the trust of such a passionate young activist and Alaskan. As we continue our work creating stronger, more equitable Alaska communities, we keep Gwen’s hopes in mind. We honor every person doing their part to make the world a better place, and we will continue to find inspiration in such gracious acts of kindness and compassion. 

Each member of the ACLU of Alaska team has heard her story, and they were impressed and inspired to learn about Gwen. We hope to share a little of that hope and inspiration with you, too.