Patrice James: Founding Director

Patrice James

Chicago, IL – Social justice and racial equity leader Patrice James has been appointed Founding Director of the Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative (IBAI), a statewide Black-led and Black-focused advocacy organization. Throughout her career, James has tackled inequities within the criminal legal system and more recently the child welfare system.

Her appointment provides the opportunity to continue her life’s work in service to Black people and Black communities and to carry forward IBAI’s bold vision to create a united voice for building Black power within Illinois. As Founding Director, James will lead the development of IBAI and the creation of a plan for collective advocacy and policy solutions focused on repairing the harms of structural and systemic racism over generations.

Most recently, James was Director of Community Justice at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law where she focused on systemic reform of the criminal legal system and child welfare system. Previously, she was a founding attorney of Still She Rises, Tulsa, where she provided legal representation, primarily to low-income women of color.

In 2021, the Illinois Black Advocacy Initiative, a statewide Black-led and Black-focused advocacy organization, was founded due to the current heightened sense of urgency to create and advance a statewide Black Advocacy agenda in Illinois. Although catalyzed by the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black lives, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Chicagoan Laquan McDonald and others have driven momentum. This Initiative acknowledges and builds upon a long pre-existing desire and early efforts to launch a unified agenda dedicated to racial equity, social justice, and systemic and structural change for the political, social and economic improvement of Black people and communities in Illinois.