Founder and Former Chairman, Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti
Lionel Jean-Baptiste is a son, a husband, a father of 3, a grandfather of 3, a brother, uncle, cousin, and nephew. Raised in Petionville, Haiti, he came to the United States at the age of 14. Upon graduation from Evanston Township High School in 1970, he attended Princeton University and received a degree in Political Science and a minor/Certificate in African-American History. Compelled to give back to the society which had given him so much, he worked as an elementary school teacher in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, NY and as an adjunct Professor in New Rochelle Community College. He also worked as the Director of the Special Housing Division for the Housing Preservation and Development Department of NYC serving the homeless and providing emergency housing.He eventually returned to his home town in Evanston, IL and enrolled in Law School in 1986. With a full time job as the Executive Assistant to the President of Malcolm X College, City of Chicago, and an active family, he graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1990. Lionel practiced law for 20 years, primarily in the areas of Immigration, Personal Injury, Probate, Family Law and Real Estate. He also worked on political / legal cases such as the major reparations case against several US corporations. During that period he was elected for 3 consecutive terms and served for 10 years as Alderman of the 2ndWard of the City of Evanston. He was the first Haitian-American elected official in the State of Illinois. As an Alderman, he was recognized as a hard worker, a strong negotiator and a voice of fairness and reason.
Judge Jean-Baptiste is a firm believer in the notion that freedom, justice, and equity are not free; and that one should not in simply observe the world but should engage in the process of changing it for the better. To that end, he has worn many hats. He served as a Civil Service Commissioner for the City of Evanston. He is a member of the NAACP, the Canal Park Neighbors, and the Haitian-American Community Association. He is a founder of the Evanston Youth Initiative. He is the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti and the Haitian Congress for Civic Engagement PAC and a founding member of the Haitian Relief Fund of Illinois. He is also a founder and past President of the Haitian American Lawyers Association of Illinois. He represents the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti on the Board of the Haitian Diaspora Federation. He worked as a member of the Committee Against Repression in Haiti, as an organizer of workers and unemployed youth, and as an organizer against police brutality. He was a member of the African Liberation Support Committee that struggled against British and Portuguese colonialism and against Apartheid. He was a member of the Durban 400 who went to South Africa to advance the struggle for reparations. He was, also, a member of the National Committee for the Millions For Reparations demonstration held in Washington, D. C. He is a member of the Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, the Illinois Judicial Council and the Illinois Judges Association.
Besides his personal accomplishments, Judge Jean-Baptiste is most proud of his continuing work with the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti. This organization’s central strategy is the reintegration of the Diaspora into the life of Haiti. The “Haitian Congress” has waged an international, non-partisan campaign that spanned 7 years, to secure Dual/Multi-Nationality for Haitians under the Haitian Constitution whereby Haitians who have become citizens of other nations have now regained their Haitian citizenship and their foreign born children have also become Haitians, legally. Simultaneously, the “Haitian Congress” has remained active in crisis relief, debt forgiveness, and Temporary Protective Status (TPS) advocacy, as well, as in promoting Haitian culture to our youth and the community at large in the Chicago area. Today, we say forward to reintegration and forward to the Diaspora Vote!
Lionel Jean-Baptiste is currently serving as a Cook County Circuit Court Judge in the State of Illinois. In March of 2011 he became the first Haitian-American in the State of Illinois to be appointed and sworn in by the Supreme Court. He waged a hard-fought campaign to hold on to his seat on the Bench and was victorious in the Primary Election of March 2012 and, again, in the General Election of November 2012, becoming the first Haitian-American to be elected as a Judge in the State of Illinois. Today, he continues to be passionate about serving others not only as a Circuit Court Judge and strives to live a life worth following.