A desire to learn about the decisions that were made during the Iraq War and how they affected the community led Queens Native Fabrice Coles to study law. His passion for diversity led him to become the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Coles says the current political climate is fraught with division and fighting. Nevertheless, he continues to advise members of the CBC on issues related to improving the lives of black Americans in hopes of increasing their influence over the outcomes affecting their communities.
Who is Fabrice Coles? Where are you from? What are some of your hobbies and interests?
I am from Queens, NY. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents, I was the first in my family to be born in the U.S., the rest of my family is from Haiti. My hobbies and interests are spending time with family, sports, music and social and economic justice.
What is your connection to Haiti?
Both of my parents are Haitian. I am the first one in my family to be born here. I speak French and Kreyol, “I’m average at both!”. I am so proud to be of Haitian descent because we were the first in this hemisphere to throw off the bonds of slavery. We are a strong, stubborn and proud people. We are incredibly resilient.
How did you become interested in law and politics?
I became interested in law and politics during college as the Iraq War was being waged. I opposed it and wanted to learn more about how decisions that impacted us all were made. This interest led me to study law at the Howard University School of Law. I graduated in 2008 and after school, I found work on Capitol Hill.
Tell me about your work as an Executive Director at the CBC?
I advise the 48 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and their staffs on various policy, communication, political and administrative issues related to improving the lives of black Americans, as well as black people across the globe.
Why the Congressional Black Caucus?
Working here, for 46 House Members and two senators has been an amazing educational experience. I came here to do my part to help give voice to people out there who are often left out of the major policy debates in this country. Our communities deserve a spot at the table and the members of the CBC use that position to influence outcomes on Capitol Hill and beyond. I came to work here because I thought I could leverage my skills in service to increase our influence over outcomes that affect us.
How does the current political climate impact your work?
It is a challenging environment for all on Capitol Hill. There are great differences in opinion about how to govern and there is limited agreement. Not much is getting done and the things that are getting done are not benefiting the majority of Americans; they’re certainly not helping the Haitian diaspora. The current climate saddens me because there is a lot of division and fighting, but not a lot of attention goes to the needs of those that are struggling and could benefit from a government that is there to help.
How has living in America allowed you to grow professionally and explore different avenues?
I am thankful for growing up in Queens, New York among Americans, Caribbeans, Africans and others. I have gained perspective from interactions with people from all over the world and gained the understanding that we are truly all in the same struggle with similar goals and hopes. There are a lot of resources here in the states that my family has been able to tap into to provide for our family’s well-being. I love living here, but what I love more is that my experience has been filled with the collective experience of people from all over. Diversity is our strength.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
My family and my ancestors.
Knowing everything you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Be organized and diligent in attacking your work and your play.
How has your work enriched your life?
It has given me great perspective; knowledge of the world’s complexity and great humility.