Judge Makes History as Advocate, Activist
Illinois Circuit Court Judge Lionel Jean-Baptiste has been an advocate and activist during his many years in Chicago for both local issues and those in his homeland of Haiti. Photo courtesy of Chief Judge’s Office of Cook County Illinois.

EVANSTON, IL — Growing up in two worlds — one, the tropical La Vallée-de-Jacmel in southwest Haiti and the other, a mostly frigid Evanston, just north of Chicago — young Lionel Jean-Baptiste learned to appreciate one constant across both: social struggles. Haiti’s revolution served as an inspiration early on and, when he immigrated to the United States as a teen, the civil rights and anti-war movements enthralled him.

“I grew up full of pride in what my people had accomplished and was surrounded by the symbolism of their struggle,” said Jean-Baptiste, now an Illinois Circuit Court judge. “Once you have been raised to see the world for what it is and what it could be, then you are confronted with the possibility of making a difference — not by declaration, but by engagement.” 

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J.O. Haselhoef is the author of “Give & Take: Doing Our Damnedest NOT to be Another Charity in Haiti.” She co-founded "Yonn Ede Lot" (One Helping Another), a nonprofit that partnered with volunteer groups in La Montagne ("Lamontay"), Haiti from 2007-2013. She is a 2022 Fellow for the Columbia School of Journalism's Age Boom Academy. She writes and lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.