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.”
Much of that engagement has been directed toward Haiti over his decades in law and in community activism and advocacy. The work for Haiti reminds him of Sisyphus, the mythological figure forced to roll a boulder up a mountain, again and again.
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