New Americas, Chicago, Illinois, Tues. Mar. 8, 2011: A Haitian-American has again made history in Illinois.
Lionel Jean-Baptiste, Esq. made history in Illinois nine years ago when he became the first Haitian-American to be voted into office as Alderman of 2nd Ward in the City of Evanston and recently became the first Haitian-American appointed a judge in the state, according to The Caribbean Association of Midwest America.
He was appointed to the 9th Sub-circuit to fill the vacancy created by the recent death of Judge Gerald C. Bender. His appointment took effect on March 4, 2011 and terminates December 3, 2012.
Jean-Baptiste is also the co-founder of the Haitian Congress to Fortify Haiti and played a key role in the development of the organization. His leadership has taken the Haitian Congress in a positive direction, primarily one of advocating for Haiti, the Haitian people and the community at large.
He has worked tirelessly to advocate for dual citizenship for Haitians in the Diaspora. As such, after long hours of research with a very competent sub-committee, holding town hall meetings with Haitians in New York, Miami, Boston and Chicago, holding a major conference in Chicago, and a major international conference in Haiti in July 2009 at Karibe Hotel & Convention Center, in September 2009 the 48th Legislature voted to recommended to dual citizenship for Haitians.
Once the 49th Legislature, is seated this year, one of their tasks will be to amend the Haitian constitution to grant dual citizenship to Haitians who have taken on a different nationality.
Jean-Baptise, also as chairman of the Haitian Congress, has made celebrating all major historical events in Haitian history a priority. As such, with a coalition of local organizations in the Chicago area and the Consulate General of Chicago, the Haitian Congress has celebrated Independence Day, Flag Day, Bwa Kayiman and Bataille de Vertières for the past five years.
Jean-Baptiste, whose family emigrated from Haiti, arrived in Evanston in 1964 and is a 1970 graduate of Evanston Township High School where he was student government president.
He graduated from Princeton University in 1974 as a political science major and, after spending a decade in New York, he returned to Evanston in 1984. He earned his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1990, and got his start in community activism here working with the Canal Park Neighbors Association. Alderman Jean-Baptiste was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1991. He is married to Lenore Jean-Baptiste and the couple have three children and three grandchildren.