Family, Community and Neighbors,
We owe so much to the many movements that have been birthed from communities closest to struggle. I personally would not be where I am today without you and the countless under-recognized leaders whose collective activism continues to raise our awareness about the many ways systems create a subhuman reality for so many within our city and nation. As a woman, daughter of Black immigrants, with an intimate connection to poverty, discrimination, ableism, and sexism, I understand that standing up for marginalized communities—especially women, girls and those historically left behind—requires more than hashtags and moments of solidarity.
This is a moment many claim as the “year of the woman.” I’ve seen several t-shirts say “the future is female.”
If that’s true…we need to get some things in order.
The future of our city depends on how serious we are about what the data is, and has been, telling us. The future depends on how well we respond to those living within the intersections of injustice and oppression. “Equity” is not a buzzword. It’s a practice, and in a city that is majority women, working poor and people of color, your Public Advocate must be comfortable with calling out inequities designed from the beginning to hold us all back. Your Public Advocate must have a full toolbox of skills, equipped to not only disrupt, but also build up. I believe I am that advocate.
What New York City needs right now…to address school segregation…to address health disparities…to address babies being born homeless… to address gentrification, is a hybrid approach inclusive of movement, policy and legal strategies. The goal is a City that works for all, not some. We have an opportunity to envision what needs to be in place to achieve it.
I am not a politician. I am an advocate connected to a community of advocates. I invite you to be a partner, and bring a chair.
Ifeoma Ike—Ify, for short—is a first-generation, Nigerian-American activist, artist and attorney whose entire career has been dedicated to empowering marginalized communities and creating data-informed strategies to reduce inequity. Ify is a co-founding Principal of social impact firm, Think Rubix, a professor at Lehman College, and board member of the Women’s Prison Association, as well a Junior Board member of the Nigerian Healthcare Foundation. Ify is the former Deputy Executive Director of New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative, where she led the ideation, design and management of the leading diversity teacher recruitment strategy, NYC Men Teach, and co-created the city’s first ever Equity Committee—a multi-agency effort leveraging best practices and data to eradicate inequities for communities of color within New York City. As Deputy Executive Director, Ify also advocated for the intentional inclusion of women, girls and non-gender conforming youth in policy considerations, and served as a liaison to the Young Women’s Initiative and a member of the NYC School Discipline Task Force. Prior to her departure, Ify—in collaboration with other women of color—successfully secured over $1million in funding from New York State’s My Brothers Keeper (MBK) program, which currently supports MBK communities throughout the City with a mission of empowering young people and their families to better advocate for the changes they need and deserve.
A nationally recognized movement leader, Ify prioritizes building spaces to ensure that underrepresented communities can no longer be ignored. Prior to President Barack Obama creating “My Brother’s Keeper,” Ify co-facilitated the creation of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys (now called the “My Brothers Keeper Caucus”) after she co-organized the first ever congressional staffer walkout, “Hoodies on the Hill,” in response to the murder of unarmed Black teenager, Trayvon Martin. As a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation legal fellow on the US House Judiciary Committee, Ify advocated for Congress’ first-ever field hearing on Stand Your Ground and other unjust laws and ensured that the family of Trayvon Martin was included in the proceedings. To this day, Ify continues to support families impacted by state-sanctioned and racially-motivated brutality and violence, as well as uplift the severely ignored within our criminal justice system—women, girls, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Ify’s footprints of equity, accountability, and enabling space for community participation is evident in other efforts she has helped launch, included Black and Brown People Vote, JustLeadershipUSA, and in 2016, successfully advocating for the creation of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls as a co-founding member of the #SheWoke Committee in response to the tragedy of Sandra Bland. In her early days on Capitol Hill, Ify led the Haiti earthquake recovery effort, including the US response to the cholera outbreak, election monitoring and gender-based sexual violence. Ify is also a former Senior Policy Advocate at the Innocence Project, where within her first six months, she successfully championed legislation improving how law enforcement trains on implicit bias, eyewitness identification, and DNA collection. She has also co-drafted the Federal End Racial Profiling Act, the Voter Empowerment Act, and was a part of the team that advanced the Violence Against Women Act. Ify has trained leaders throughout the country and internationally, advised many leading non-profits, and presented at several institutions, including at Harvard, Yale, Berkley—all centered on how to dismantle practices that systematically oppress communities.
In 2018, Ify has been instrumental in advancing mental health equity, and led the launch of Sisters Thrive, Brothers Thrive and the Mental Health Advisory Group to better support African-American communities in New York City. As election season approached, Ify provided expert testimony before NYC’s Charter Revision Commission on ways to increase engagement throughout the city. Ify also co-launched #WeBelongHere with Ohio State Rep. Emilia Sykes to address the hostile work environments Black women public servants experience, and create solutions in time for the next generation of fierce women of color government leaders. Ify is also part of the Mass Bail Out team, the largest national bail effort to date which aims to liberate women and children impacted by the bail and pre-trial detention systems in NYC. Ify is the co-host of the daily socio-political podcast, PoliTea—a “tell it like it is” show intended to engage more communities with politics, history, and solutions.
Ify received her B.A. and M.A. in Communications Theory and Research at West Virginia University; J.D. from CUNY School of Law; and LL.M. in Advanced Litigation and Conflict Resolution from The George Washington University Law School. Ify also holds an Executive Certificate in School Justice Partnerships from the Georgetown University Court School of Public Policy. She lives in BedStuy with her dog, Bishop.