Meet Rukia

“If you don’t love the people, sooner or later you will betray the people.” the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba

A legal professional and advocate, Rukia Lumumba has over 20 years of experience working to improve the quality of life for all people.  Whether in her work with UMMC to build Mississippi’s first hospital-based violence intervention program; her leadership in the #JXNUndivided coalition to protect our democracy and challenge HB1020/SB2343; or her work to build self-determined communities as the executive director of the People’s Advocacy Institute, founding board member of Black Voters Matter,  legal advisor for the MS Poor People’s Campaign,  co-founder of the MS Rapid Response Coalition, and incubator of the Strong Arms of MS Credible Messenger Mentoring Program and the Operation Good Cure Violence program. Rukia is rooted in the values of service, community, and perseverance. She is known for her strong work ethic and direct services model to improve the lives of Mississippi residents immediately. 

Rukia Kai Lumumba is a dedicated and accomplished coalition builder and legal professional who has committed her career to advocate for an improved quality of life for all people. The daughter of two beloved community leaders–the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Nubia Lumumba–Rukia’s fidelity to justice and equity began at a young age.  As a high school student, she co-founded the Community Aid and Development Youth Day Camp, a free summer camp in her hometown, Jackson, Mississippi, that provided a safe place for over 200 young people between the ages of 6 and 16.  When she was elected Miss Tougaloo College in 2001, she redefined the role and established a policy to elect the first Mister Tougaloo.  Rukia refused to take her crown until Mister Tougaloo received the same housing and tuition assistance benefits as Miss Tougaloo. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in international relations from Tougaloo College and a juris doctorate from Howard University School of Law.  She expanded her studies in law and politics during semesters at the University of Forte Hare and the University of the Western Cape in South Africa. 

After law school, Rukia clerked for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Washington, DC Public Defender Service, where she represented children and collected data on human rights violations.  She also served as program director of Parents Watch, Inc., a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that assists parents in advocating for their detained child’s release. During her tenure, she helped launch the first parent resource center housed within a detention facility. Rukia has been a board member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the national coordinator of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. She was also a co-founder of Katrina on the Ground, an initiative that organized over 700 college students to participate in post-Katrina relief efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

For more than two decades, Rukia has worked to foster justice for all, especially as it relates to criminal justice disparities for people of color. She served as director of two of New York state’s largest criminal justice nonprofits–CASES (the Center for Alternatives Sentencing and Employment Services) and the Center for Community Alternatives–providing visionary leadership and building community and system partnerships to help break the prison pipeline. Under her leadership, more than 4,200 young people received supportive community-based services in lieu of incarceration.  Rukia served as co-chair of the Anti-Violence and Criminal Justice Working Group and steering committee member of the first Young Women’s Initiative in the United States dedicated to developing gender-equitable policies in New York City.  Her work contributed to the development of She Will Be, a 144-page report of recommendations from stakeholders across New York City, including but not limited to community-based organizations, advocates, policy experts, and young women themselves.

Today, Rukia Lumumba is founding executive director of the People’s Advocacy Institute and co-director of the Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives.  In these roles, she works at the intersections of criminal and electoral justice, engaging communities in community-led governance and public safety and an intentional grassroots process for cultivating ideas and developing solutions to violence, punitive legal systems, and social injustice. Rukia centers her work on the belief that community agency can build new institutional power–paving the way for a more just system rooted in restoration, resilience, and self-determination.  She is co-leading the development of Mississippi’s first Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery in partnership with the National League of Cities and the City of Jackson. She assists in establishing Mississippi’s first hospital-based violence intervention initiative in partnership with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the National Institute of Health (NIH).  Working with national partners of the National Credible Messenger Justice Center and Credible Messenger Mentoring (CM3), as well as the Global Cure Violence program, Rukia is responsible for the introduction of these modalities to Mississippi and the resource development of Mississippi’s first and only credible messenger mentorship program which is facilitated by Strong Arms of Mississippi, and Mississippi’s first cure violence gun-death prevention program, facilitated by Operation Good and Safe Streets.  She is also a co-founder and lead coordinator of the Mississippi Rapid Response Coalition, which has provided infrastructure and crisis relief to 100,000 community members throughout Mississippi; the Mississippi Prison Reform Coalition, committed to human conditions in Mississippi Prisons for both people confined and staff; the Community Love Fund, which provided financial relief to community members in need of assistance with rent, mortgage, books, funeral cost and etc.; and she is responsible for the development of JXN Undivided, a coalition of over 40 organizations that have come together to challenge harmful state legislation – HB1020 and SB2343. 

Rukia serves on the boards of Operation Shoestring, a Mississippi-based early childcare non-profit; the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity (IAJE), a Mississippi-based non-profit to immigrant rights; Black Voters Matter which is committed to increasing political power in Black communities, the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal non-profit committed to creating a more just society through the legal process, and the Edward W. Hazen Foundation dedicated to youth-of-color leadership development.  

Rukia is continuing her Lumumba family’s robust legacy of advancing issues and initiatives that elevate the legal, economic, health, and educational rights of individuals, families, and communities.  Her commitment to communities in Mississippi and across the globe have been highlighted by a myriad of awards and recognitions.  She was named a “New Activist” by Essence magazine and an “Emerging Leader” by the Congressional Black Caucus.  She was selected as one of the brightest and most promising women of color by New York University Wagner School of Public Service. Rukia is deeply humbled to have been named a 2011 Youth for Justice Leadership Fellow for the National Juvenile Justice Network; a 2016 Tougaloo Alum 40 Under 40 Award recipient; a 2018 Atlantic Philanthropy Fellow for Racial Equity; a 2019 Respect Our Black Dollars Award Recipient; a 2020 Young Gifted and Empowered Award recipient; a 2021 Ashe Fellow; a 2022 MS Branch NAACP Award recipient; a 2022 Race Forward Fellow, a 2023 White House Recognition for Civil Rights Advocacy recipient,  and a 2023 Shirley Chisholm Award Recipient from the Circle of Hope for Awareness Depression.  

Rukia holds her family very dear and is most proud of being a mother to her wonderful and talented son, Qadir Rai

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