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The People’s Advocacy Institute (PAI) is a non-profit community resource, training and capacity-building incubator for transformation justice in the South. PAI serves as a vehicle for true democracy, harnessing the collective wisdom of southern communities that have been directly impacted by a divestment from key community systems such as mass criminalization and incarceration and economic inequality. By engaging communities in electoral justice efforts, People's Assemblies, Alternatives to Incarceration Initiatives, and an intentional grassroots process for cultivating ideas and developing solutions PAI, builds community capacity, inspires self-determination and community-driven solutions to violence, punitive legal systems and social injustice facing far too many communities. We believe that community agency is what architects robust systems change and is what is needed to build new institutional power that paves the way for a more just system rooted in restoration, resilience and self-determination. 


The joint brainchild of the late human rights attorney and Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and his daughter, transformative justice strategist and human rights activist Rukia Lumumba, PAI serves as a vehicle for true democracy, harnessing the collective wisdom of southern communities that have been directly impacted by a divestment from key community systems, violence and mass criminalization.  


"I think some of the most significant things happen in history when you get the right people in the right place at the right time and I think that's what we are".

- Chokwe Lumumba


Human Rights Activist & Late Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi



The most effective way to create a more just society is to build community capacity and governing power. Too often, the voice of community members is overlooked in the process of system transformation.  The most impacted by crime, homelessness, under-employment are engaged only as afterthought, if at all, when planning reform and, or solutions to problem issues such as local healthcare, education, and criminalization. At the People’s Advocacy Institute (PAI), we adopt the Community Connections for Youth (CCFY) philosophy that community is central, not peripheral to system change.  The belief that individuals, grassroots, faith and neighborhood organizations in local communities, are most effective in doing work that is transformational and liberating. Our initiatives are built around several core values.

Community (especially the most marginalized) have the right, responsibility and resources for ensuring the safety, and well-being of its residents; 

Black people, people of color, trans and queer people, people most impacted by poverty, formerly incarcerated persons, and young people are assets to be developed and should have a voice in developing and designing programs and policies that affect them; 

The disproportionate incarceration of black, indigenous and brown people, and the flow of dollars away from communities of color is an injustice that must be corrected.

Our mission is to equip people most impacted by systemic violence with the tools to disrupt the criminal and juvenile punishment systems and create a new system founded in human justice, re-education, restitution, restoration and individual and collective healing.

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”


- Cesar Chavez


“You don’t run away from problems, you face them.”


- Fannie Lou Hamer

Realizing the endurance and resourcefulness of communities directly impacted by mass criminalization and incarceration, we partner with community members to provide education, training, coaching, investigation, research, advocacy and legal services to assist in defining the structural inequities that cause harm, and together develop new policies and practices that prevent harm, address oppression, and foster self-determination and a more unbiased system. Click here to learn more about initiatives.

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