Phillippa Paisley, MPP Class of 2021

As a part of Harris Public Policy’s celebration of Black History Month, we asked members of the Harris community to share their perspective on Black History Month and the importance of Black voices in public policy. These are their opinions and perspectives, informed by their own life experiences and worldviews (and do not necessarily reflect the views of Harris).

Black voices matter, in every space. As minorities in America, Black people have fought for the right to be treated as full citizens in a country that enslaved their ancestors. Throughout their fight, they have paved the way for their descendants to be afforded the opportunities to explore spaces, knowledge and work that they were previously barred from. The field of public policy is a space that Black representation and voices can be amplified, changing this field to incorporate equitable justice. Black voices add a missing perspective that helps to approach issues and solutions, in a way that seeks to be more inclusive of the Black community. However, much more needs to be done to amplify Black voices by dismantling the history of these spaces that often center whiteness and perpetuate structural racism and other oppressive ideologies.

Incorporating Black voices expands the schools of thought in public policy. Throughout the process of cost benefit analysis, policy implementation and program evaluation, decisions are made about issues facing minority communities including environmental justice, health, economic prosperity and new technological advancements. If Black people are not in these spaces and furthermore, are without a voice, the systems of oppression will continue. Black voices not only enable these issues to develop with inclusion and equity in mind but builds on the justice of these systems; changing them to uplift Black communities while adjusting to meet their needs. Their perspective, though not a panacea, will ask the questions central to the Black community and acknowledge when limited understanding of a community inhibits the validity of decisions made on behalf of these communities.

In developing these Black voices and equipping them with the tools to rigorously operate in these public policy spaces, Black students at the Harris School of Public Policy have created organizations like Black Action in Public Policy Studies (BAPPS). BAPPS gives its Black students a platform of expression, community and impact. They are committed to centering the experiences and needs of Black people through a Black lens when delving into issues of inequality within public policy and broader subjects. As an organization, they are committed to centering the experiences and needs of Black people while working towards justice and equity within public policy spaces.

It is my hope that leaders in Public Policy spaces not only recognize the need for Black representation but amplified Black voices. They should seek them out with such intent that their mission surrounds the inclusion of Black voices and minorities alike. Through this, they will see their outcomes expand, their impact increase, and their oppressive systems diminished.

About Phillippa Paisley, MPP Class of 2021

Phillippa Paisley is an MPP candidate at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Her areas of interest are International Policy and Development, Program Evaluation and Social Policy. Having acquired her Bachelor of Science in International Relations with a Minor in Political Leadership, Management, and Strategy, from the University of the West Indies, she worked in the Non-Governmental Organization sector as a Program Liaison at the Latin American Caribbean Center. In this capacity, she had the opportunity to help with the relationships formed between Jamaica and partner Latin American Organizations such as PDVSA through Petro Caribe. She developed her skills in program management and logistics by co-planning English Immersion Programs for PDVSA and Hearts for Change. In 2015, she moved from Kingston, Jamaica, to North Lauderdale, Florida, to live with her father and brother. 

With a passion for helping others and making a social impact in her new community, she became an AmeriCorps Public Ally in Miami. Here she was equipped with the opportunities and tools to improve her civic leadership and develop her professional skills. She worked with the Children’s Movement of Florida as a Research and Public Education Coordinator, working with the Public Policy and Outreach and Engagement Team. There she assisted parents and caretakers state-wide to understand complex legal and legislative information around subsidized children’s healthcare and childcare through clarifying “policy papers”; increasing awareness of issues. This work piqued her interest in achieving social change through Public Policy, but her love for helping people brought her to HandsOn Broward, a non-profit organization that inspires, equips and mobilizes people to effect positive change in Broward County. She started as a Volunteer Coordinator and because of her affinity for programmatic data-driven results and development, she was promoted to Program Manager. Her fervor for a data-driven solution to social issues grew and she sought to learn how she could improve her skills in using data to help organizations that served people in need or addressed social issues to increase their impact. As a Graduate Intern at BECOME, she has done work in Culturally Responsive Evaluation, Strategic Planning, Action Research and Community-based Participatory Research.

Phillippa currently lives in Hyde Park, Chicago and immerses herself in the community by volunteering as an iMentor in Chicago Public Schools. She is on the Diversity Advisory Board and is the President of the Black Action in Public Policy Studies. Her hope is that the work she does not only helps others but inspire others to do the same.