President & CEO
Ilham Askia serves as the President & CEO of the East Lake Foundation where she is responsible for leading the Foundation’s strategic vision and ongoing work with East Lake Initiative partners to ensure progress towards the Foundation’s…
President & CEO
Ilham Askia serves as the President & CEO of the East Lake Foundation where she is responsible for leading the Foundation’s strategic vision and ongoing work with East Lake Initiative partners to ensure progress towards the Foundation’s mission. The East Lake Foundation was established in 1995 to revitalize the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta, GA by generating new opportunities for families living there and creating a vibrant community where all residents thrive. The Foundation’s goal is to support programming that addresses mixed-income housing, cradle-to-college education, community wellness, and economic vitality.
Askia is a seasoned nonprofit leader with a deep commitment to advancing social justice and equity.As Co-Founder and former Executive Director of Gideon’s Promise, a national, nonprofit public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal legal system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities, Askia spent 15 years changing the culture of indigent defense representation in America. Before her role as Executive Director, she served as Program Director, where she worked with and helped to recruit new public defenders, as well as develop relationships with public defender offices throughout the Southeast.
Prior to her work with Gideon’s Promise, she served as an educator. Her career began in early childhood education as a Teach for America Fellow in the District of Columbia Public Schools and then she later taught and facilitated teacher training in the charter school system before moving to Georgia. She served as a first-grade teacher, chaired the First Grade Team, and wrote Math curriculum for Fulton County Schools. During her tenure in education, her students were routine examples of the effects of over-policing in marginalized communities, the school-to-prison pipeline, as well as the negative outcomes derived from legal representation provided by poorly trained public defenders with overwhelming caseloads. The latter being a lesson she learned earlier in life when both her father and brother were sentenced to prison.
Askia has been featured by media outlets that include Essence, Black Enterprise, Atlanta Magazine, Share International Magazine, Atlanta’s NPR, and the legal podcast Service Roads: Conversations on the Law and Social Justice. Under her leadership, Gideon’s Promise was also the subject of award winning, HBO Documentary, Gideon’s Army. She regularly speaks at law schools, community organizations and national criminal justice conferences to discuss the critical role of public defenders in the legal system. Notably, Askia has been a speaker at the SMART on Crime Innovations Conference, National Association for Public Defense Conference, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Annual Conference, Social Justice Community Foundations, Federal Defenders Conference, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund Capital Training Conference, Public Defender Service for District of Columbia, Mercer Law Review Conference, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference Summit.
She has been honored with the Southern Center for Human Right’s Gideon’s Award, Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Inspiring Woman Award, the Atlanta Hawks Most Notable Atlantan, and Atlanta Magazine’s Women Making a Mark Award.
Askia holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in City/Urban, Community, and Regional Planning, and a master’s degree in Elementary Education and Teaching from Trinity Washington University. She currently serves as a committee member of Leadership Atlanta, a post she has held since 2017, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF), which she joined in January 2021. She also serves on the Charles R. Drew Charter School Board and the National Head Start HSN Board.
She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with husband Jonathan and children Aaliyah and Lucas.