Meet Niketa Brar
Niketa serves as the founding executive director of Chicago United for Equity (CUE), an organization that supports building leadership and accountability to achieve racial equity. She comes to this work from a career working to bring a community-centered approach to government, starting during her time advising a city council member in Oakland, California. She has served as a consultant and policy adviser to elected leaders ranging from school board to city and state leadership roles.
Niketa began her career in direct service, spending five years as an investigator with the DC Public Defender's Office and later as a teacher and dean in Title I schools. She currently serves on the Local School Council at National Teachers Academy, a Level 1+ school serving a majority Black, majority low-income student population. She co-founded CUE with Local School Council (LSC) President Elisabeth Greer as they worked together to organize parents, students, and a larger citywide coalition to fight this school closing. In December 2018, they won an injunction to stop the closure of this school in the first legal victory against school closures in Chicago.
Niketa holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and International Affairs from the George Washington University, a Masters of Arts in Teaching Secondary Mathematics from American University, and a Masters in Public Policy from the Ford School at the University of Michigan. She is the proud partner of a Chicago Public Schools teacher and mom to a future CPS student.
What inspires you?
People who don’t give up. People who fight for their communities. People who believe we deserve more from our city and from our elected leaders and are willing to fight for it. The absolute best part of my job is getting to meet everyday Chicagoans who are unapologetic about making this city work for every community.
What scares you?
How easy it is to ignore everyday racism in Chicago. There are too many Chicagoans who are more than happy to blast Trump’s racist policies – while turning around and ignoring everyday racism in their own neighborhood. Whether it’s in hiring practices, school boundaries, locations for affordable housing or new development – Chicago does an incredible job of pretending that our decisions are about anything but race, even when the people being hurt by all of these choices are almost always people of color.
A little known fact about yourself?
I grew up in six homes in four cities before going to college. I lived with my grandparents until I was six, then moved in with my parents and bounced around given changing family situations. I like to think it makes me good at adapting to changing circumstances, but I know it’s also what attracted me to putting down roots in Chicago, since it’s the first place I ever felt was home.
What do you hope will be different by this time next year?
There’s a lot of uncertainty in our city right now and sometimes it feels like a battle for the soul of Chicago. I know the fight for justice to prevail will be a long one, but I hope that by this time next year, as a city we will feel that our momentum is unstoppable.
If you had to change careers what would you want to do?
I would love to start a bread-pocket-themed eatery. It would sell samosas and empanadas and pitas and other bread pockets from around the world. In the evenings, we’d have wine and bread pockets and community meetings. I feel like that would be a perfect life.
Photo Credit: Jamie Kelter Davis Photography