City native Kia Ghee will lead the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations as executive director.
Mayor Jim Kenney appointed Ghee to the role Friday. Ghee takes over for Randy Duque, who had been serving as acting executive director of the commission since December. Duque replaced Rue Landau who left the position after serving for 12 years.
Ghee said growing up in the West Oak Lane section of North Philadelphia — a “tough neighborhood” where many who lacked resources were seemingly cast away by society after leaving high school — pushed her to fight for marginalized groups throughout her career.
“To know me is to know that I come from a humble beginning, and I am happy, honored and proud to continue to fight,” Ghee said in an interview Friday.
Ghee moves from her role as deputy city solicitor in the Law Department’s labor and employment unit. As one of the Kenney administration’s top lawyers, she has defended city policies against challenges, among other things.
The PCHR is the city’s civil rights agency, tasked with preventing and investigating discrimination and helping resolve community conflicts. As executive director, Ghee also will lead the city’s Fair Housing Commission, which addresses unfair rental practices.
“The mission of PCHR remains as important as ever, and when looking for someone to lead this critical work, I was seeking a strong legal mind who could defend, enforce and protect our City’s anti-discrimination measures at all costs,” Kenney said in a statement. “Over the years, we’ve seen how important these local laws are as some politicians have attempted to chip away at the rights of our most marginalized communities. In Kia, I’m confident that all Philadelphians will have a steadfast advocate who will fiercely protect and defend their civil rights.”
A graduate of George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, Ghee went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.
She received a master’s degree in public health at West Chester University and a law degree from Drexel University Law School.
Ghee also has a dozen years of experience in running public health and social service programing in the city, which has helped her forge relationships with communities throughout Philadelphia.
Among her top goals for the office are bolstering anti-discrimination policies in the city, setting up a framework to more quickly resolve discrimination complaints, and build upon existing programs to defuse neighborhood conflicts. The appointment goes into effect June 21.
“Ms. Ghee is a dynamic and well-rounded leader who is more than able to continue moving the PCHR in the right direction,” PCHR Chair Shalimar Thomas said in a statement. “We are excited to have her lead this organization and the much-needed work of enforcing and protecting our civil rights.”
Ghee said the most significant challenge facing the office is eliminating systemic discrimination practices in the city, including both implicit and explicit bias.
“System issues need to be uncovered and exposed and then addressed,” Ghee said.