Blake Strode

Where are you from?

I am from St. Louis, Missouri.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I joined ArchCity Defenders in the fall of 2015. I discovered ACD in the wake of the Ferguson Uprising as a third-year law student, which is when I learned that they were one of the only legal organizations representing poor people in municipalities like Ferguson throughout the region. I wanted to join ACD to be part of a place that was helping clients to fight back against the criminalization of poor people and black people in St. Louis.

What is your background (work and education)?

I left St. Louis in 2005 to attend the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. I studied international economics and Spanish, and played four years of tennis for the Razorbacks. After college, I spent three years traveling around the world and competing in tournaments as a professional tennis player. I then attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 2015. During my time as a law student, I interned at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and in the office of U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin. I also worked as a student attorney in the Post-Foreclosure Eviction Defense Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. I joined ArchCity Defenders as a Skadden Fellow and helped to establish the Civil Rights Litigation Unit to bring systemic litigation challenging debtors’ prisons, unlawful bail practices, police misconduct, and more.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

As the Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders, I have many responsibilities, including managing our growing and talented staff; exploring new opportunities for advocacy and systemic litigation; communicating the work and mission of ACD to students, supporters, fellow advocates, and media; and working with the Board and leadership to set strategic direction for the organization. But mostly, I am responsible for making sure that the dedicated team at ACD has everything it needs to provide the best holistic advocacy possible for our clients.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

I would describe ArchCity Defenders as bold, fearless, client-centered, and holistic.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

My best days on this job are when I get to watch our clients, many of whom have survived years of targeting and abuse, stand up in front of audiences, testify publicly to panels and commissions, and write essays in their own voices that help to build consciousness, change minds, and shift narratives on the critical issues impacting their and their families’ lives.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I’m a Cubs fan in Cardinals land. I know more about the Golden Girls than you do.