Advocating for education and the betterment of America is the job of Bradley alumna Anastasie Sénat, the president of Haitian American Lawyers Association of Illinois (HALA).
Sénat graduated from Bradley University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications, with minors in speech and theatre.
She was active on campus as a part of multiple organizations including Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Pearl Kourt (’93-’94), student alliance, Caribbean and African Students Association, Student Activities Budget Review Committee, Senior Class Co-Chair and Student Senate.
Despite Sénat creating lifelong friendships and lasting memories, that did not mean that her stay on the Hilltop was always pleasant. She shared her story of facing racism on campus through multiple events, including a failed attempt to run for Vice President of Student Senate in 1996.
“I lost ridiculously to a freshman,” Sénat said. “They would not put my name on the ballot and the freshman ran what appeared to be unopposed.”
Due to her exclusion from the ballot, Sénat went door-to-door on “Frat Row” to campaign for herself. However, the snub was not surprising to her considering that Sénat knew of members of the Ku Klux Klan that attended the university at the same time.
That was not the only case of racism Sénat said that she faced during her time here. She additionally explained that, prior to living in Peoria, she had never heard of the term “sundown town.”
This term, which was used often in historical instances of racial segregation, is used to describe all-white towns where non-whites were advised to leave the town before sundown to avoid something negative happening to them.
Even with all the struggles that she faced at Bradley, Sénat kept moving forward, and her kindness is still evident in her current work with HALA.
“As a person, she’s fun-loving, she likes to laugh, she’s very nice, she’s personable, she lets her guard down,” Darryl Auguste, former president and current vice president of HALA, said. “Anastasie has been around so many different people in terms of status and she’s just her.”
After graduating from Bradley, Sénat moved on to re-found HALA with a group of Haitian lawyers in 2007. She explained that both of her parents were immigrants from Haiti which led her to always stay involved in the Haitian community.
“I went looking for all of these lawyers in Illinois that were of Haitian descent, and about 22 of us got together and eventually paid our dues,” Sénat said. “By Oct. 8, 2008, we were officially recognized and registered in the state of Illinois as an organization.”
Even though she was one of the founders of the organization, Sénat’s previous job with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prohibited her from ever running for office. After leaving ICE for a new job, she was able to run for President of the organization. On Oct. 21, 2021, she was voted into the office during her first run.
The job of the HALA president entails responsibilities that include presiding over all meetings of the executive board, appointing all committee chairs, enforcing observance of the associations by-laws and serving as chair of the executive board.
“She is the most go-getting person I have ever met in my entire life,” Auguste said.
Moving forward in years to come during her presidency, Sénat has three goals for the organization itself and America: advocacy, education and donations.
“I really want to raise the consciousness of Americans,” Sénat said. “Immigration reform isn’t just a Latino issue; it is an issue for the world [and] Black immigrants matter just as much.”
To learn more about HALA and the work that it does, visit their website here.