A life-long resident of New Orleans, James Perry learned core values early in life from his parents, James and Corlis Perry. The Perrys are career educators and taught James and his two brothers and sister the importance of community, service, education and social justice. This is where the seeds of his community service were planted.
The Perry family lived in New Orleans East, where young James witnessed first-hand the decline of his beloved neighborhood even before Hurricane Katrina swamped it with floodwater.
After graduating from McMain High School and the University of New Orleans, James worked for the Preservation Resource Center (PRC), a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the diverse neighborhoods that make New Orleans unique. James worked on the problems of urban blight and neighborhood disinvestment and helped people acquire and rehab blighted properties. He dealt with credit and lending challenges faced by first-time homebuyers and taught the PRC’s certified First-Time Homebuyer Training Program. Through this work he was in the trenches working with dozens of neighborhood organizations stretching from Carrollton to the Lower Ninth Ward.
James became the Director of the Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center and worked to fight rental practices that denied residents access to safe, affordable housing. He raised money, managed a budget, and built a team to help people in need. While in this position, James enrolled in night classes at Loyola Law School until he earned his law degree in 2007.
James is currently the Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), a private, non-profit organization created to promote equal housing opportunity. Under James’ leadership and management, GNOFHAC has tripled in size and helped thousands of residents.
In all his previous positions, James achieved significant results. His organizations have won all of their civil rights lawsuits filed on behalf people targeted by unfair practices or discrimination based on race, income, disability, mental illness, or against people with HIV/AIDS.
One of James’ major initiatives has been to fight in New Orleans and in Washington DC for fairer payouts by the Road Home Program. Recently, on behalf of residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina, James led his organization’s successful lawsuit against St. Bernard Parish, which passed an illegal ordinance that resulted in racial discrimination.
In recent years, James has testified before Congress seven times about the critical importance of Gulf Coast recovery, a cause that he took up again in presentations to both the Democratic and Republican conventions in the summer of 2008.
James has served on the Historic District Landmark Commission, New Orleans Non-Profit Development Collaborative, and the African-American Heritage Preservation Council. He is a member of the Esplanade Ridge Neighborhood Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Building and rebuilding have been a big part of James’ life. As a young man, James and his father built a 50-foot brick wall and put on a roof of the family home. Since Katrina, James has rebuilt his hurricane-damaged home.