On Friday, R. Kelly was indicted in Chicago, Ill. on charges that he sexually abused four victims, three of them being victims who were aged 13 to 16 at the time of the alleged misconduct. Leading Cook County’s case against the singer, which includes 10 counts of aggravated criminal assault occurring between 1998 and 2010, is State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who made a public plea in January after the release of the documentary series on Kelly’s alleged behavior asking any accusers to come forward.
So who exactly is Foxx? Well, for starters, she’s the first African-American woman to lead Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s Office, and only one of two women elected to that office state-wide.
Her road to becoming a historyMAKER took lots of perseverance. She lived in the Cabrini-Green housing projects growing up in what she described as extreme poverty. “And it always felt like you were imprisoned by where you lived. And it was scary,” she told MAKERS. “I had been sexually abused and assaulted as a child.”
It was her own experience with the judicial system at a young age that inspired her to become a lawyer. When she was at her own parents’ custody hearing, she saw the judge come out and everyone in the room stand. “I want people to stand up when I walk into the room,” she recalled. “And my mother said, you have to be a lawyer first.”
In 1997, Foxx graduated from law school and took a job at the Cook County Public Guardians Office representing children in the foster care system.
“I was one of them. I mean, these are kids who are in our foster care system because their parents were struggling with mental health issues, with drug addiction issues, living in extreme poverty,” she said. “And so it almost felt divine when I was able to say, ‘You’re not going to shortchange these children because you don’t think that they have potential.’ I mean, that thing about our belief in who deserves safety was front and center in that job.”
However, Foxx realized that the greater power to influence change was in the state’s attorney’s office — and she wanted to have that power. So in 2001, Foxx took a job as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County. After 12 years as an ASA though, she decided to challenge her boss and run for the Office of State’s Attorney.
“I think it was audacious to say that I’m going to go up against my boss,” Foxx said. “But I thought, we aren’t doing things the way we should be doing them. I think we can do things better.” The campaign trail was hard for Foxx, who admitted that she was “flat out sexually harassed. Having people treat me like a piece of meat, having people discredit my value and worth was horrifying.”
But she won — with 70 percent of the vote to boot.
Since taking office, Foxx transformed the Conviction Integrity Unit and began overturning numerous wrongful convictions. She also hired the first ever Chief Diversity Officer for Cook County and installed an executive team comprised mainly of women.
“I think there are things that we can do. I think it starts with having women in senior leadership positions. And I would fight tooth and nail to make sure that we give women the opportunity,” Foxx said. “Your experience is yours, but whatever has happened to you happened so that you can uplift others. And people are counting on that. Just go for it.”