The presence and role of the Trellis Board of Directors is essential not only to our statutory existence, but integral to our role as a community-based organization. Board members serve many functions, both as representatives of the community we serve and as representatives of Trellis in the community. With that in mind, we decided to periodically feature profiles of our esteemed board members so that you could get to know them as well as we have, beginning with the Chair of the Trellis Board of Directors, Abraham B. James.
Abraham James is a partner in the architectural firm C&H Associates, LLC. He obtained his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and his Master of Real Estate Development from the University of Southern California.
In addition to serving as the Chair of the Trellis Board of Directors, Mr. James is a member of several other boards and commissions within the City of Phoenix. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Phoenix Library Advisory Board, Chair of the Encanto Village Planning Committee, and Chair of the Greater Green Gables Neighborhood Association. He formerly served as the Chair of the Phoenix Citizen Transit Commission.
Please share about your background; how has it helped you to be an ambassador for Trellis?
I was born and grew up along the coast of Georgia, in a Gullah Geechee community – Jones, Georgia in McIntosh County. Currently, there are still 100 people living in the community, and I’m related to everyone in Jones. I’m the descendants of the Africans that were enslaved on the rice plantations along the low country and coast of Georgia. When I was born, African Americans weren’t given loans to build houses in much of the rural South, so many Black people built their own homes, much like my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did.
For me, being born in a time to see the result of the Civil Rights Movement (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing the Civil Right Act of 1964 and the Voting Right Act of 1965 has been helpful in my development within this country. Growing up in Georgia, I also got to see the growth of the City of Atlanta, and a President (Jimmy Carter) from my home state. By the time I was graduating from high school, I thought anything is possible in America – of course, we still have far to go.
How important is it to stay involved in the community by taking on board and other service roles?
I moved into the Greater Green Gables Neighborhood when I bought my home in April 1988. Today, I’m the Chair of the neighborhood association. When I moved into the neighborhood, buying a home for me was affordable within central Phoenix. Since that time, I’ve lived through a major housing bubble, gentrification, and a sizable homeless population within central Phoenix and around the country. There is a desperate need for affordable housing. Being a part of my neighborhood and my community, I get to see the desperation grow greater every day.
What would you say your primary contribution/greatest accomplishment has been so far during your time on the Trellis board?
Being the Board Chair of Trellis has been an adventure for me! I was told that being the Chair would be an easy position on the Trellis Board. From the moment that Patricia asked me to consider the position, and now that Patricia is moving onward to another great opportunity in her professional career, it has been an amazing time for me! Of course, a highlight was the 45th Trellis Anniversary Celebration in 2021, and of course, the housing projects that we are currently building during a pandemic, supply chain bottleneck, inflation, Russian war in Ukraine, etc.
Working with Patricia, Joel, and the rest of the staff, as well as the Trellis board members, has been a very enlightening experience. The importance of providing affordable housing during positive and not so positive economic times is a Master Class in persistence, will, faith, and hard work.
Can you share an experience of the work on a board committee that you have served on?
Working with Patricia and Art Perez on the 45th Anniversary Celebration Committee was one of the toughest projects that I participated on, earlier as the Chair. Ultimately, everything came together, but it wasn’t until the end of the Anniversary Celebration that I realized being the Trellis Board Chair isn’t easy.
What board work has been the most impactful?
Since becoming the Chair, everything has been very impactful! Right now, watching Patricia leave Trellis, and planning for the future of Trellis, has been and will be very impactful.
What have you learned during your time on the board that you will carry over into your next project?
As the Chair, I’ve been exposed to the details of what services Trellis provides our community. I’ve learned the importance of listening to, and being there to address, the business concerns of Trellis. Another thing that I’ve learned is that as hard as one works, the world is constantly changing.
What Trellis moment (so far) are you the proudest of?
I’m proud of the fact that Trellis is currently building affordable housing, and we are currently pursuing opportunities to build even more housing in the coming years. I also enjoy the groundbreaking ceremonies, and the walk thru of our projects.
What do you envision for the future of Trellis?
I envision that Trellis will be the number provider of affordable housing in Phoenix!
How do you plan to stay involved after your term on the Board expires?
I will always be an advocate for Trellis!