A fourth-generation leader of faith and social justice, Jennifer Jones Austin fights for equity. As CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), an anti-poverty, policy and advocacy organization with 170 member agencies and faith partners, she has led and secured monumental changes in social policy to strengthen and empower the disenfranchised and marginalized. Jennifer brings to her work a profound understanding of the link between race, poverty, law and social policy in America, and the role religion plays.
Prior to joining FPWA, Ms. Jones Austin served as Senior Vice President of the United Way of New York City; the City of New York’s first Family Services Coordinator; Deputy Commissioner for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services; Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer; and Vice President for LearnNow/Edison Schools, Inc.
Ms. Jones Austin chaired the NYC Racial Justice Commission, the first of its kind in the nation, where she led the development and passage by the New York City electorate in 2022 of three unprecedented proposals to amend the city’s charter to dismantle structural racism and embed racial justice and equity in all government functions. She has chaired several other influential boards and commissions, including the Mayoral Transition for Bill de Blasio; the NYC Procurement Policy Board; the NYC Board of Correction, where she presided over the promulgation of rules to end solitary confinement; the NYS Supermarket Commission; and the Community Engagement for Brooklyn District Attorney Gonzalez’s Justice 2020 Initiative. She was lead advisor for the City’s Full Day UPK Expansion in 2014-2015, and a lead advisor for the NYPD Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Board of National Action Network; Commissioner for the Close Rikers Commission; Commissioner of the New York State 400 Years of African-American History Commission; Board member of Auburn Seminary; member of the Feerick Center for Social Justice Advisory Board; member of the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior Advisory Board at Harvard University; and member of the COVID-19 “Roll Up Your Sleeves” Task Force created to ensure vaccine information and equitable access in Black and Brown communities. She was the Visiting Scholar for the New York University Silver School of Social Work (2023), and the Scholar in Residence at Alliance University’s Center for Racial Reconciliation (2020-2023).
Jennifer co-hosts WBLS’ “Open Line”, guest hosts weekly the nationally syndicated radio program, “Keep’n It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton”, and appears frequently on the cable show, “Brooklyn Savvy”. She is a returning guest and contributor on the “Karen Hunter Show”.
Jennifer Jones Austin is the author of Consider It Pure Joy. Described as “a story that if not lived would make for a great novel”, it is the harrowing account of her year-long battle with a sudden, life-threatening illness, and the power of faith and community to transform desperation into joy. She is the editor of God in The Ghetto: A Prophetic Word Revisited, the re-release of her father, William Augustus Jones Jr.’s seminal work deconstructing the “System” of racism, capitalism and militarism all working in concert to continually oppress people of color. Jones Austin is also the co-author of “Race and Reform: A Seat at the Table” in Leadership Reflections: How to Create and Sustain Reforms in Children and Family Services.
Jennifer is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law, the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Rutgers University. A recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including three honorary doctorates, she considers the ten honors bestowed upon her by her three alma maters and the recognition from civil rights and faith-based institutions especially significant.
Ms. Jones Austin resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and has two children.