Born and raised in Chattanooga, Yusuf Hakeem grew up in St. Elmo, graduating from Howard High School in 1966. He married his high school sweetheart, Baseemah, and they raised their 4 children in House District 28. The family has since grown to include 4 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Growing up under Jim Crow segregation, Hakeem came of age during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's. His high school was the victim of a bombing, as well as friends living in what today is District 28. His first-hand experience of socioeconomic disparities during this time initially moved Hakeem to pursue public service.
He became involved, and started honing his leadership during his twenties. It wasn't easy, but it was the perseverance and the notion of hard-work that eventually led to his success.
Hakeem was elected to serve on the Chattanooga Public School Board in 1980, where he spent 10 years advocating for our city's public schools. He saw public education as the bedrock of the community. Chattanooga was still a segregated city, and the best way to escape this and the class system was through education. He worked to give young children born to his neighbors the opportunity for better, to chase and reach their dreams.
Hakeem was first elected to newly-created Chattanooga City Council in 1990, just 1 year after the Supreme Court found the City Commission to be fundamentally racist, violating both the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 14th Amendment, and the 15th Amendment.
Long the voice for Chattanoogans within the inner city, Hakeem had the honor to serve as a councilman for 19 years. He pushed for parks, for stronger education - including surrounding the contentious city-county schools merger - for adequate transportation, and for childcare services for working parents. He founded the Chattanooga Youth Council, and he facilitated civic education programs for students attending Chattanooga's schools. He also served as the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, key to balancing the under-served communities he represented and the suburban neighborhoods contributing to inner-city decline.
In 2006, Hakeem was appointed by then-Governor Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole. After 7 years there, Hakeem was re-elected to Chattanooga City Council, where he served until 2017. During his last term on the Chattanooga City Council, Hakeem advocated for the city to conduct a formal disparity study to evaluate the impact of its programs and services across communities. He was able to persuade the council to vote in favor for a rezoning for Erlanger Hospital's new Behavioral Health Center in District 28, continuing his efforts to both increase access to healthcare and to tackle gun violence from a multi-leveled approach.
Hakeem believes that too many working families in District 28 are struggling to get by, and he believes that it’s time to bring more living wage jobs to Tennessee and to Chattanooga. He believes we should have passed Insure TN and made sure that every Tennessean has access to healthcare they can afford. He believes Tennessee should fully fund the BEP, prevent public dollars from funding private schools through school choice vouchers, and ensure that every child has access to a good education, no matter what zip code they live in.
Hakeem has dedicated his life to public service. He has the experience, relationships, and institutional knowledge to get things done in the Tennessee House of Representatives from Day 1.