Whether he reflects on the past or envisions his future, opportunity is the common thread Illinois REALTORS® 2022 President Ezekiel “Zeke” Morris sees.

“Focus, persistence and hard work will help you succeed, to take advantage of the opportunities,” says the designated managing broker of EXIT Strategy Realty/EMA Management on the South Side of Chicago. “And when you see how your success creates opportunities for others, you become more determined and better prepared for the next challenges.”

Morris seized opportunities to better himself as a student-athlete in Chicago, as a college student in Iowa, in his career, in his church and in his involvement with REALTOR® associations on the local, state and national levels. And as he prepares for his year as Illinois REALTORS® president, he plans to draw upon his own experiences to increase opportunities for others through the Diversity & Inclusion grant program, Illinois Minority Real Estate Scholarships and the fair housing, anti-discrimination, diversity and inclusion tools offered through Illinois REALTORS®.

Morris wants his term as the first African American president of Illinois REALTORS® to be one that lays the foundation for more minorities to become involved in real estate and in REALTOR® association leadership positions.

His background

Morris is proud of his Chicago roots, noting that he grew up in a South Side neighborhood near 75th and Sangamon streets. He was a member of the first graduating class of Stagg Elementary School and graduated from Lindblom Technical High School (now known as Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy). After earning a bachelor’s degree in Business Finance and Management from Upper Iowa University, he returned to Chicago and joined a management training program for Osco Drug. Within four months, he was promoted to assistant manager and was later named its Rookie of the Year.

(L to R) Zeke, daughter Andra and Adrena.

At the same time, he joined a partner in buying a local food market. He continued with both ventures for about 12 years before starting a new career in the real estate division of Shore Bank. These changes also coincided with his marriage in 1991 to Adrena Bernoudy, a Systems Analyst in the Information Services Division of United Airlines.

In 1994, he became a property manager for Draper and Kramer Commercial Property Services at Lake Meadows, taking responsibility for more than 3,000 units. His performance earned him the Chicagoland Apartment Marketing and Management Excellence (CAMME) Award in 1995.

The following year, he opened his own real estate business and his first project was a new development in Bronzeville. He helped the neighborhood change from an economically challenged area to a revitalized one. In the years that followed, the Morris family grew to include Alexandria, Emmanuel and Andra. Zeke continued to build his business and widen his sphere of influence.

His purposes

In addition to having a positive effect on the community with his business acumen, Morris realized that he had a passion for helping others. He enjoys mentoring new real estate professionals and serving as a confidant to colleagues struggling through a dry spell. Through the housing ministry at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, he has helped countless neighbors and friends navigate foreclosure issues, find available apartments, buy houses and answer general questions about housing.

His involvement in the Chicago Association of REALTORS® (CAR) has also strengthened his resolve to help underserved populations in Chicago. Through CAR and Illinois REALTORS®, Morris discovered that REALTORS® can be powerful and respected advocates for the rights of private property owners. He learned the value of collaborating with fellow REALTORS® and various community groups.

He also serves as president of the board of directors for the Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc., a Chicago human services organization that offers educational programs, child development, senior services, vocational training, mental health and residential services.

REALTOR® associations

Morris’ interest in property management issues drew him to CAR in the mid-90s and he served as CAR’s president in 2013. He made such a positive impact that CAR honored him by creating an annual scholarship – the Zeke Morris Scholarship – to support the education of applicants interested in the stabilization and economic development of underserved communities in Chicago.

At the national level, Morris currently serves on the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors, in 2020 he was the Liaison for Community Engagement. In 2018 he chaired NAR’s Fair Housing Act Anniversary Working Group and the Fair Housing Act Anniversary Implementation Group and helped spearhead the national association’s efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. He’s served on multiple committees since 2012 including: Housing Opportunity, Diversity, Federal Housing Policy, Risk Management Issues, State and Local Issues Policy Committee, Smart Growth Advisory Board and the Multicultural Real Estate Leadership Advisory Group.

With Illinois REALTORS®, Morris is part of an elite group of REALTORS® nationwide who have been inducted into the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) Hall of Fame for lifetime contributions of at least $25,000. He began serving on state committees in 2002, and since 2008 he’s served on multiple committees every year. He’s been the chair of numerous committees, including: 2020 Illinois REALTORS® Plaza Committee, 2020 Finance Committee, 2019 GSE Task Force, 2018 Housing Opportunity Working Group, 2015 Bylaws Committee, the 2012 and 2014 State Legislative Contacts Working Groups and the 2009 Public Policy and Government Affairs Major Investors Group. He’s also a graduate of the 2014 Leadership Development Program.

Living the dream

Morris says his success is more of a reflection of his desire to help others get a piece of the American Dream rather than trying to accumulate wealth or prestige. But he says he’s set his goals high, planned well, paid attention to detail and persevered when the real estate market was rough. He credits his parents for their early guidance, his faith, his family, and friends who have helped him along the way. He’s grateful for the words of encouragement he’s received from colleagues, Illinois REALTOR® past presidents, and his mentor Frank J. Williams.

“I’m looking forward to a great year,” says Morris. “I believe we’ll have many opportunities for everyone to grow in the months ahead. I can’t wait to see what great things await us.”

10 questions with Zeke Morris

1) How would you describe your leadership style?
Servant leader

2) What has been your greatest accomplishment, personally or professionally?
Realizing my dreams through the accomplishments of my children

3) What is your favorite part of the real estate business?
Serving families and helping them achieve their dream of homeownership

4) What is the best real estate advice you ever received?
Be true to yourself

5) If you weren’t a REALTOR®, what would your other dream job be?
Working as a team member in a big box home improvement center

6) What do you like to do with your free time?
Free time is very minimal, but enjoy watching sports on television

7) What is your favorite vacation destination?

8) What is the last good book you read?
“The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” by Mehrsa Baradaran

9) What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
Played rugby in college

10) If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Together with Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama