CLSJ 30th Anniversary Celebration Honoree:
Esmeralda Simmons, Esq.
The Center for Law and Social Justice is pleased to announce the honorees for our 3oth Anniversary Celebration. Our theme, “Celebrating 30 of Staying on Freedom and Justice,” speaks to our historic commitment to being a constant and persistent voice on behalf of African descendant and disenfranchised communities. With your support at this year’s Celebration, you can help us lay the foundation for the next 30 years. This year’s honorees, attorney Esmeralda Simmons and attorney Jacqueline Berrien and Dr. Adelaide Sanford, Vice Chancellor Emerita of the New York State Board of Regents, epitomize that commitment.
Esmeralda Simmons, Esq.
Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Justice at
Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York
Esmeralda Simmons is a founder and the executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) (founded in 1986), a community-based legal advocacy and research institution based at Medgar Evers College of The City University of New York. She is a graduate of Hunter College, CUNY and Brooklyn Law School, and was a Revson Fellow at Columbia University.
As the director of the Center, Simmons oversees racial justice public policy campaigns and litigation on behalf of community organizations. Prior, Simmons had established a robust career as a highly respected attorney. Prominent in her field, she specializes in racial justice issues such as voting rights, educational inequity, cultural rights, and human rights violations in the US. She has served as Civil Rights Attorney for the US Department of Education, First Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights for New York State, New York State Assistant Attorney General, Vice Chair of the New York City Districting Commission, member of the New York City Board of Education, and as New York City Assistant Corporation Counsel. She has also served as a law clerk to a federal judge.
In addition to her groundbreaking legal work at CLSJ, Attorney Simmons also volunteers her skills by serving on the Board of Directors for UPROSE, an climate justice organization, the Council of Elders of Dance Africa NY, and Little Sun People, an early childhood educational institution. Ms. Simmons has also served on the boards of nationally focused organizations such as the Applied Research Center / RACE Forward, the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), the Fund for Social Change, and the Vallecitos Mountain Refuge, Inc. She has also served as a selection committee member for several major philanthropic fellowships and grants for social justice activists, parents, and youth.
A community activist and a leader, Simmons has been involved in political community empowerment movements and in progressive political causes for more than 40 years. She chooses to work locally using advocacy, community education, coalition-building and organizing methods as well as legal civil rights and human rights tools. In the media, she is a frequent guest on local, regional and national media outlets. The Root e-magazine named her as one of “America’s 20 Leading Black Women Advocating for Change” in 2011. She is often called upon to moderate forums, lecture at colleges and conferences, and is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions from local, state, and legal organizations. Recently, Ms. Simmons received the highly prestigious legal Ida B. Wells–Barnett Justice Award from the New York County Lawyers Assn. and the Metropolitan Black Bar Assn. (2016); the 47th Annual Malcolm X Black Unity Award from the International African Arts Festival and NAKO (2016); she was recognized as Courageous Activist by the Child Welfare Organizing Project (2015) and as a New York State Woman of Distinction by the New York State Senate (2014); received: Black Agency Executives – Martin Luther King Community Service Award (2014); Medgar Wiley Evers Community Service Award from the Community Council of Medgar Evers College, CUNY (2014); the Mary McLeod Bethune Award by the Central Brooklyn Leadership Council of the First Church of God and Christ, Brooklyn NY (2014). She is very proud to have been named as the Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the CUNY School of Law in 2005.
A proud native Brooklynite, Ms. Simmons is a deeply spiritual woman who is grounded in African culture and is a crowned Yoruba Lukumi priest of Shango. She finds constant inspiration in the vision of her ancestors, her belief in peace, and her respect for life, and cultural diversity. She is the proud mother of three adult sons and the grandmother of seven. Ms. Simmons lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with her husband, Lesly Jean-Jacques.
We invite you to join us as we honor her legacy and her commitment to “staying on freedom and justice.”