Founding Executive Director, Esmeralda Simmons, Esq.

Founding Executive Director, Esmeralda Simmons, Esq.

The Center for Law and Social Justice (CLSJ) came into being to address the escalation of police killings in our community. Hundreds of Blacks and Latinos fell victim to police harassment, beatings, killings, and unjustified incarcerations. The impunity of the police outraged the community. One of many responses to this brutality came from a group of activists attorneys: Michael Warren, Alton Maddox, C. Vernon Mason and Esmeralda Simmons; the Revs. Herbert Daughtry and Timothy Mitchell and Father Lawrence Lucas; and community activists: Dave Walker and Jitu Weusi.

They agreed to develop an institution committed to the lawful resistance of police brutality and advocated for its creation. Assemblyman Roger Green, along with his then chief of staff, Adeyemi Bandele, provided the initial funds from the New York state budget which made the Center for Law and Social Justice a reality in 1986.

In later years, the Center received grants from a variety of funding sources which enabled us to carry out our work. CLSJ funders have included: HUD, the NY State Education Department, the New York City Council, foundations and charities such as the New York Community Trust, the Open Society, the New York Foundation, Community Service Society, Concord Baptist Church’s Christ Fund, as well as individual donations.

Since its inception, the Center’s staff has consisted of activists/professionals from all walks of life. Their blend is unique in that they embodied the spirit and aspiration of the people we serve. CLSJ is a unit in the School of Professional and Community Development at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.