homejoin mailing listcontact us

CLSJ Staff

» Esmeralda Simmons, Founder and Executive Director
» Gwendolyn W. Riddick, Deputy Director
» Joan P. Gibbs, Esq., General Counsel
» Oseye Mchawi, Administrative Assistant, Immigration Center
» Allison Rosenberg, Esq., Staff Attorney Immigration Center


Esmeralda Simmons, Founder and Executive Director
Esmeralda Simmons is the founder and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice in Brooklyn, New York. The Center is a small but very effective community-based legal advocacy and research institution that is a unit of Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York. Prior to founding the Center, Esmeralda had already had an accomplished career as: the First Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights for New York State, and as a Civil Rights Attorney for the US Department of Education, a New York State Assistant Attorney General, and a New York City Assistant Corporation Counsel. She had also served as a law clerk to a federal judge.

In addition, she has served on several major public boards in New York City government, e.g., the NYC Board of Education, and the NYC Districting Commission. Currently, Esmeralda also volunteers her skills by serving on the Board of Directors for the Applied Research Center, the Fund for Social Change and the Vallecitos Mountain Refuge, Inc., and as a selection committee member for several fellowships and grants for activists, parents, and youth.

An activist and a leader, she has been involved in the community empowerment movement in Central Brooklyn and in progressive political causes for over thirty-five years. As an attorney, she specializes in racial justice issues, such as quality public education for students of color, voting rights, and cultural rights. She chooses to work locally with community organizations using advocacy, community education, coalition-building, and organizing methods, as well as civil rights and human rights legal tools. Esmeralda is a deeply spiritual woman who is grounded in African culture. She finds constant inspiration in the vision of her ancestors, her belief in peace, and her respect for life and cultural diversity.


Gwendolyn W. Riddick, Deputy Director
Gwen Riddick is a mediator an activist and administrator. Ms. Riddick, specializes in human resources management, labor relations and finance management for non-profit organizations. As the Deputy Director at the Center for Law and Social Justice she is responsible for finance and administration of the organization. During her career she has served as Executive Assistant to the Regional Director at U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights and in a number of public interest positions. She has more than 20 years experience working in the areas of civil rights, human rights and education advocacy on behalf of the disenfranchised and people of color for various community based-organizations and political action clubs.

Gwen Riddick received her Masters of Science Degree from Baruch College, City University of New York in Industrial Labor Relations and Human Resource Management and her undergraduate degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is both a member of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution and the Society of Human Resource Management.


Joan P. Gibbs, Esq., General Counsel
Joan P. Gibbs, Esq. is the General Counsel for the Center for Law and Social Justice as well as the Project Director of the MEC Immigration Center. She received her JD from the Rutgers School of Law in Newark, New Jersey in 1985 and is a member of the bars of the states of New York and New Jersey. Prior to joining the staff of CLSJ, Ms. Gibbs was a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU Women's Rights Project and the Marvin Karpatkin Fellow in the American Civil Liberties in the national office of the ACLU.

Ms. Gibbs was born in Harlem but spent her growing years in Swan Quarter, North Carolina, a small town on the eastern shore where she witnessed the violence and segregation that accompanied Jim Crowism. Ms. Gibbs first became involved in the movement for racial justice as a high school student in the late 1960s. She is currently a member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Jericho Movement for Recognition and Amnesty for U.S. Political Prisoners and the May 1st Coalition. Ms. Gibbs is also a writer and a poet. Her articles, stories and poems have appeared in number of publications, among them the Iowa Review, Social Policy, Journal of Community Advocacy and Activism, Our Times Press, AZALEA and The Final Call.


Oseye Mchawi, Administrative Assistant, Immigration Center
Oseye Mchawi is the administrative assistant for the Immigration Center, one of the funded projects of the Center for Law and Social Justice. In that capacity, she coordinates the schedules of the attorneys and sets appointments with clients. Her duties include handling the clerical responsibilities for the Immigration Center, as well as, the Center for Law and Social Justice. She manages a very active phone service; handles the incoming and outgoing correspondences; creates flyers for the Immigration Center, and events sponsored by CLSJ. She also has coordinated workshops and seminars for CLSJ during Black History Month and Women's History Month at Medgar Evers College.

Oseye Mchawi, is a long-time resident and community activist of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York. She has been a Yoruba priestess for more than 30 years. It was her involvement, in the EAST organization, and, Uhuru Sasa Shule (Freedom Now School), during the early 1970s that led to her advocacy in the fight against social, economic, and religious injustices.

Oseye Mchawi, is intricately involved with several African traditional religious organizations: Ile Ase, Inc. where she is executive director. Ile Ase, Inc. is one of the largest African spiritual groups in New York. She is a founding member and executive director of the Omo Obatala Egbe, Inc; and, founder and President of the Yoruba Society of Brooklyn, Inc.


Allison Rosenberg, Esq., Staff Attorney, Immigration Center
Allison Rosenberg, Esq. joined the MEC Immigration Center as a staff attorney in January 2005. She received her JD from the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in 1995 and is a member of the New York state bar. She has more than ten years of experience in the field of immigration law and advocating on behalf of low income immigrants from all over the world. Prior to joining the CLSJ staff Ms. Rosenberg worked at the Immigration Project of the Union of Needletrades and Textile Employees (UNITE, now UNITE-HERE) first as a staff attorney and later as the director of immigration legal services. Ms. Rosenberg is fluent in Spanish and has conducted workshops on immigration law both in English and Spanish.

homeabout usprojectsserviceseventssupport clsjstafffaqformsjoin mailing listcontact ussite map
Center for Law and Social Justice About Us Projects Events Support CLSJ Staff FAQ Forms Services