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.
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.
Lurie Daniel Favors is an activist and attorney with a long-standing commitment to racial and social justice. Before graduating from New York University School of Law as a Root-Tilden-Kern public interest scholar, Ms. Daniel Favors co-founded Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc., a non-profit organization designed to empower racially disenfranchised communities. She later co-founded Breaking the Cycle Consulting Services LLC, which specializes in creating comprehensive professional development for educators, youth education programs and family workshops designed to address the crisis in urban education through the use of culturally responsive teaching.
Ms. Daniel Favors began her legal career as an attorney in the New York offices of Proskauer Rose LLP and Manatt Phelps and Phillips, LLP. She served as a law clerk in the chambers of the Honorable Sterling Johnson, Jr., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She later founded Daniel Favors Law PLLC, a law firm that focused on economic and racial justice.
Ms. Daniel Favors is a contributing author to The Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement and she wrote Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl, a coming of age story about a Black girl fighting to find her place in a world where her hair texture and skin color do not fit the accepted beauty standard. The central character’s hilarious encounters are imbued with a sharp analysis of the politics of Black hair, standards of beauty and the self-esteem of women of color in the US and abroad. Through her examination of the history of nappiness and racism, Lurie identifies Black hair, identity, skin color and self-esteem as areas that are ripe with potential for personal and political power.
Ms. Daniel Favors adheres to the West African principle of sankofa and believes one must use the past in order to understand the present and build for a brighter future.