Lateefah Simon

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Lateefah Simon

Lateefah Simon is program director at the Rosenberg Foundation.

Previously she was executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, is part of a "new wave of African-American civil rights and community leaders. Born and raised in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood, Simon has advocated tirelessly on behalf of communities of color, youth and women since her teenage years".

She lives in Emeryville, California, with her 13-year-old daughter, Aminah.[1]


At age 15, Simon joined the Center for Young Women's Development (CYWD), first as a volunteer and then as a staff member, working to provide homeless, low-income and incarcerated young women with the tools they needed to transform and rebuild their lives. At 19, Simon was appointed Executive Director of CYWD, becoming one of the youngest leaders of a social service agency in the country.

During her 11-year tenure, CYWD grew into an organization with a $1.2 million budget, serving approximately 3,500 women per year and hiring more than 250 women. CYWD also worked to impact public policy at the state and local levels, expanding its violence prevention work to include rights education for California juvenile offenders and advocating for firearm policy reform in San Francisco. Simon soon became a nationally recognized advocate for juvenile and criminal justice reform, and also focused her organizing efforts around poverty, reproductive and immigrant rights and GLBT issues.[2]

Hired by Kamala Harris

In 2005, Simon went to workfor San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who quickly became her mentor and selected her to run Back on Track.[3]

Kamala Harris tasked Simon to lead the Office's Reentry Services division, a new initiative that created a citywide public/private partnership with numerous agencies and implemented new ways to prevent former offenders from returning to a life of crime. Simon helped launch and oversaw successful programs such as Changing the Odds and Back on Track, which combine close supervision for offenders with educational and employment opportunities. Now a national model for similar programs in local prosecutors' offices, Back on Track has reduced the recidivism rate for the population it serves to less than 10 percent.[4]

Lawyers Committee

In 2009, she was appointed executive director of the Lawyers' Committee, which champions the legal rights of people of color, poor people, immigrants and refugees, with a special commitment to African Americans. Through litigation, policy advocacy and direct service programs, for more than 40 years the Lawyers' Committee has worked with thousands of pro-bono attorneys to advance the civil and human rights of underserved communities.[5]


A MacArthur "Genius" Fellow, Simon has received numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award for extraordinary public service in 2007. She was named "California Woman of the Year" by the California State Assembly in 2005, and also has been recognized by the Ford Foundation, the National Organization for Women, the Women’s Foundation of California and Girls, Inc. She has spoken at the United Nations, before the United States Senate and at countless trainings and conferences around the country. Simon has served on the Board of Directors of the Women's Foundation of California, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Northern California.[6]

Youth Empowerment Center

In the early 2000s Lateefah Simon served on the Board of Directors[7]of the Oakland based Youth Empowerment Center.

Officers were Harmony Goldberg, President, Van Jones, Secretary Adam Gold, Treasurer Cindy Wiesner, Director, Lateefah Simon, Director


For the 2003 financial year Youth Empowerment Center officers were Harmony Goldberg, Chair/Program Director, Cindy Wiesner, Secretary, Adam Gold, Treasurer Jason McBriarty, Director, Lateefah Simon, Director, Rona Fernandez, Executive Director.

Joining Rosenberg

The Rosenberg Foundation announced October 27, 2011 the appointment of nationally recognized civil rights leader Lateefah Simon as Director of the Foundation’s California’s Future initiative, a strategic effort to change the odds for women and children in the state.

“Lateefah Simon has advocated on behalf of disadvantaged communities since her teenage years,” said Timothy P. Silard, president of the Rosenberg Foundation. “California faces critical choices on a number of urgent issues, from criminal justice reform to immigrant rights. Advocates and policy makers must seize this moment to ensure that all of our state’s communities and residents, including women and children, have access to the fair and equitable opportunities they need to thrive. We are delighted to have a civil rights activist of Lateefah Simon’s caliber and experience on board to move this initiative forward.”

In this new position, Simon will help manage and build the Foundation’s portfolio of grants aimed at supporting innovative strategies that can spur policy advocacy, communications, and constituency-building. As part of California’s Future, together with the Women’s Foundation of California, the Foundation has launched a campaign to reduce the incarceration rates of women in California’s prisons and jails. The Foundation also is partnering with Futures without Violence to prevent children’s exposure to violence and trauma, and create a network of services for child victims. To advance California’s Future, Simon will lead the Foundation’s efforts to identify and support emerging leaders and build new coalitions in California, with a particular focus on underserved regions of the state. She will join the Rosenberg Foundation on November 1.

“I’m honored to join Rosenberg and have the opportunity to advocate on a statewide level for the end of policies and practices that marginalize disadvantaged communities, over-incarcerate women, and neglect the needs of children exposed to violence,” said Simon. “I am particularly looking forward to collaborating with Rosenberg’s allies and grantee partners to transform California’s criminal justice system’s impact on women and children.”

A longtime advocate for juvenile and criminal justice reform, Simon most recently served as the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Simon led the creation of the reentry services division at the San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris' Office, implementing new programs to prevent former offenders from returning to a life of crime. At age 19, Simon was appointed executive director of the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco, an organization that helps low-income, formerly incarcerated young women transform and rebuild their lives. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and the Jefferson Award for extraordinary public service. She was named “California Woman of the Year” by the California State Assembly, and also has been recognized by the Ford Foundation and the National Organization for Women. She has spoken at the United Nations, before the United States Senate, and at numerous trainings around the country.

“Lateefah Simon is a California leader of incredible stature and a well-deserved reputation for her comprehensive understanding of the issues faced by the many minority communities that together comprise the California majority, and the connections between those issues,” said Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Steering Committee Co-Chair for the California Civil Rights Coalition. “She will bring strength, wisdom, and tremendous spirit to the Rosenberg Foundation as it expands its unmatched efforts as California’s most venerable, longtime supporter of minority causes. Civil rights and immigrant rights will be helped immensely by Lateefah’s work at Rosenberg.”[8]

Stand for Solutions

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As part of her Stand for Solutions series, Jane Kim will be joined by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lateefah Simon, California State University Trustee and candidate for District 7 BART Board Director, and David Talbot, best selling author and founder/former editor-in-chief of Salon, to hear how we can improve housing, transportation and urban planning to make our cities work for every family. Join us!

Tues. August 30, 6:30-8:30pm, Mission High School Auditoriumn3750 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114 .[9]