Judith Roth Berkowitz Lecture in Women's Studies featuring Lateefah Simon: "Power of the People"

Thursday, October 6, 2011 - 2:30pm

Please join us in Room 200, College Hall for this year's Berkowitz Lecture in Women's Studies featuring Lateefah Simon. 

Lateefah Simon

"The Power of the People"


For nearly two decades, Lateefah Simon has worked alongside and on behalf of low-income young women of color as the Executive Director of the Center for Young Women's Development, implementing leadership and education programming. Citing experiences from her own path and inspirational lessons, Simon inspires us to actively prepare to “take our places” as foundational leaders within our community’s spiritual, economic, social, and governmental domains.


MacArthur Fellow Lateefah Simon is part of a new wave of African American civil rights and community leaders. Born and raised in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood, Ms. Simon has advocated tirelessly on behalf of communities of color, youth and women since her teenage years. At age 15, she 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. She now serves as the Executive Director of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. 

At 19, Ms. 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. Ms. 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.

Prior to being appointed Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee, Ms. Simon led the Reentry Services division of a new initiative at the Office of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris. The program created a citywide public/private partnership with numerous agencies and implemented new ways to prevent former offenders from returning to a life of crime. Ms. 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.

In addition to the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship, Ms. 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.

Ms. Simon is a member of the board of directors of the ACLU of Northern California and the Women's Foundation of California.