Lateefah Simon stepped into her role as Akonadi Foundation’s President in August 2016. A nationally recognized advocate for civil rights and racial justice, Lateefah brings over 20 years of executive experience in advancing opportunities for communities of color and low-income communities in the Bay Area. Prior to joining Akonadi, she served as Program Director for the San Francisco-based Rosenberg Foundation, a statewide grantmaker focusing on systemic barriers that stand in the way of full access to equity and opportunity for Californians. Lateefah managed the Foundation’s portfolio of grants aimed at supporting groundbreaking advocacy in criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, low-wage workers’ rights, and civic engagement in California. In 2016 Lateefah helped launch the Leading Edge Fund, a new $2 million fund created to seed, incubate, and implement bold ideas from the next generation of progressive movement leaders in California.
Prior to joining Rosenberg, Lateefah was Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, where she revamped the 40-year-old organization’s structure and launched successful community-based initiatives, including the Second Chance Legal Services Clinic. Lateefah’s passion for supporting low-income young women and girls, and her advocacy for juvenile and criminal justice reform, began at the Center for Young Women’s Development (CYWD) in San Francisco. Now called the Young Women’s Freedom Center, the grassroots organization is run for and young women who come through and are affected by these systems. At age 19, Lateefah stepped into the role of Executive Director for 11 years. Lateefah also led the creation of San Francisco’s first reentry services division under the leadership of then-District Attorney Kamala D. Harris, where Lateefah spearheaded the flagship program, Back on Track. An advocacy program for young adults charged with low-level felony drug sales, Back on Track reduced the recidivism rate for the population it serves to under 10 percent.
Lateefah has received numerous awards for her work, including the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 40 Under 40, and the Jefferson Award for extraordinary public service. She was named Woman of the Year by the California State Assembly and has also been recognized by the Ford Foundation, the National Organization for Women, Lifetime Television, and O Magazine. In 2016 Lateefah was elected to serve District 7 on the BART Board of Directors and was appointed by the governor to the California State University’s Board of Trustees.
When Lateefah isn’t working, she spends her time enjoying Oakland’s many family-friendly spaces with her two daughters.