Fighting for Change


Authored by Daniel Lee, Executive Director, Levi Strauss Foundation. Re-posted with permission from the Levi Strauss & Co blog, Unzipped.

“If my grandmother, who lived and cleaned houses in Jim Crow South, would’ve ever been told that her granddaughter would get paid to talk about freedom, she wouldn’t have believed it.”

Whether it’s Black History Month or any other time of the year, Lateefah Simon speaks with disarming honesty and an uncanny flair for getting to the simple truth. In this case, she’s talking about her personal journey, which in a way is also the journey of the Civil Rights Movement and of the organization she leads, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco Bay Area.

Lateefah is one of the first Pioneers in Justice, a new initiative by the Levi Strauss Foundation. The program supports the next-generation leaders who are taking our civil and human rights organizations into the 21st century.

Lateefah became Executive Director of Lawyers’ Committee in 2009, after spending her teenage and young adult years tirelessly advocating on behalf of communities of color, youth and women. She has become a nationally recognized advocate for juvenile and criminal justice reform. But if you ask her what she does for a living, she’ll simply say: “I fight for change.”

For her, it’s as simple as that.

Hearing Lateefah speak about her personal journey is both striking and inspiring. As a 15-year-old high-school student, born and raised in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood,  she began volunteering at the Center for Young Women’s Development while working full time. At 19, she was named its executive director, becoming one of the youngest leaders of a social service agency in the country. Since then, her belief that young people hold the key to solving their own problems, and consequently those of society at large, is still central to her leadership.

See for yourself what social justice means to Lateefah, and where she sees the movement going in the years ahead:


Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area was founded in 1968, five years after President John F. Kennedy supported the creation of a national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In addition to having helped desegregate the San Francisco Fire Department and the local school district, the organization has provided free legal assistance to communities of color, immigrants, and refugees for more than 40 years. Learn more here.

As a foundation deeply committed to advancing social justice in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, the Levi Strauss Foundation has enjoyed a long history of support for Lawyers’ Committee, which continues to this day through our Pioneers in Justice initiative.

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Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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