Lateefah Simon is President of the Akonadi Foundation in Oakland. As a part of our member Spotlight series, Lateefah shared her guilty pleasure and her plans to get her groove on at the Bay Area Philanthropy Holiday Party Tuesday, December 13th in San Francisco. Will you be joining her there?
How’d you get started in this work?
I was a youth organizer and outreach worker with the Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco. I later became their Executive Director at age 19.
What’s keeping you there?
I was a young mother with a deep passion for working in my community-and I love community development work.
Are you new in your role? Been there a while?
I’m the new president at Akonadi Foundation, an Oakland based Racial Justice foundation that supports grassroots movement building. I’ve been here for 3 months. I love it and plan on being here for a long time.
What’s next on your agenda (workwise)?
I feel like I found my organizational home. It’s a dream come true, after 22 years of working in community and government and in philanthropy, to have the opportunity to lead a foundation that is focused on racial justice community building and organizing.
What’s your favorite on-screen guilty pleasure?
My favorite show was True Blood. Because I’m currently running for office, raising a five-year-old and now leading this Foundation I haven’t been able to watch TV in quite some time.
Tell us what you do in your work (pretend I’m a fifth-grader):
I am the Director of a small family foundation that has a goal of supporting community organizations and leaders to fight for their individual and collective freedoms. As President, I get the opportunity to work alongside our board and staff to invest in grassroots community organizations to do their work.
When and where are you happiest?
I’m happiest when I’m with young people. Their wisdom, grief, and optimism motivates me to work harder – and inspires me to be better, more thoughtful and to move with increased reverence. I find joy in children.
What talent or superpower would you most like to have?
To heal people from sadness.
If Oprah were featuring you as a 2016 changemaker what would she say?
There are others that work much harder. Let’s go find them. Let’s go fund them.
Tell us something your parents probably don’t know about you (yet):
I talk to my mom every day. She knows everything.
Where are you on the introvert/extrovert scale?
I’m an introvert with an extrovert’s job.
Where are you inviting collaboration these days?
In all spaces. Our team is extremely excited about learning new ways to be deeply aligned with our movement partners. We are supporting people who are fighting racism, so we want to work with folks from every sector committed to that vision.
What’s the most exciting thing happening in your sector?
I’m so excited about being in philanthropy during a time when large and small foundations are responding to a moment, a moment where systemic injustice is being fought in the streets, in the legislature and in the courts. I’m thrilled to be learning and working alongside grantmakers and individual philanthropists who are challenging ourselves to step up and fund this movement for freedom.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d like to be more active – perhaps run a marathon in a year or two. I’m always changing. I’m extremely critical of myself, and make weekly checklists of what I need to either begin or end.
Who are you favorite writers?
Bell Hooks, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley.