Heron Simmonds, Organizer

Hello everyone! I’m Heron. My early life was dominated by the extended Jamaican family of our Pentecostal church, the Church of God of Prophecy. That 1970s Jamaican immigrant faith community remained my extended family as I moved through Harlem, Staten Island, and the Bronx. I lived with my grandparents in a Harlem tenement for two years. For five years, now in Staten Island, I lived in the same projects as the future members of the Wu Tang Clan: Park Hill Projects. In the early 1980s, with my mother and little sister, we moved to the North Bronx and lived in a multiracial, multi-ethnic neighborhood. So, in this way, I acquired an acute case of double (perhaps triple) consciousness, being deeply rooted in American (black and white) and Jamaican cultures.

College was a high point in my life, when I flourished as an intellectual and activist. Those rich experiences pointed me in the direction of my current life. I taught philosophy at Canisius College, and other places, for 18 years. I was deeply involved in the Occupy movement: organizing 50 teach-ins. I joined one of the Occupy lawyers, Ashley Patronski (Westbrook) in the early development of the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition. In the last few years, I have focused on police reform in my work with the WNY Peace Center; advocating for an ethical and explicitly democratic foundation in policing. I organized eight speak-outs for Ethical Peace Officers and the Cariol Horne Whistleblower Fund. I must also mention protest and reform work with a variety of activist groups committed to reforming our criminal justice system to deliver a deeper justice for poor, black, and brown people: BARC, Buffalo BLM, Just Resisting, and the new Police Accountability Coalition.