A member of BART’s board of directors announced Tuesday that she is running to take the congressional seat of Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Lateefah Simon is the District 7 director on BART’s board, where she has served since 2016. Her goal then was to make BART more affordable for people who must take transit and for working families.
Simon is legally blind and must take public transit to get around.
The killing of Oscar Grant prompted her to run for a seat on BART’s board. “I decided very early on that government wasn’t working for folks with no voice,” Simon said in a statement. “I’ve spent my life fighting for those folks, and I will work to take our shared stories and experiences to the halls of Congress.”
Simon described herself as a 25-year veteran organizer and as an advocate for civil rights and social justice. At 16 years old, she was an outreach coordinator with the Young Women’s Freedom Center, which advocates for young women and trans youth who grew up poor, were incarcerated, in foster care, lived and worked on the streets or suffered from violence. She realized government officials were ignoring her concerns as an 18-year-old and young mother, and a year later she became the executive director of the center.
When she was 26, Simon was the youngest woman to receive a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, which awards $800,000 to people showing originality and dedication to their creative pursuits and a distinct capacity for self-direction.
Simon led the creation of Back on Track, an initiative to reduce recidivism among young adults charged with low-level offenses, which then-San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris chose her to lead. Simon has served as executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which advocates for racial, economic and immigrant justice, and as program director for the Rosenberg Foundation, which funds leaders seeking a more just society.
About three years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Simon as a senior advisor on police reform.
Simon earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Mills College, which is now Mills College at Northeastern University, and a master’s in public administration from the University of San Francisco.