Apr 19, 2023
Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons , Ph.D. is Professor Emerita from the University of Florida. She is a Veteran of the Black Freedom, Peace, and Social Justice Movements from the 1960s until today. She was a student activist in the 1960s Sit-In Movement, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and she worked for the National Council of Negro Women and the American Friends Service Committee. In this episode, Dr. Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons talks with younger organizer DeMonte Alford about the importance of organizing from a position of love, care, and compassion - and with an understanding that communities know what they need.
Raised by her grandmother in segregated Memphis, TN - Zoharah tells DeMonte about her path into organizing work. From refusing to move to the back of the bus for white passengers as a teenager in Memphis, to learning about the Student Nonviolent Coordiating Committee while a student at Spellman College in Atlanta. She shares stories of the years she spent working with SNCC in rural Mississippi, the constant threat of violence while doing this work, and how SNCC workers sang and danced in their free time to cope with the intense stress of the work. She also shares wisdom on how to enter into organizing with communities from a place of humility, collaboration, and respect.