Dr. Dena Simmons is the very definition of Black excellence. With a doctorate degree from Columbia University under her belt, she founded LiberatED, an organization that utilizes a liberatory approach to promote radical love, healing and social justice. She also currently sits as the inaugural scholar-in-residence at Loyola University of Chicago’s Institute for Racial Justice.
Other impressive resume highlights include a stint as the Assistant Director of Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, where her support encouraged schools to use the power of emotions in order to create a more compassionate society. She’s also served as a well-respected diversity educator and curriculum developer across the country, teaching about social and racial justice, emotional intelligence and bullying. Some of her most notable speaking arrangements took place at the White House, the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit and the United Nations.
Dr. Simmons’ ultimate goal is to ensure justice and safe spaces for all. She considers herself a lifelong learner, and looks forward to passing on some of her knowledge in a forthcoming book titled White Rules for Black People.
Sabreen: Tell us about your new platform, work, business and why it’s so important.
Dr. Simmons: In 2021, I founded an organization called LiberatED. Our mission and vision is to center healing, justice, and radical love in social and emotional learning (SEL) to create a world where all children can live, learn, and thrive in the comfort of their own skin. With the pandemic and civil unrest from the persisting racial injustice, LiberatED is needed more than ever to: address the resulting mental health challenges of racial and coronavirus-related trauma, support the collective healing needed in our nation, and create the conditions for self and collective liberation.
Sabreen: What do you love most about what you do?
Dr. Simmons: I love that I get to work and lead in my purpose without compromising my values, health, wellness or relationships. I truly feel free to be me.
Sabreen: What is the best advice you have received to keep you going throughout your career?
Dr. Simmons: The best advice I received was to trust people when they show you who they are. We have to pay attention when people or organizations are not good for us and be courageous enough to walk away. There is always more, and we have to start believing in our own abundance. We are enough - always.
Sabreen: In honor of Black History Month, name one black woman you look up to or influenced you and why.
Dr. Simmons: I look up to both Angela Davis and Toni Morrison, who I had the honor to watch in conversation at an event. What I love most about them is their friendship with each other, which serves as a model of Black sisterhood - something I emulate in my own relationships. I am also inspired by their love and dedication to Black people and liberation. As I write my upcoming book, White Rules for Black People, I am carrying their wisdom and radical love for Black humanity and freedom with me.