“I think where my focus is right now is love, truth, and justice. You can’t have justice without any of that.”
An Edmonson Village native, Larry Simmons was introduced to advocacy at a young age. He credits his parents’ civic engagement and involvement in the Citizens Democratic Action Organization, led by former Maryland State Senator Larry Young, with his passion for community leadership and organizing today. From working his first job as a group leader at the Harlem Park YMCA, since the age of 21 Larry has been working with Baltimore youth and families to enhance their well-being and create access to resources that advance their quality of life.
“We do a lot to community but not enough with community […] with this work you really have to come from a place of love. It is about compassion and love and taking care of each other. This is the only way I know how to take care of my community.” says Larry.
Since then, he has worn many hats in Baltimore City such as director of the Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) program under the Baltimore City Health Department to serving on the Baltimore City Health Commissioner Selection Committee.
There is not one issue in Baltimore that Larry has not been at the table to help solve, from youth trauma to transportation, Larry has, and continues to, sit on committees and boards of organizations and City agencies that are working to create a healthier, safer, and equitable Baltimore, including the Public Justice Center.
It is because of his extensive community work and passion for Baltimore City residents that we connected with Larry through our Bunting Neighborhood Leadership Program. As a 2018 Fellow, Larry attributes the year-long training as a connector to the work he is doing now.
“Bunting made everything that I had been doing up until then real. When you’re in this kind of work you aren’t looking to be a millionaire, you’re just doing it. You get so caught up in doing it, you not even acknowledging what you are doing, and Bunting helped me to do that. It helped me realize who I was in this work and what kind of marks I have made in the City and allowed me to hone in on who I was both professionally and personally.”
Through his involvement with the UHI and Bunting Neighborhood Leadership Program, Larry connected with our then associate director, Dr. Richard Lofton. Together they teamed up to plan and host the Schools, Prison, and Concentrated Poverty Symposium, bringing together community organizers, city agencies, political and City school leaders, researchers, and community members.
The work continued more than a year after that Symposium and conversations with community led to the “Nobody Asked Me” research project. Working in partnership with Dr. Lofton, Larry serves as the directory of community engagement for the project, which works to amplify the voices of African American families living in concentrated poverty in Baltimore. Larry, Richard, and their team have created a space for African American youth and families living in concentrated poverty to have their voices, needs, and concerns heard. Through centering these voices the Nobody Asked Me team aims to have these stories influence policy and decisions concerning Baltimore families moving forward.
“Sometimes people are not used to being heard. It will take a little time and some relationship building for them to come out and say it but a lot of times when you give people the opportunity, they jump on it, they have their own solutions.”, shared Larry
The team plans to host a Symposium in the Fall where they will present their research findings, including community-led solutions to some of the issues raised during the interview process.
In addition to his work on the project, Larry is a full-time entrepreneur through his consulting firm, LC Simmons Consults. Larry works with community-based organizations and small non-profits to connect them to larger streams of funding. He also offers trainings around the history of Baltimore and organizing 101. Larry continues to extend his reach throughout the City he loves by working with those doing the work and being the change.
When asked what final message he would like to share with our audience, Larry had this to say “Look at young people as partners in their own success. Young people know what they want, and they know where they want to go.”
To learn more about the Nobody Asked Me project, please visit https://www.nobodyaskedmebmore.org/. They are currently in search of more participants, especially young people. Compensation is $50 per person.