John Rakolta, Jr. Leadership in Race Relations Awardee

The Rev. Larry L. Simmons, Sr. has lived a life of advocacy, beginning as a student radical pushing for change in the 1960s, as a staff member at the Detroit Urban League, as political director in the administration of Mayor Coleman A. Young, as an ordained pastor and, more recently, adding the duties of Executive Director of the Brightmoor Alliance.
Through all these commitments, he also has found time to become a strong advocate in such other mission-driven volunteer activities as the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren and the Hope Starts Here Coalition for Early Childhood.
Simmons played a key role in the formation of the Brightmoor Alliance, a coalition of nearly 50 organizations which have come together to mobilize community resources and focus their combined efforts to revitalize the area.

As pastor of Baber Memorial A.M.E. Church, he’s deeply ingrained in the fabric of the community. Simmons has been devoted to empowering families from diverse backgrounds with the resources needed to thrive.

Simmons is well known known for his work within the community, including youth outreach programs. “Young people need to know that someone is listening to them with a responsive ear,” he says.

Every year, Simmons hosts a summer program, Brightmoor Building STEAM, that brings together young Detroiters to collaborate on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics projects, leading up to a demonstration event that allows them to showcase work in a public setting. He also runs a summer youth employment program with about a dozen young people, who are paid for their time with funds from the Max and Marjorie Fisher Foundation.

“This program is our effort to train children to form a vision, strategy, and work plan for a project that benefits the community,” he says. “Then we look back and work with them to evaluate the project.”

Simmons believes that their combined efforts are seeing definite results. “There’s this spirit right now in Brightmoor that we’re not waiting on others to do for us, but we are doing it for ourselves,” he says. “We are realizing that we are the ones we were waiting on. In 10 years, this will be a wholly different community. Brightmoor, for all of its challenges, is a dynamic place to be right now. You can see it going up.”

Rev. Simmons is the proud father of eight sons and the proud husband of wife, Betty.