Unsung Heroes of Black History: Olis Simmons

Every February, the United States commemorates Black History Month. Throughout the month, Ella’s Voice will be profiling some of our favorite unsung heroes of Black History To contribute to this series, email ellasvoice@ellabakercenter.org. Although many people throughout history inspire my work for social change, one of my unsung heroes is making history in the present. Olis Simmons is the Director of Youth Uprising, an incredible youth facility very close to where I grew up in East Oakland. When I was growing up, there was no Youth Uprising in my neighborhood, nor anything like it. Kids, like me, didn’t get a sense of opportunity or possibility too often. In the absence of possibility, youth too often lose hope and their way, doing whatever it takes to survive the challenges of being poor, youth of color. Luckily, Olis Simmons has changed that. She guided an intensive youth centered process to design and develop Youth UpRising, a state of the art 25,000 sq. ft. youth leadership development center. She took a stand for kids that no one else considered worth investing in. Low-income youth who come through YU now have access to jobs, arts education, mentorship, leadership development, tutoring and health services. Under Simmons’ leadership, YU has enrolled more than 5000 young people in a matter of 5 years. Olis is a champion of youth and a visionary of what is possible when we invest in our young people. To me, that is heroism. Learn more and invest in Youth UpRising and the positive solutions it affords Oakland youth.