He’s one of the top five high-ranking Black men leading the way at the White House.
He is none other than Detroit’s native son Jamal Simmons and he was recently tapped as Vice President Kamala Harris’ new communications director in early January.
Simmons, a political analyst (who has appeared on national news networks like MSNBC and CNN), is no stranger to the spotlight or diligently working behind the scenes.
Within Harris’ administration, he was also tapped to work under President Joe Biden making sure the nation’s leaders continue to run a tight ship as they cross the one-year mark of taking on their roles as first and second-in-command.
Simmons, a graduate of Cass Technical High School, has deep family roots in Detroit spanning back for generations including when his father, the Rev. Larry Simmons (a pastor at Baber Memorial A.M.E. Church in the Brightmoor neighborhood) worked for then-Mayor Coleman A. Young. His grandfather was also a Civil Rights activist in Detroit decades prior.
Simmons’ influential family has also graced the pages of the Michigan Chronicle many times for their works, political impact, and community activism.
Simmons, who comes from good stock, has followed in his family’s footsteps – while making leaps and bounds of his own — with moves in his professional career that led him to Washington, D.C., and into the White House. He stands on the shoulders of many who still cheer him on in Detroit and beyond.
With a wealth of experience leading many presidential campaigns (including Bill Clinton’s and Al Gore’s), the Morehouse College and Harvard University graduate’s impressive résumé speaks for itself.
Despite his passion for disenfranchised communities, Simmons, however, has faced some unfortunate public backlash as of late.
In November 2010, Simmons posted several tweets, which came to light recently about “undocumented folks” and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) coming to get them.
The tweets surfaced days after Simmons was hired in Harris’ administration. It is more than fair to say that Simmons’ commentary was taken out of context and was not malicious — it was in fact twisted by others who had an agenda to try to defame his name and prestigious position in the White House. His tireless pro-immigrant standing shows the negative commentators where he really stands – for the people.
The Michigan Chronicle Editorial Board, and the institution that is the Michigan Chronicle, supports Simmons, who has made it known to naysayers that even though he made an error, his stance on immigration has been crystal clear: he cares for the Latino/Hispanic community and protecting immigrants’ rights, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and “easing the pathway to citizenship.”
“Sometimes I have been sarcastic, unclear, or just plainly missed the mark. I sincerely apologize for offending those who care as much as I do about making America the best, multi-ethnic, diverse democracy it can be,” Simmons said in a response tweet.
It’s unfortunate that even though he has expressed his remorse for unintentionally offending his allies in this off-color tweet, pro-Right-Wing camps, among others, try to ignore or downplay his true intentions while dragging his name through the mud.
Thankfully, he has since received acknowledgment and understanding in response from members of the Latino/Hispanic community.
Luckily, his track record stands tall of all the evidence of his pro-immigration position and his efforts to bolster the Latino community. In 2007-2008 Simmons assisted the Nevada Caucus making sure issues faced by the Latino community were prioritized by leadership and registering and encouraging the Hispanic vote.
As a principal at the Raben Group (a diverse collection of professionals with law and progressive public policy experience) for nine years, Simmons joined forces with colleagues who supported immigrant rights groups and developed media strategies.
Also, as a podcast host and media interviewer, Simmons provided a platform to immigrant rights activists, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Latino strategists to make their case directly to the public.
In various media appearances, Simmons highlighted his concerns about how unfairly Mexican immigration has gotten a bad rap including on CNN’s PAULA ZAHN NOW show on January 24, 2007.
Simmons told Zahn that no one complains about a waitress from Poland who has overstayed her visa.
“I grew up in Detroit across the border from Canada. Canadians come over into Michigan all the time. Nobody complains about them sticking around and going to school and doing whatever else it is they want to do,” he told the media personality. “People are complaining about Latin Americans, Hispanics who are crossing the border from the south, and whether — and — and the fact that they’re in school with their children. That’s the issue…This is about Mexican immigration.”
Even more recently, last October on CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front he called out the immigration debate and opposed a border fence.
“Let’s be clear. What we’re talking about is not just immigration reform. It’s Hispanic immigration reform,” he said adding that Americans, for the most part, are concerned about Mexican Americans, Hondurans, and “others” coming across the border.
“We talk about that fence; some estimates have it at $4 million per mile for a 2,000-mile fence, which is about $8 billion for — and by the way, we’re not even having a lot of immigration come across right now because our economy is doing so poorly…So the immigration trickle has really slowed,” Simmons said. “So, we just don’t need to start spending $8 billion on something when we can do something much better with it.”
He’s also been known to say that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” was actually a euphemism for “Make America White Again.”
One thing is for certain, Simmons is head and shoulders above the noise, the unfair critics, and the opposers who want to only highlight the past.
The Michigan Chronicle Editorial Board, and the Michigan Chronicle, stand with Simmons and recognize him for his well-deserved role in the Biden-Harris administration and all his works and future endeavors.
Congratulations, Simmons, here’s to what’s ahead on your remarkable journey.