The Case for Black With a Capital B



Denise Simmons, Mayor of Cambridge, MA






A Conversation with Mayor E. Denise Simmons

by Talia Whyte

Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons was elected last year by the city councilors in a unanimous vote, making her the nation’s first openly lesbian black mayor. However, she has spent most of her life breaking down barriers and advocating on behalf of Cambridge residents. Prior to entering political life, Simmons ran her own business, Cambridgeport Insurance Agency, where she learned firsthand the needs of local small business owners. She served for 12 years as executive director of the Civic Unity Committee, the first citizen rights organization funded by the city of Cambridge.
Simmons entered politics in 1992 as a member of the Cambridge School Committee before joining the City Council in 2001. Simmons is also a family historian who has conducted archiving workshops for many organizations around the country. She has received several awards in recognition of her work in the community, including a Black Legislative Caucus Education Award in 1992 and The National Council of Women of Courage and Conviction Award in 1995.
She said that she hopes that the path she laid towards the top office in city hall will open more doors for those in the LGBT community, people of color and women.
As for advice for those who want to pursue a career in politics: “Just go and do it,” she said.
I did this piece because I have known Mayor Simmons for many years, and I thought it was a good opportunity to give a spotlight to a community activist who generally gets little attention in the black community.