Updated: Aug 26, 2022
This is a photo of Brenda Simmons and Dr. Cornel West, taken in the aftermath of a chance encounter between the two at CVS in Southampton in the Summer of 2016.
At the time of this encounter, Dr. West was preparing his "Democracy Matters" talk at the Watermill Center in August 2016, which Brenda was trying to figure out a way to attend. By sheer luck, Brenda spotted Dr. West at the checkout lane of the pharmacy. At some point during the conversation, Brenda expressed her desire to attend his talk, at which point he pulled out a ticket for her to sit in the front row at Watermill. When Dr. West took to the stage, he mentioned Brenda by name as an honorary guest at his event.
Brenda Simmons is the executive director of the Southampton African American Museum, which will be opening this Summer. Prior to this, she has also been the Curator and Co-Founder of the East End African Museum and Center for Excellence in Southampton, between 2000 and 2010. Her past projects include the annual Black History Exhibit at the Southampton Village Hall as curator, the annual Black Film Festival which began in 2006, the Mahogany Dew artists event which took place at the Southampton History Museum in 2007, and the annual Black History Showcase at Southampton Town Hall just to name a few. Her own educational pursuits saw her graduate from Southampton High School in 1973, receiving an A.A. in Computer Information System/Accounting at Suffolk Community College in 1989, and Graduating with a B.A. in Community and Human Services at SUNY Empire in Saratoga Springs in 2004.
Dr. Cornel West is a Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University, holding the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. He is the author of 20 books including 'Race Matters', 'Democracy Matters', and his most recent book 'Black Prophetic Fire' which examines 19th and 20th century African American leaders and their legacies. He has made frequent appearances on C-Span and Democracy Now, where he discusses various issues about class, race and justice. He's also collaborated with artists and musicians such as Jill Scott, Andre 3000 and KRS-One while producing three spoken word albums. To go one layer deeper in his connections with popular culture, he also plays the role of Councillor West in the Matrix trilogy of films.