is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion and affiliated faculty in the Women Studies Department. Simmons received her BA from Antioch University in Human Services and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion with a specific focus on Islam from Temple University as well as a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies. Simmons’ primary academic focus in Islam is on the Shari’ah (Islamic Law) and its impact on Muslim women, contemporarily. Simmons spent two years (1996-1998) living and conducting dissertation research in the Middle East countries of Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. The areas of focus for her teaching at this time include: Islam, Women, Religion and Society; Women and Islam, African American Religious Traditions, and Race, Religion, & Rebellion.
In addition to her academic studies in Islam, Simmons was a disciple in Sufism (the mystical stream in Islam) for seventeen years (1971-1986) under the guidance of Sheikh Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyadeen, a Sufi Mystic from Sri Lanka, until his passing. She remains an active member of the Bawa Muhaiyadeen Fellowship and Mosque and student of this great Saint’s teachings.
Simmons has a long history in the area of civil rights, human rights and peace work. She was on the staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker peace, justice, human rights and international development organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa. for twenty-three years. During her early adult years as a college student and thereafter, she was active with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and spent seven years working full time on Voter Registration and desegregation activities in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, one of the first women to become a rabbi, served as a congregational rabbi for 4 decades. She is a storyteller, percussionist, ceremonial and visual artist, human rights advocate, and author. Lynn co-founded Shomeret Shalom Rabbinic School & Learning Center to cultivate a Jewish culture of nonviolence for a global age. Lynn is Freeman Fellow with The Fellowship of Reconciliation and has led many F.O.R. delegations to Iran, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In 2002, Lynn co-founded The Muslim-Jewish Peacewalk with Abdur Rauf Campos Marquetti and has co-created multifaith programing dedicated to arts and peacebuilding for young people. Co-founder of The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, Lynn currently serves on the board of Interfaith Movement 4 Human Integrity, the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace and is author of dozens of essays and articles as well as several books: She Who Dwells Within; Peace Primer II-Quotes from Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scriptures; and Trail Guide to the Torah of Nonviolence. Rabbi Lynn currently resides in Berkeley, California near her son, Nataniel.
Mark Charles is a dynamic and thought-provoking public speaker, writer, and consultant. The son of an American woman (of Dutch heritage) and a Navajo man, he speaks with insight into the complexities of American history regarding race, culture and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and reconciliation for the nation. Mark serves as the Washington DC correspondent and regular columnist for Native News Online and is the author of the popular blog "Reflections from the Hogan." He serves on the board of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) and is a former Board of Trustee member of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA). Mark also consults with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW), has served as the pastor of the Christian Indian Center in Denver, CO, and is a founding partner of a national conference for Native students called "Would Jesus Eat Frybread?" (CRU, IVCF, and CICW).