• Wed. Mar 29th, 2023

Local Civil Rights attorney hired to lead new Center for Social Justice

Urban League Building. Photo provided by Facebook

Contributed by Urban League
of Southwest Ohio

Rickell Howard Smith. Photo provided

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio recently announced last month, the establishment of the Center for Social Justice. The Center was made possible by a $1 million sustainable pledge from J. Phillip and Gail Holloman. After an extensive search, Rickell Howard Smith, J.D., has been appointed executive director of the Center for Social Justice.

Smith received her law degree from Temple University and her B.A. from Howard University, magna cum laude. She comes to the Center for Social Justice with 15 years of experience advocating for social and criminal justice reform. As an attorney, she has held positions with Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, Ohio Justice & Policy Center and Children’s Law Center Inc. Most recently, she served as senior director of community strategies at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.

The center will initially focus on police reform monitoring and citizen complaints for municipalities in and around Greater Cincinnati. The work will expand to the Greater Dayton area. Eddie Koen, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, is optimistic about the impact of the Center for Social Justice.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have Rickell lead the Center for Social Justice at the Urban League. Her breadth of experience in Civil Rights law and activism and her extensive work within the community positions her as the ideal candidate for this unique opportunity. Under her leadership, our vision will come to life,” said Koen.

As executive director of the Center for Social Justice, Smith will be responsible for the overall strategic and operational duties, including the expansion and execution of its mission. She will also work with communities across the region to focus on police reform, voter suppression and emerging social justice issues.

“It is an honor to step into this role, shape the center’s focus, and partner with communities that have been fighting for systemic reforms for decades. This is a critical time for our nation and region. It is paramount that we center the voices and solutions developed by communities directly impacted by systemic injustice. WE are the catalyst for change in our own communities,” she said.

Ellen Katz, president and CEO of Greater Cincinnati Foundation, supports Smith’s transition and looks forward to continuing to build upon the existing relationship between the two organizations.     “The time for racial justice is now. We can only make our community more equitable if justice is achieved. This is an exciting moment and a pivotal one for our region. Rickell has had a tremendous impact on Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and we are thrilled that she has been appointed as the founding executive director for Urban League’s Center for Social Justice,” said Katz.

“I am proud to have someone with Rickell’s experience, knowledge and expertise leading the Center for Social Justice. She is yet another example of the outstanding African American women, right here in our community, who are uniquely qualified to lead”, said Phillip Holloman, chair of the Urban League board of trustees. 

The Urban League partnered with the Cochran Firm Ohio to make the center uniquely positioned to address social injustices’ legal aspects. Once the center is operating, the plan is to swiftly assess how and when these efforts can expand from municipalities outside of Cincinnati to the Greater Dayton area.