Image depicting white text on a black background that reads "Black History Today." The word today is accented with a red and green line.

Black History Today: Leslie Lawson-Sims, an Unsung Hero Filling Her Community With Light

by Marcus Harden

Image depicting white text on a black background that reads "Black History Today." The word today is accented with a red and green line.

Black History Today, created by Marcus Harden in celebration of Black History Month, pays tribute to the living legacy of Black history in our community and beyond and recognizes the people shaping the future.

Presented in collaboration with Rise Up for Students.

“As Black women, we’re always given these seemingly devastating experiences — experiences that could absolutely break us. But what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. What we do as Black women is take the worst situations and create from that point.”

—Viola Davis

Here’s to the unsung heroes, the ones who never desire the spotlight, because the work they do comes from something deep inside of them. The ones who you interact with every day — at the coffee shop, at the bodega, and in the office space. Yet for the ones who’ve carved out space where they typically aren’t seen — the “Hidden Figures,” the ones quietly demanding equity and inclusion with their every action — those heroes who don’t seek the light, ironically, become the light.

Leslie Lawson-Sims illuminates any space that she is in. Growing up a strong Black woman in Eastern Washington — in Spokane, the “Vegas of the Northwest” (or something like that) — from a proud family, her focus and passion for growth were palpable. Upon graduating from Lewis & Clark High School, her service to the community and others began to blossom.

Leslie would take those foundations and build upon them by attending Washington State University (I’ll refrain from my typical slander, lol), where she would take the path of community and professional services, earning her degree in HR management and joining Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Leslie’s skill for working with people has shone through as she has broken professional barriers, bringing her service-oriented approach and high-level execution to companies like Liberty Mutual and to her current role as HR director at Microsoft. In these spaces, her positionality not only serves as a professional achievement for herself but opens doors to further opportunities for others — both by serving as an example for what corporate/tech leadership can look like and through Leslie’s seeing in others that which is too often overlooked.

Leslie’s passion radiates in her service to the community, especially through her beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Leslie has held numerous leadership roles, including vice president and president of the Delta Upsilon Omega Chapter in Seattle.

Branching beyond that as part of her executive M.B.A. program, she has partnered with local nonprofit Community Passageways to create program frameworks that encourage empowerment within community. Her service extends to being on the advisory board of the Soul Collective salon (a Black-owned business) and as part of the HR Committee for nonprofit Choose 180.

Leslie’s commitment to service is only outdone by her commitment to family and friends. She is a proud auntie and godmother, and an even prouder wife to her equally service-oriented husband, Brett Sim.Leslie embodies the values of promoting unity and friendship while opening doors into rooms where many haven’t dwelled before. She’s a true humble servant, the person behind people and talent, and she is undeniably Black History Today!

Marcus Harden is a seasoned educator, with experience as a teacher, counselor, dean, administrator, and program and policy manager. Marcus focuses his work on creating better culture and climate for students, families, and staff. He believes deeply in restorative justice practices and in mindset and resiliency work that leads to excellent and equitable educational outcomes for all students.

📸 Featured image by Devin Chicras for the Emerald.

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