We at the Heartland Center for Jobs & Freedom, are deeply committed to justice for low-wage workers and we bring our many years of litigation and advocacy experience to bear in support of their movements for change.


Carol Smith, President 

Carol is a life-long social justice advocate with a broad array of experience. Carol has spent the past two decades directing and advocating for programs and policies that fight poverty and create opportunity. In the 1980's Carol played a critical regional role responding to the farm crisis, which devastated scores of Midwestern farmers. During that period she worked with farmers, faith groups and others on behalf of the Jewish community to oppose the antiSemitic and racist organizing that was exploiting the farmers' tragedies, and advocated for sound, sustainable policy solutions. Today, Carol sits on the board of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center where she continues to advocated for progressive solutions to the challenges of family farmers and rural communities. 


Pastor Donna Simon, Treasurer

Rev. Donna Simon is the pastor at Kansas City’s St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church.  At St. Mark Hope and Peace, Pastor Donna puts her faith into practice by working for justice on many fronts.  Not only does St. Mark Hope and Peace engage in feeding the hungry, its congregation asks why hunger exists and how to eliminate it.  That is why Pastor Donna provided the critical support low-wage workers needed when they launched their campaign for $15 an hour and a union years ago.  Pastor Donna continues to be a pillar in that movement today.  Pastor Donna is also known for her work to raise the minimum wage and cap outlandish pay-day interest rates in Missouri.  


Chekasha (Che) Ramsey, Secretary

Che Ramsey has been practicing law for nearly ten years.  A seasoned criminal defense lawyer and civil rights advocate, she has dedicated her career to public service.  Che began her legal career with the American Civil Liberties Union where she addressed cases involving constitutional  violations.  After law school, Che began working as a trial attorney with the Missouri State Public Defender System.  She quickly became known as a staunch defender of constitutional rights, as she skillfully challenged unlawful searches and seizures, and other forms of police misconduct that arose in her cases.  Today, Che has advanced to the Federal Public Defender system where she continues to vigorously advocate for justice and provide exceptional criminal defense. 


Clarence Lang, board member

Clarence Lang is Associate Professor and Chair of African & African American Studies at the University of Kansas, where he also holds an appointment in American Studies.  He is the author of Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936-75 and Black America in the Shadow of the Sixties: Notes on the Civil Rights Movement, Neoliberalism, and Politics.  He is also the co-editor of Anticommunism and the African American Freedom Movement: “Another Side of the Story” (with Robbie Lieberman) and Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph (with Andrew Kersten).  Professor Lang is a former member of the Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund for student activists, and he has been a supporter of Kansas City’s low-wage workers fighting for better pay and working conditions. 


Robert L. Swearingen, board member

Robert L. Swearingen has dedicated his legal career to public service.  Rob presently works for Legal Aid in St. Louis.  Since commencing work there in 2007, Rob has become known as an aggressive litigator who holds abusive car dealerships, finance companies, payday lenders, debt collectors and landlords accountable for violating the rights of low-income people.  From 1991 to 2007 Rob represented autoworkers through the United Auto Workers’ legal services program. Rob has also worked for the Missouri Attorney General and the Missouri Public Defender System.