who we are
Galen D. Kirkland, J.D., Executive Director
Galen D. Kirkland is a lawyer, community leader, social advocate, and administrator who has dedicated his career to the advancement of human and civil rights, social justice, housing, and education in our society.
Before joining the Center for War/Peace Studies as Executive Director, Kirkland was the New York State Division of Human Rights Commissioner for five years serving under two administrations. In this position, he managed a large staff of investigators, prosecutors, and administrative law judges in the enforcement of New York State’s Human Rights Law, the oldest such law in the country.
While Commissioner, he developed new programs—including the Unity Coalition and Teach-the-Teacher—to promote respect for, and education about, human rights. He was one of six members appointed by the Governor to the Stimulus Oversight Panel to ensure that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds were spent in compliance with civil rights laws.
Prior to his post as Commissioner, he was an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau of New York State. As part of his work with the Attorney General’s office, he was First Deputy Director of Policy Development and Director of Program Development, creating and developing the statewide Students Against Violence Initiative (SAVI).
Over the course of his career, Kirkland has held an array of executive, legal, and board positions focused on the development of civil rights, community development, social and housing justice, and education in New York City. He is also founder and president of The Harlem Council of Elders.
Mr. Kirkland was raised in Harlem, studied at Dartmouth College, and earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.