The Black History Intercollegiate Consortium (BHIC) – comprised of the College of Charleston, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), The Citadel, Trident Technical College and Charleston Southern University – will honor Kenyatta Grimmage, associate director for access initiatives and pre-college programs in the College of Charleston Office of Admissions, at its 30th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.
Grimmage will receive one of five MLK Humanitarian Awards given to a faculty or staff member found to embody the ideals of equity, inclusivity and justice espoused by King. The event, which takes place in MUSC’s Drug Discovery Building (70 President St.) at 6:30 p.m., will also honor CofC retiree Clara Hodges as a trailblazer.
“To receive an award for embodying the ideals of Dr. King is not only an honor, but truly humbling because he has been a hero of mine my entire life,” says Grimmage, who also received the College’s Staff Person of the Year Award in 2018 and its Demetria N. Clemons Distinguished Mentor (ExCEL) Award in 2019. “This recognition is really special to me.”
Grimmage has certainly earned all the recognition. In addition to his regular duties at the College, he advises the Student Ambassador organization as well as Luminescent, a service organization for students of color. He runs the Multicultural Overnight Visit Experience (M.O.V.E) program and the Otto B. German Minority Male Initiative (MMI) at the College. In 2017, he and Chris Powers, a former CofC staff member who is currently the diversity recruiter for MUSC College of Medicine, co-created Minorities in Healthcare (MIH), a support organization for minority students who are interested in attending medical school.
A master barber and barber instructor in the Charleston area for 14 years, Grimmage also gives students in the College’s SPECTRA program free haircuts during the summer – and last year, in an effort to create a safe space for minority males to have conversations about their struggles and build a sense of community and accountability, he worked with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services, and with organization founders Warrenetta Mann and Jerez Mitchell to introduce Cuts and Conversations to the CofC campus.
“The barbershop/salon are cornerstones in the minority communities that all students of color immediately identify with,” he says. “So my goal is to create a barber/salon on campus to serve our students; empower and give ownership to our students of color; and be a place where students, faculty and staff members can get a haircut or hairdo – while also using it as a tool to recruit students to the College.”
It all goes back to one of MLK’s main objectives: to be of service.
“I just want to be useful, and I’ve found that I am most useful when I am able to recruit and support students of color here at the College of Charleston,” says Grimmage. “If you ask me what that support looks like, I would describe it as a great sense of obligation to ensure that these students are being treated fairly, have the same opportunities as their counterparts and feel included to the point they take ownership of this campus – and to advocate for them when it’s not being done. It’s my duty, not on my own, but I am both prepared and have the stamina to go it alone because somebody did it for me.”
With the theme of “The Dream in 2020: Conviction in Our Purpose, Clarity in Our Mission, Resilient in Our Progress,” this year’s BHIC event celebrates the organization’s 30th anniversary. It was co-founded in the late 1980s by the affirmative action officers from CofC and MUSC to enhance racial harmony between the Tri-County’s five colleges. The organization’s co-founders Bob Gillis (CofC) and Dr. Earl B. Higgins (MUSC) will be honored in memoriam during the event, which is free and open to the public. Students from all five BHIC institutions will perform gospel music, and a reception will follow immediately after the program.