Richland County and several community partners are seeking nominations for the Modjeska Monteith Simkins Award to recognize residents’ efforts in the areas of civil rights and social justice.
The first-time award, sponsored by the Richland County Community Development Department, the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, the City of Columbia and other partners, honors the life of Simkins, a Richland County native who became one of the state’s leading civil rights activists from the 1930s until her death in 1992.
The Simkins award winner will be announced April 9, 2016, as a part of a two-day event – Civil Rights: It Still Matters – to commemorate National Fair Housing Month and Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act. Continuing legal education classes on housing issues will be offered April 8 and the Simkins award winner will be named April 9 during a luncheon at a free fair housing conference.
“Richland County is fortunate to have many people who generously give back to the community through volunteering, public service, charitable giving and social activism,” said Richland County Council Chairman Torrey Rush. “While this award will honor Modjeska Simkins’ life, it also will shine a light on the good works many people are doing now to improve the lives of others.”
Nominees can be from the areas of politics, business and non-profits, as well as people who have worked behind the scenes to advance causes Simkins advocated – including furthering access to decent and safe housing.
Simkins was a co-founder of Victory Savings Bank, the first and only black-owned bank in South Carolina to offer loans for real-estate purchases. She also personally helped families facing financial crisis to keep their farms. In addition, Simkins co-owned Motel Simbeth, which provided exclusive accommodations for black tourists, who often had difficulty finding lodging in the then-segregated South.
Conference organizers say having an award in Simkins’ honor helps keep her legacy alive and ensures younger people know the history of the civil rights champion who was born in 1899 and died in 1992 at the age of 92. In 2015, the Richland County Conservation Commission funded a booklet, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, A South Carolina Revolutionary.
“There can be no higher honor than to receive an award named for someone who committed their body and soul to the cause of justice and freedom,” said Raymond Buxton II, Commissioner of the S.C. Human Affairs Commission. “Modjeska Simkins represented the best in all of us and today serves as an icon to those who continue the fight for equality.”
Buxton recounted the time Simkins was asked to submit a written statement prior to testifying before the S.C. Senate. Her response: “I don’t need a statement. I am the statement.”
“This award, in her honor, represents a statement and serves as a testimony to all who believe in the concepts and principles that make this nation great,” Buxton said.
The deadline for nominations for the Modjeska Monteith Simkins Award is Feb. 29.
Nomination forms are available at several locations countywide:
· Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, 2025 Marion St., Columbia
· Richland Library branches
· Richland County Recreation Commission facilities
An electronic application can be downloaded or completed online at www.rcgov.us.
For more information on the award, contact Marvin Caldwell, of the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, at 803-737-3179 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Community Development Fair Housing Month activities, contact Jocelyn Jennings, of the Richland County Community Development Department, at 803-576-2055 or email@example.com.