Residents can recognize individuals or groups committed to social justice by nominating them for an award that remembers one of Richland County’s most important human rights figures.
The Modjeska Monteith Simkins Award is named after the Richland County native who became a leading human rights activist in South Carolina from the 1930s until her death in 1992. Richland County Community Development, Lexington County, the City of Columbia, S.C. Human Affairs Commission and other partners are sponsoring the award for a second year to celebrate National Fair Housing Month in April and also draw attention to the housing injustices that continue to affect some people today.
“The Fair Housing Act was enacted 50 years ago, in 1968, thanks to efforts led by Martin Luther King Jr., but people today are still facing discrimination when it comes to renting or owning homes,” said Jocelyn Jennings, Richland County Community Development Coordinator. “This award is to spotlight the individuals and organizations that are committed to righting the wrongs in society, especially those wrongs that prevent minorities from achieving safe, fair and affordable housing – much as Modjeska Simkins did.”
Simkins co-founded Victory Savings Bank, the first and only black-owned bank in South Carolina to offer loans for real-estate purchases, and co-owned Motel Simbeth, which provided exclusive accommodations for black tourists who often had difficulty finding lodging in the then-segregated South. She belonged to more than a dozen civic organizations, petitioned politicians for social equalities, and she personally helped families facing financial crises to keep their farms and livelihoods.
The Richland County Conservation Commission funded the publication of a booklet profiling Simkins in 2015. Modjeska Monteith Simkins, A South Carolina Revolutionary is available through the S.C. Progressive Network and Richland Library.
In 2016, the first and only year the award has been made available, it was presented to Dr. Lonnie Randolph, Jr. of Columbia for his work in civil rights and longtime involvement with the South Carolina Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Nominations are accepted this year until April 16. Award nominees should be individuals or organizations that strive to further the ideals of Simkins by holding agencies accountable for the equal rights of all residents, including access to decent and safe housing.
The award winner will be announced at an April 28 fair housing conference titled “Civil Rights: It Still Matters.”
Nomination forms and award information are available online at rcgov.us and at several locations countywide:
· Modjeska Monteith Simkins House, 2025 Marion St., Columbia (call 803-445-1921 for hours)
· Richland Library locations
· Richland County Recreation Commission facilities
· City of Columbia Community Development (1225 Lady St., Columbia)
· Lexington County Community Development (212 South Lake Drive, Lexington)
For more information about the award, contact Jocelyn Jennings at 803-576-2055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.