Diversity Leaders Honored at 13th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards Dinner

(Greenville, SC) Upstate diversity leaders were honored Wednesday, May 10, 2017, at the 13th Annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards Dinner. The event, hosted by the Greenville Chamber and the Riley Institute at Furman in partnership with the Anderson Area and Greater Greer Chambers of Commerce, recognized the following organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement in promoting diversity and inclusion in the Upstate:

  • Darian Blue - Calder. D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual
  • Drew Copeland - Outstanding College Student
  • Ingrid Ramos - Outstanding High School Student
  • Anju Saxena - Outstanding Contribution to International Diversity
  • Ogletree Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. - Outstanding Business
  • St. Joseph’s Catholic School - K-12 School: William "Bill" T. Wylie VALUED Lives Award for Excellence in Diversity
  • Speaking Down Barriers - Outstanding Nonprofit Organization
    (More information about the award winners below.)

The dinner featured a keynote presentation by Michael. B. Moore, President and CEO of the International African American Museum, which is slated to be built in Charleston, SC in the fall of 2019.

“The Greenville Chamber is honored to work alongside the Riley Institute at Furman to recognize leaders in the Upstate for their efforts to promote a diverse and inclusive community,” said Greenville Chamber President/CEO Carlos Phillips. “We are thrilled to highlight the accomplishments of these leaders, and hope it inspires others to ensure our region is an inclusive place where businesses and organizations succeed, and people prosper.”


Calder D. Ehrmann Outstanding Individual Award: Darian Blue
Darian Blue serves as the Senior Pastor of Nicholtown Missionary Baptist Church and Executive Director of the Phillis Wheatley Association.  

As part Darian’s work as Senior Pastor, he created summer program for children in the Nicholtown neighborhood to learn about different cultures. He invites adults from different countries to teach the children about their heritages. Children sample international foods and learn foreign language words and phrases, songs, art and dance of other cultures. The children dress in clothes native to the country of origin of the guest speaker.

Darian has also organized a community forum, “One Nation from Many Perspectives,” which brought together a diverse group of local citizens representing a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds. Participants included individuals from Muslim, Jewish and Christian congregations, as well as individuals and families originally from South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The forum provided an opportunity and a safe-space for robust conversation, relationship building, and the sharing of ideas related to celebrating the rich diversity within our community. Darian is planning a follow-up event focusing on economic needs and opportunities for minority groups within our community.

Darian was honored as one the inaugural class Top 10 Talented Young Professionals in Greenville for his service in the community. He was recognized as one of Greenville's Unsung Heroes for Faith and Community Relations, and in 2013, he was named Man of the Year in the 100 Men in Black annual ceremony.

Outstanding College Student Award: Drew Copeland
Drew is a student at Wofford College, and during his time on campus, his leadership has created a movement and a positive outlook on diversity within the college’s culture and campus. As a victim of a racial incident on campus, Drew took it upon himself to create a series of diversity programming that would bring awareness to racism.

The first program, “Talking Down Barriers,” focused on sharing personal stories of racism along with discussing racial slurs and stereotypes. Second, “Breaking Down Barriers,” gathered Wofford community members to have a conversation around difficult diversity and inclusion topics in a panel style program. Third, “Walking to Break Down Barriers,” incorporated a silent march to allow the Wofford community to reflect on issues of racism and encourages students, faculty and staff to take a stand against discrimination.

Drew serves as the Philanthropy chair of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, and most recently worked on a project to raise funds and awareness for the Military Heroes foundation. He was also selected as Mr. Wofford during Homecoming Week for the 2016/2017 academic year for his outstanding leadership amongst the student body.

Outstanding High School Student Award: Ingrid Ramos
A student at Legacy Charter High School and a student leader in Bridges to a Brighter Future, Ingrid is passionate about helping provide an equal opportunity to all students in the community.

With her involvement in Youth in Government and the Hispanic Alliance, Ingrid has identified ways to connect the Hispanic community to needed resources. In addition, Ingrid has assisted families by acting as a community translator.

Ingrid also volunteers her time with many organizations including Hands on Greenville, Community Service Learning, Girls Scouts, Childcare for Legacy Fitness Center and Legacy After School Program. At Legacy’s After School Program, she helps students with homework and serves as a mentor.

Ingrid will be a first-generation high school graduate and plans to attend college. She is on track to be the valedictorian of her class at Legacy Charter High School and will graduate with more than thirty credit hours from Greenville Technical College.

Outstanding Contribution to International Diversity Award: Anju Saxena
Anju is a senior at Riverside High School and will attend Furman University this fall.

She serves as the President of Atlas, a cultural diversity club which celebrates a myriad of cultures while raising money for a school in a third world country in extreme poverty. She has grown the size of the club to 220 students, making it the largest at the school. The club provides a safe space where students of all backgrounds share their culture and beliefs. Under Anju’s leadership, Atlas has raised over $3,000 for St. Vincent’s children’s home in Kenya.

Anju has organized monthly meetings to feature a different culture by learning about their traditions and beliefs and sampling food. These meetings have introduced discussions on religion and other cultural issues to encourage compassion, awareness and acceptance within the student body.

Anju also organized a visit to Safe Harbor in Greenville to share Indian culture with women and children in the shelter. They dressed in traditional Indian clothing and gave the women and children henna tattoos as part of the cultural tradition.

Because of Anju’s leadership, she was featured in a short documentary film called, “Doing Good,” which is designed to help students make the world a better place through compassion and action.

Outstanding Business Award: Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Over the past six years, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart has focused on empowering their diverse workforce and providing best practice development opportunities that embrace diversity and foster inclusion.

In 2011, Ogletree Deakins created a fully staffed Professional Development and Inclusion (PDI) department dedicated to the retention, advancement and promotion of diversity attorneys. Supporting the PDI department are the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, the Chief Administrative Officer and each Office Managing Shareholder. These groups develop and implement the Professional Development and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan that conveys the leadership communications and initiatives for professional development, diversity and inclusion.

In addition, the firm created the Ogletree Deakins’ Women’s Business Resource Group (ODWIN) which supports their women attorneys’ professional development, advancing women to leadership positions in the firm. The firm also created a business resource group for African-American, Hispanic and Asian attorneys to support their professional development and retention through information networking as a business development unit.

Ogletree Deakins has been named a top 50 Best Law Firm for Women by Working Mother and Flex-time Lawyers, ranked #9 on The National Law Journal’s 2016 Women in Law Scorecard, which ranks the nation’s largest law firms according to their inclusion of women attorneys. They have also been the recipient of the Greenville Society of Human Resource Management’s 2016 Excellence in Diversity Award.

In 2017, Ogletree Deakins was named a 2017 Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality and earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index.

K-12 School: William “Bill” T. Wylie Valued Lives Award for School Excellence in Diversity: St. Joseph’s Catholic School
St. Joseph's Catholic School (SJCS) SJCS is committed to developing students into compassionate members of society with an understanding and respect for all. They strive to build a culture of understanding, dialogue and respect among their students. The administration of SJCS believes diversity and inclusion is an essential aspect of its educational mission, and the school strives to provide opportunities for its students to engage with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs.

These efforts originated with the formation of a student organization called the Pope Francis Forum for Dialogue and Diversity (PFFDD), a ministry group seeking to unify diverse groups and help create a culture of inclusion. Since its creation, PFFDD has become one of the most active student organizations in the school, a source for education, inspiration and a place of belonging for students. Educational opportunities have included a We Are Charleston presentation by authors of the book that chronicled the AME Church shooting, presentation from Holocaust survivor, Robby Weisman, and visiting with students and faculty at the As-Sabeel Academy, an Islamic K-8 school.

To institutionalize diversity as a core component of its mission, SJCS has appointed a diversity coordinator to lead the school’s diversity initiatives. In addition, staff and faculty have gone through professional development training on diversity and inclusion to help address situations that may arise within the school.

Outstanding Nonprofit Organization Award:  Speaking Down Barriers

Speaking Down Barriers aims to heal racial and social division by facilitating community dialogue, training, performances and consultation for the community to learn how differences can be used as a source of collective strength.

Speaking Down Barriers offers several group sessions that focus on providing a welcoming place to reflect and discuss differences including race, gender, class, religion, national identity, and sexual orientation. Community Gathering sessions are held monthly and invite community members to discuss barriers that separate people in a transformative and healing setting. They offer two other programs, one for people of color and one for Caucasian people, to engage in dialogue focused on providing healing and education.

In addition, Speaking Down Barriers host a “Reading for Transformation” gathering that guides the community towards a holistic understanding of the transformation that must take place to dismantle the barriers that continue to cause divide. The last session they offer is called “No Words,” where community members come for meditation music to create art, meditate or write in the presence of others.

Speaking Down Barriers also offers two training sessions, Clergy Cohort and Intensives. Clergy Cohort training involves several full-day gatherings to enhance the transformational power of participants and local congregations within the community. Intensives delve into the structural and institutional realm of racism, the interpersonal aspects of racism and the way it lives within us as individuals.

About the Greenville Chamber
The Greenville Chamber, now in its 129th year of operation, is the largest business organization in Upstate South Carolina with over 2100 Investors supporting the vision of a globally competitive Upstate economy where businesses succeed and people prosper. For information, visit greenvillechamber.org.

About the Riley Institute at Furman
Launched in 1999, the Institute is named for former South Carolina governor and former United States Secretary of Education Richard W. (Dick) Riley.

The Riley Institute at Furman broadens student and community perspective about issues critical to South Carolina’s progress. It builds and engages present and future leaders, creates and shares data-supported information about the state’s core challenges, and links the leadership body to those solutions to drive sustainable solutions. For more information, visit riley.furman.edu.