Meet Kenyatta Grant - 2022 Woman of Achievement
Kenyatta Grant embodies the role of an advocate - in her career, in her family, and in her service to the community. She has worked for the last two decades to lend her voice in support of victims and survivors of domestic violence and has led many efforts to eliminate racism.
Through her work with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the YWCA Charleston, and many other community organizations, Grant has become a leader in educating community members and empowering them to recognize their biases and make positive changes in their lives.
Grant was born in Weirton, WV, where her mother still lives. She and her siblings all graduated from different schools and when it came time to decide where to go to college, she made a last-minute change to go to Marshall University to stay closer to home.
While at Marshall, she majored in Political Science and went on to earn her master’s degree in Criminal Justice. Her work with victims and survivors of domestic violence began shortly after that, at the Branches shelter in Huntington.
In 2001, Grant began working at the WV Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where she continues to work as the Community Organizing Coordinator. Her tenure with the Coalition is a testament to the impact of the work she’s been doing and the influence she’s built throughout the community.
“It makes it easier to build relationships when you have been somewhere for a long time,” Grant said. “It helps you to communicate what’s important.”
Grant’s role at the Coalition has evolved. She previously worked as the Criminal Justice Specialist, focusing on training with law enforcement agencies and the statewide coordination of the Batterers Intervention Prevention Programs.
Her focus now is working with marginalized communities to ensure they are represented and have access to the services of the Coalition.
“I work with communities of color and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. We work to make sure our services are welcoming and inclusive. When we’re working with programs, we need to use the lens of being inclusive and incorporating diversity,” Grant said.
This work encompasses many facets - ensuring that programs represent the communities they serve, building relationships with program directors and staff, and also making sure that outreach materials are inclusive.
“When you notice domestic violence awareness materials, white women are typically portrayed as victims,” Grant said. “Domestic violence can happen regardless of your age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Representation matters - we want to make sure that people know that they are represented and they can see themselves in what we do.”
Grant’s work at the Coalition led to other community partnerships and opportunities to provide education and training. “As advocates, we can’t do this work alone. We know that we all need to work together with law enforcement and the judicial system to come together for victims and survivors.”
In addition to her advocacy on behalf of domestic violence victims, she has been instrumental in developing and leading implicit bias training. Grant is a member of the YWCA Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee and co-developed the Implicit Bias training that has been implemented for many community members and organizations as a means to eliminate racism.
“The implicit bias education has evolved - it has to, because our communities are always evolving,” Grant said. “It’s so important to continue these conversations past the initial training.”
Grant said that she always walks away having learned something from a training session. “It is a gradual process. Sometimes people are hesitant to talk about racism, and there is a fear of awareness. This work is always evolving and reflective.”
“How can we change someone’s mindset? It’s not as simple as saying ‘don’t do or say that’ - we talk about a better understanding of implicit bias. We talk about allyship, and what that looks like. I’ve found that people want to know why something they might do or say isn’t appropriate, and how they can be involved in change,” Grant said.
She also emphasizes the importance of having conversations about white privilege.
“When you start talking about privilege, people get really quiet. It’s a gradual process - we try to break it down and get people to understand how they have benefited from people of color being silenced, disenfranchised and disregarded. When people can arrive at that understanding on their own, it’s easier to have those conversations.”
“We try to emphasize for them how different the life experience is for people of color. When people meet me, they don’t see Kenyatta Grant, they see the color of my skin. People of color go about life differently. We parent differently. I tell my kids things to do that parents of white children don’t have to do. We see everything from a different lens.”
Grant says that as more community members have been involved in implicit bias education, she has seen more intentionality in conversations about racism. Still, there will always be work to do.
“There are still some people and organizations that are trying to learn and understand. There are different approaches that we need to try. Anytime that we see that there’s a shift in progress, we also see people who think it’s not necessary to have these conversations,” she said.
“I’ve learned so much about myself. I value this work. I’m empowering people and being empowered at the same time,” Grant said.
Grant mentors students in the community in her role as a cheer coach and judge for cheer competitions. She is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
“I serve as the President for the Beta Beta Omega Chapter located in Charleston, WV. We are committed to being involved in the community with the focus on providing community service and other educational and awareness opportunities that focus on women’s health issues, economical sustainability, art appreciation, and service projects with an international impact.”
Grant’s most important work is her family - she is the mother of three children, Savannah, Victor, and Kenleigh. Both of her daughters cheer, and her son is interested in tennis.
“I am very supported by my husband, Derrick. We’ve been married for 17 years. It makes it easier when you are being supported at home. He is my biggest cheerleader and is the light of my life. I couldn’t do this without him.”
Grant is proud of the work that she’s been able to accomplish, and its impact in the community.
“I feel that my work is life-changing. When people remember who I am, I feel that it means that they value what I say. I feel like the work I’m trying to promote is being received. It feels good to be a catalyst for change and to help people make positive changes in their own lives. That is a proud moment for me and validates the work I’ve been doing.”