Men who push boundaries, defy the odds, carve a new path—these are men of purpose. They know the stakes, yet they stand for the mission so passionately that the fear takes a backseat to duty.

At heart, the mission is about people, about reminding everyone of our shared humanity, about embracing diversity. Then, we all rise. Then, we become stronger. When we look the other in the eye, we see that we could be the person who is staring back.

Following the footsteps of many, Derrick Quarles continues the walk, leading and organizing on behalf of the activist group, Black Lives Matter. As a PhD candidate and father-to-be, he understands the inherent risks of his pursuit. Yet, he believes in his work, which he sees as his ministry—a calling. His story is best told in his own words (“Man of Action”).

Jerry Blassingame’s path to Soteria Community Development Corporation, an organization in Greenville that serves formerly incarcerated men, has been one of redemption. Twenty-five years ago, Jerry served time on a drug charge. Now, he’s leading an organization whose name, Soteria, translates to salvation. Through Soteria at Work, Jerry shares his passion for woodworking with the men he serves. By shaping and crafting wood, these men find purpose, focus, and a sense of healing (“A Different Story”).

Muralist Adam Schrimmer combines his artistic craft with a drive for social change. His work is bold and big, blanketing the sides of buildings, climbing up the walls of schools and restaurants. Recent days have pushed Schrimmer to combine his talents with the compelling words of regional poets. Through his work with Wits End Poetry, Schrimmer and Greenville poet Kimberly Simms lead OneGVLArts, an initiative to highlight social justice on murals throughout the city (“Wall to Wall”).

The work of these men is physical and visceral. It is not theirs alone—they are coalescing, bridging, and mobilizing. Whether it’s a peaceful gathering in a park, inspiring others by example, or by transforming buildings and neighborhoods through artistic collaboration, these Upstate leaders have committed their lives to change and to progress. In their noble pursuits, they are shifting the narrative of our culture and awakening us to a better way.


Blair Knobel
Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

Photograph by Blair Knobel.