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Alumni Spotlight: Jermaine Greaves

Alumni Spotlight Jermaine Greaves

Kingsborough Community College Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight: Jermaine Greaves


March, 28, 2024

Jermaine Greaves, Kingsborough Community College alumnus and founder of the grassroots organization Black Disabled Lives Matter, has been steadfast in his need to increase awareness of the disability movement for a long time. Founded in September 2020, his most recent project sheds light on the seemingly insurmountable struggles faced by disabled blacks. Jermaine’s involvement in the disability rights movement has sparked the interest of mainstream media, leading to his being featured in the Museum of the City of New York’s exhibition titled “Disability Rights in New York, 1968–2017.” 

 “The museum launched the photo exhibit in August of 2023,” said Jermaine. “Their plan for the project was to highlight different activists in the disability rights movement throughout history. They started with the mother of disability rights, Judy Heumann, and then they did a deep dive into my experiences as a disabled person.” 

 “My personal goal is to share my experiences and show people that they can overcome anything,” Jermaine said. “About two years ago, I got very sick with a chronic skin condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa. Being sick changed my entire mission for Black Disabled Lives Matter. I was in and out of rehab for a year and had to leave Kingsborough. I was determined, however, and in January 2023, I returned to complete my degree and graduated in the spring of 2023 with an associate degree in Theatre Arts.”

 “I used my illness as an opportunity to educate people on health disparities between those who are black and disabled.” Through his push to educate people, he was able to raise $40,000 to pay his rent for a year and $65,000 for a formerly incarcerated felon to help him get on his feet in society. “This is the kind of work I like to do. I’m very hands-on.”

 Jermaine’s inspiration for launching his grassroots organization was initially prompted by the death of his 30-year-old sister. She became ill from COVID, coupled with an unknown condition, and not long after passed away in spring 2020. His mother also contracted COVID in 2020 and was very ill. These life-changing events bolstered his desire to create something that could serve the disabled community. “Their illnesses made me want to create something that could save lives,” he said. “I saw what my mother went through and felt helpless to make her well. So, I turned to community service.”

 Jermaine’s goal for Black Disabled Lives Matter is to touch people’s lives and help them meet various needs. He admits it’s sometimes exhausting, but he feels he’s gained a lot from the experience. 

“Hearing different people's stories and understanding the weight of how you can impact somebody in your local area has, over time, changed how I view the movement,” Jermaine added. “You don’t have to be a celebrity to impact people. You only need to care. I firmly believe that if you have good intentions, good will follow you.”

 “I think the biggest thing that has happened to me is finding my own voice through something that is important to me and being able to speak up about different personal issues.” 

 He admits that when people approach him and tell him that it’s because of him that they’ve made a significant change in their lives, he is moved and motivated all at once. “It’s not lost on me what I’ve done for myself and for others.” 

 Jermaine’s disability requires him to depend on many people to keep the organization running, but he also recognizes that, disability aside, it always takes a village of people for any organization to run. No one can do it alone if they truly want to make an impact on the culture. “I credit Antoinette Jones for much of our success because she’s helped to build the organization by keeping everyone organized and on task,” Jermaine said. “Fleur is a fitness instructor who offers great advice and helps me to pace myself. Nichole Alexa, a friend and confidant, is a photographer and videographer whose visual storytelling skills are top-notch. Another amazing person on our team is Aurora, who is our amazing graphic designer.”

“The older I get, the more I realize that the most important thing is realizing that I'm leaving a lasting legacy. That exhibit is going to be there forever. That's huge to me. I am beyond blessed to know that I've left a legacy for those who come after me.”


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