“In 2010, my uncle passed from AIDS related complications. Our family didn’t really know that he had the illness and I’m not really sure that he knew until his health declined. It’s interesting because if someone has cancer, you cry, and you feel sad. With him, I saw different types of emotions from people.”
Seeing a relative in hospice is a tragic experience. Young Kim felt powerless watching someone she loved suffer at the hands of a disease that, at the time, she didn’t understand anything about. Watching her uncle’s health decline so quickly scarred Kim, but she did not simply allow the wound to fade, she came into adulthood with fresh skin and a passion to advocate for others like her uncle. Kim says, “I have found comfort in knowing that I am dedicating a chunk of my life to fighting this disease. Yes, it has an impact on your health, but you can live long and healthy. You can still have a family and children. You can live just like everyone else. I just wish my uncle knew that.”
Despite the progress our society has made, HIV/AIDS is still seen as a tragedy that diagnosed individuals bring on themselves. It is assumed that the one with the disease was reckless in how they lived their life, and because of that contracted something that will inevitably kill them. We do our fellow humans a disservice with such a mentality. HIV/AIDS is a disease of a behavior; not one that impacts one particular type of person. Kim understands the difficulty that people living with HIV/AIDS face with their health.
“I am becoming the professional that people living with HIV come to. No one should face HIV or AIDS alone, so I am happy I can be that person. There are a lot of struggles people with HIV deal with. Healthcare in this country is challenging for everyone, but its a greater challenge for those with the disease. Part of my job as a medical case manager is helping people living with HIV/AIDS navigate the healthcare system, but a big part of it is helping them realize that they are still a whole person.”
While advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS, Kim, whose full name is Kimberly Huggins, is also receiving her Master’s in Social Work and PhD in Human Sexuality from Widener University. It’s only natural to wonder how she manages everything on her plate.
“I call myself a trap scholar, because essentially, I’m trapping too.”
For those unfamiliar, trap is a verb, it means selling dope to support oneself and/or family. Check-out Future, Trap Nigga and Fetty Wap, Trap Queen for further study. Kim, much like those who spend their time hustling, is setting shop in grad school, moving books, grinding with papers, and knows that her degrees are her big payout.
“It’s a grind trying to get good grades, make the right connections and soak in all the information. It’s not easy. Being in grad school, I feel like I have way less time to sit back and kick up my feet. In my previous graduate program, I worked full-time, went to school, but I was still able to be ‘turnt up on a Tuesday’. Now that I am in the last phase of a my academic schooling, there’s a lot more pressure. Whatever steps I take now will have an impact on my career moving forward. I aspire to be a sex therapist, professor and public advocate in the public health realm, but I know I need to be strategic because there is no blueprint for success.”
Although Kim feels pressure to be great, she does not go without support. She speaks highly of her parents, a group of really good friends, her boyfriend, and God. They are the ones there with her when doubt sets in.
“When you’re in grad school, you realize you are becoming the next expert. It’s a lot of pressure to realize that you are the one becoming the next expert in the field.”
I know what you’re thinking—wow, this Kim person is a rockstar. She is in fact a rockstar! Not only is Kim pursuing higher education while counseling people living with HIV/AIDS, but she has also co-founded, Kimbritive.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, outside of her mother who Kim speaks fondly of, she did not have many women to look to.
“It’s sad that we don’t have enough women who look like us. You go to a predominantly white institution; you can count on one hand the number of black professors. There is something powerful about seeing someone from the same community as you being successful. I didn’t have many role models growing up and it motivated me to be better.”
Kimbritive, a vision that began in a Starbucks with Kim’s business partner, Brittany Brathwaite, has taken off. The women just held a workshop for young African American girls in New York City called, “How to Be A F.L.Y. Girl: First, Love Yourself.” Kimbritive sailed to California, Virginia, and Atlanta, and plan to visit Syracuse in March as they continue to empower young women through their life’s journey with knowledge about “sexual health, reproductive justice and everything else in between.”
The work Kim does in the classroom, on the streets, and at the office is inspiring. She speaks proudly of her peers who she describes as role models, but she herself has set an incredible bar, and many are watching.
“My goddaughter wants an American Doll for Christmas, with natural hair that looks like mine, and it doesn’t exist. She asked for an American doll that looks like me and it doesn’t exist. Her request touched me, you have to live a life of purpose because you don’t know who is watching.”
It’s safe to say that many are watching Kim as she grows in her journey. She hopes to plant seeds in people, to create change that benefits society, and I have no doubt that she will in fact do it.
We are two dynamic, passionate and energetic agents of change from Brooklyn, NY who unapologetically believe in the importance of having real conversations with the goal of educating and empowering communities about sexual health, reproductive justice and everything in between! With backgrounds in Public Health and Social Work, we merge our experiences and schools of thought into interactive skill-building workshops to service the emerging needs of young people, youth service providers and adults.