YWCA honors three SJC women with 2023 Racial Justice Awards

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 12:16 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The YWCA North Central Indiana recognizes three St. Joseph County women who go above and beyond to further racial justice in our community by naming them the 2023 Racial Justice Awards finalists.

The IU Civil Rights Heritage Center in South Bend served as an appropriate venue for the award ceremony, as it was once a segregated swimming pool, now serving as an eclectic learning center.

Civil rights activist Ella Baker, whom one of the awards is named after, believed a strong community was centered around unlocking the power of every person, and that’s what the three award recipients strive to achieve for our community.

“We are honoring people who have made incredible contributions in the area of racial justice, and we’re highlighting their accomplishments,” says Susan Tybon, President & CEO of the YWCA North Central Indiana. “We are very involved in the area of racial justice throughout the year, in between the awards, and sometimes, there are people that really stand out to us as people who are doing a lot in our community.”

Pastor Ivy Butler and Bernice Freeman received the YWCA Sojourner Truth Award, and Shay Davis received the Ella Baker Woman Arising Award.

“I’m just humbled to even be a recipient today,” says Shalon “Shay” Davis, Director of Community Outreach for the Office of the Mayor (South Bend). “I think it’s awesome because, during my work with the city of South Bend for 25 years, I’ve been able to be involved in a lot of different events and be a part of many different organizations, to believe in justice and stand for what Ella Baker stood for.”

Davis, a dedicated public servant, says that her passion for helping people is what keeps her going.

“Just to see a smile on someone’s face or for someone to come back and simply say thank you is very humbling because we come across a lot of different situations and a lot of different issues that can sometimes be like, okay, how are we going to work this one out, but when you are able to work it out and make a difference in someone’s life, at the end of the night, that’s just a very humbling feeling,” Davis said.

Davis says that only by working together can we achieve our goals.

“It’s not work for me; it’s passion,” Davis said. “I enjoy the work I do. I enjoy engaging with our residents. I enjoy engaging with different community members, working with elected officials to help bring everyone together, and seeing what I can do to help everyone feel at home, feel like they’re being heard, and then help make a significant change for the community.”

In closing, Susan Tybon says that we all must fight injustice to realize our true potential as a society.

“I think that we as a society can’t afford to take any of our privileges for granted, and so, I think we always have to be on the lookout for injustice and think of ways we can shed light on the truth and stand against injustice, so we continue to move in the right direction.”

The IU Civil Rights Heritage Center is located at 1040 West Washington Street, South Bend, IN, 46601.

16 News Now has enclosed a press release from the YWCA regarding the award recipients below:

Community leaders, including CEO Susan Tybon and Mayor James Mueller, recognized the award recipients at a ceremony at the Civil Rights Heritage Center in South Bend. “It is a pleasure each year to shine the spotlight on remarkable advocates who use their voice to further the work of racial justice and embody the mission of the YWCA to eliminate racism and empower women,” said Tybon.

This year, two community members received Sojourner Truth Awards, and one received the Ella Baker Woman Arising Award. A former slave, Sojourner Truth became an outspoken advocate for civil and women’s rights in the nineteenth century. Ella Josephine Baker was a civil and human rights activist whose career spanned more than five decades. In New York City and the South, she worked alongside some of the most noted civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr.

Shalon “Shay” Davis, Ella Baker Woman Arising Award

Shalon, known by many as “Shay,” is a committed public servant who has served the people of South Bend since 1998 and currently serves as Director of Community Outreach for Mayor James Mueller. Throughout her career, she has focused on helping make the city of South Bend the best place to live for all community members.

Shalon served as the city’s United Way Coordinator; she volunteers her services with Mamas Against Violence (MAVs), serves as the Community Relations Coordinator for the St. Joseph County African American Democratic Coalition, volunteers with the annual Martin Luther King celebration, and spearheaded the Black History month honor tributes, ceremony, and billboards to recognize our local African American public servants on behalf of the City of South Bend.

Pastor Ivy Butler, Sojourner Truth Award

Ivy Butler is the Pastor of Power and Praise Crusade Ministries and has utilized that role to lift up others. Ivy has been given opportunities to serve in many capacities within the church because of her attitude of being a mentor to young women, a daughter to older Women, and a sister to her generation. In 2018 she established a monthly empowerment session for women called #L3-LeadLearnLive. Because of their passion for education, Ivy and her late husband established a k thru 12 private Christian school called New Vision Christian Academy, and she established the Bishop Rico A. Butler Foundation in his honor.

As an associate professor in education at IU South Bend, Ivy enjoys teaching young people how to be effective educators and work to improve the educational system. She is the founding member of the South Bend Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 black women, an organization that strives to make a significant difference for black women and girls in our community.

Bernice Baul Freeman, Sojourner Truth Award

For decades, Bernice Freeman has worked for racial and social justice and equity in her hometown of South Bend, and at the age of 80, she has no plans to stop! Her most recent project is the establishment of an African American Resource and Cultural Center, something she feels is especially essential today because of a ban on some books that define the African American experience and history.

A breast cancer survivor, Bernice started the Reaching Out Breast Cancer Center in 1999 to encourage and support African American women in the community who felt it was taboo to talk about their bodies. Bernice has long been recognized as a powerful voice in the areas of racial and social justice and has received over 40 awards for her work, including the Drum Major Award, the Key to the City of South Bend, and a certificate of Appreciation from the Indiana Black Expo.