Birdie Maxwell named a Muhammad Ali Scholar and first student-athlete in the prestigious program

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Birdie Maxwell Photo Courtesy Sherlene Shanklin

By Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 ABC Louisville

They call her ‘birdie’ because her mother called her an early bird. Now, the Louisville Cardinal will take a month overseas exploring social justice issues as part of a prestigious program. The University of Louisville rower Kyelia ‘Birdie’ Maxwell talks about being named a Muhammad Ali Scholar. 

Birdie says she was absolutely amazed I was even selected as a student athlete but as a student in the university to be part of such an important program and such an important part of UofL’s history, of Louisville’s history, the home of Muhammad Ali I felt honored that they would allow me to be apart of the program with a bunch of other amazing students. 

The UofL rower is the first student-athlete to be named a Muhammad Ali Scholar since its inception six years ago.  Birdie says “I honestly didn’t think it was that big until everyone was texting me, emailing me saying congratulations its such an honor.”

The Biology and fine arts major grew up in Clarksville, TN. Both of her parents served in the military giving her an opportunity to see the world.  She says “my mom was in the air force for five years and then my dad was in the army for 32 years. I’ve lived in Germany, Korea, I went on vacation well I guess you wont call a vacation it was more of a senior trip to Spain, London, France, stayed in Austria and I stayed in Peru as well.”

Birdie had several options to attend college but knew UofL was the right fit.  “When I came on this campus-I just fell in love with the campus automatically and plus I was introduced to rowing” says Maxwell.  

I asked her with social unrest in the city and around the world. Birdie says she wants to be a part of change.  She goes on to say that she even participating in the campus protest lead by the men’s basketball team. 
“I think with all the injustice that’s happening in Louisville and especially in Minneapolis with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor it really feels close to home with Breonna Taylor being that I want to go into medicine. Im a Black woman and I live in Louisville. I think I have some type of personal connection where I thought it could have been me!

If Birdie had the opportunity… she’d like to help change laws. She remains positive while keeping her eye on the prize just like Muhammad Ali both with the mentality of wanting to shake up and change the world . 

She says “I would like to become a doctor and be that face of change for young black students, brown students, people in poverty, underprivileged children to look up to me and say I can do that.”

Birdie recently had hip surgery but we hope to see here on the water soon. As for her role as a Muhammad Ali Scholar she will take about a month oversees to explore justice issues in a different cultural, political, social, and economic context. Here’s the 2021  Ali Scholars: Lorenzo Rowan, Shradda Patel, Taylor Griffith, Edison Pleasants, Maegan Heller, Ashley Aguilera-Rico, Pamambuna Touray, Kaylee Boyd and Kyelia Maxwell. 

Sherlene & Birdie Maxwell

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.com or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

To see story click the link -> https://www.whas11.com/article/features/kyelia-birdie-maxwell-muhammad-ali-scholar/417-4f3f9af8-b936-456d-a30b-1d1186660917

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Kentucky Representative Pamela Stevenson gives a passionate testimony

Kentucky Rep. Pamela Stevenson

By Sherlene Shanklin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentuckians who may not have known freshman state Rep. Pamela Stevenson likely do following a heartfelt, impromptu speech given as the legislative session came to a close.

The retired Air Force Colonel and associate minister at Oak Grove Baptist Church represents District 43.

As lawmakers worked against the clock to finish bills, veto overrides and other business, Stevenson chose to speak after listening to Rep. Fugate (R-84) during a debate over the partial ban on no-knock search warrants.

“Banning no-knock warrants? That’s not the answer,” Fugate said. “Our society will never get better until we’re allowed to lift up the name of Christ in the public sector again.”

According to Stevenson, Fugate then said, “Life was good in America until 1962 when they took prayer out of the schools. God calls us to love everyone.”

She had decided she was not going to say anything because everything had been said then she heard another representative speak. She said the lawmaker is a friend and pastor but she couldn’t let the moment be lost.

“I start sitting in my seat and I get irritated because in 1962 life for African American and brown people sucked,” Stevenson said. “You could be lynched, raped, you couldn’t walk down the street, you had no freedom.”

She chose respond to the lawmaker who she considers a friend.

“You want to tell me about putting God back in schools? Well, put Christ back in Christians,” Stevenson said. “Don’t you dare ever propose to know what it’s like to be less than, what it’s like to be in a country that disowns you, what it’s like to be lynched, what it’s like to be raped, what it’s like to be a nothing.”

While trying to put her mask back on after the speech, Stevenson said she noticed a crowd beginning to grow around her.

“Other representatives started coming up to me either wanting to hug, saying they didn’t want to break the rules or ‘I want to say thank you,'” Stevenson said. “And my friend who made the statement came to me we had a great, beautiful conversation.”

Life before politics

Stevenson was born and raised in Louisville — her parents still live in her childhood home in West Louisville. She attended Shawnee and graduated from Brown High School before joining the US Air Force.

During her 27 years of service, Stevenson said she lived in 11 different countries and several parts of the United States.

“Then I switched over and became a JAG [Judge Advocate General],” Stevenson said. “So I spent most of my time in the legal world, training people, prosecuting. I was chief criminal defense attorney, negotiating contracts, running my own office and deploying to Croatia, Bosnia and Africa.”

Because she’s traveled the world, Stevenson said she understands the common thread that unites everyone.

“Whether I was In Europe, Africa, the Middle East or California, what I discovered was we all basically want the same thing,” Stevenson said. “They want their children to grow up and be better than them, they want to leave their children something and they want their life to matter.”

Now, she’s using her knowledge to represent a district stretching from Brownsboro Road to the Portland neighborhood and a portion of West Louisville.

“You can’t tell me how things are for me when you don’t know,” Stevenson said. “All people, all lives have different experiences than yours and don’t be presumptive to know you understand. Listen and ask, and then based on what they say — not what you think —  come up with a solution.”

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.com or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

To see television of my story click the link provided -> https://www.whas11.com/article/news/politics/pamela-stevenson-louisville-rep-air-force-colonel/417-e130961a-eb46-4afc-8074-25cf1583b4a5

What do you know about Kentucky native Whitney Young Jr.?

Lincoln Institute remembers civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr.’s historical impact on Kentucky, nation

He’s advised presidents and even held the top post at the National Urban League. Young also had a role in the famous March on Washington more than 50 years ago.

Photo Courtesy: The Lincoln Institute

The Lincoln Institute remembers civil rights leader Kentucky native Whitney M. Young Jr.’s and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement

By Sherlene Shanklin

SIMPSONVILLE, Ky. — Whitney M. Young Jr. had the respect of many, especially around the state of Kentucky.

He was an advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.

Young was born on the campus of the Lincoln Institute – a boarding high school for Blacks created by trustees of Berea College after integrated education was outlawed in Kentucky in 1904 due to the Day Law.

“I am not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless.”.

He served as president for the National Urban League and played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement.

“He was part of the Big 6 and how President Nixon even asked him to be part of his cabinet and he felt like he could do more for us as a race if he used his platform versus being in the cabinet,” Vivian Warren Overall, a retired community member and Lincoln Foundation board of trustee member said.

Young also helped organized the March on Washington for jobs and freedom with his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His parents also played an important role in history.

“Whitney Young Sr. was the first African American president of Lincoln Institute certainly having his own prominence as well as Whitney Jr.’s mom was the first African American postmaster in Kentucky and second in the nation,” Paula Campbell, development director said.

The permanent exhibit in Young’s childhood home is like taking a journey to the past. Campbell said there’s so much history – not just Kentucky history but US history that’s steeped on the land.

Young died on March 11, 1971 at the age of 49.

“He was overseas in Lagos, Nigeria for a conference and had gone swimming and the story is that he drowned,” Campbell said. “Some suspect that was not the case, including his sister. He was a champion swimmer she does not believe he accidentally drowned.”

Campbell explained there are many people who believe that Young may have been one of the leaders during the movement that may have been assassinated. She said it’s something they will never know because it’s been a big mystery.

“President Nixon sent his personal jet over to bring his body back and at that time – one of the Tuskegee Airmen flew that jet now that was special,” Overall said.

Young’s funeral was held in Kentucky with thousands in attendance which included Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King. The eulogy was given by President Nixon.

“The funeral procession part of it came back here to the campus and circled the campus. That was his last ride,” Overall said.

What would Young think about the fight for social justice happening now?  

“I think this correlation between the 1960’s and now – because all of the things he did to fight for equal rights,” Campbell said.

To see the story click the following link-> https://www.whas11.com/article/news/local/black-history/whitney-m-young-jr-black-history-month-draft/417-edb48591-ade6-4b58-8a16-26bad7b8b721

►Contact The VIPP Report’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@vippcommunications.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.