The 2021 Bloomington-Normal Alumnae Chapter Community Award is being presented to Miss Shirley Boykin in the areas of Arts & Letters, Educational Development, Social Action and Economic Development.
Shirley is best known for her 35 years as Director of the Sunbeam Choir at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. Many of the African American children who excel in community programs like the NAACP ACT-SO, started in Miss Shirley’s Sunbeam choir, where she encourages even the youngest to solo. She teaches the children to sing with passion and energy, and to speak up with confidence. She also has helped develop young people by serving on the Pratt Music Foundation Board of Advisors, as emcee of the Minority Academic Achievement Reception for 22 years, as Cultural arts coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club, and as a Girl Scout volunteer. Furthering her own, development, Shirley participated in the Leadership McLean County Class of 2001.
Shirley has lent her voice and leadership to social justice/arts initiatives by serving as music director/assistant director for ISU’s “Music Comes in All Colors,” the Martin Luther King United Gospel Singers (31 years) and the American Passion Play (31 years). She led several “Not In Our Town” anti-racism marches in song, led singing at an anti-racism “Journey against Hate” rally in Peoria, and orchestrated the 1995 “March for Jesus” rally, crossing racial boundaries in bringing together churches from across the community. When the Harlem Gospel Choir came to Bloomington in 2008, Shirley led a group of youth to provide a free gospel choir demonstration before the concert. She has also formed ensembles to bring gospel music to Immanuel Foundation’s Holiday Women’s Breakfasts; State Farm Holiday in the Atrium, Juneteenth, Cultural Fest, and MLK Human Relations Commissions Awards programs. Her efforts often bring the African American community presence and excellence to events which have very little diversity.
Shirley’s volunteer work that contributed more directly to economic development include directing music for the Habitat for Humanity “Love Thy Neighbor” fundraiser concerts and leading the Mt. Pisgah Clothing Pantry, which provides clothing for those in need.
Shirley received the Bloomington Martin Luther King Award in 1999. In 2001, she was a recipient of the 25 Woman in Leadership in Central Illinois Award and was recognized by the ISU Black Graduate Student Association’ Tribute to Black Women for her community leadership. In 2003, she was nominated by Bloomington High School students and received the African American History Month Award presented by State Representative Dan Brady.
On behalf of the women of the Bloomington-Normal Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, it is our esteemed honor to present our 2021 Five-Star Community Award to Miss Shirley Boykins.
~ Nominated by Soror Meta Mickens-Baker