• Center For Neighborhoods

Louisville Women Who Inspire Us

In honor of Women's History Month, the Center For Neighborhoods staff took some time to reflect on the Louisville women who most inspire us. Here are the women who topped our list.

Clare Wallace

Clare is the Director of South Louisville Community Ministries. Through her leadership she has been able to bring together direct service workers to help better serve our community. Her work in South Louisville is vital to the residents who live in the area as well as throughout the city.

—Mikal Forbush, Education and Engagement Director

Phelix Crittenden

Phelix lives and fights for justice in the west end of Louisville. Phelix is a fierce and fearless advocate and warrior for housing security and anti-eviction. She is a community organizer steeped in her community and deeply invested in changing housing policy to protect her neighbors.

—Lou Lepping, Planning and Programs Associate

Hays Kennedy

Hays Kennedy was a long-time resident of the James Taylor Jacob School Neighborhood. She was a volunteer for her entire life, dedicating her time to supporting youth programming. The Hays Kennedy Park was named for her. She gave so much to her community over such a long period of time. She was a true example of a neighbor who loves the people in her neighborhood.

—Jess Brown, Planning Director

Nikki Lanier

Nikki Lanier is the senior vice president and regional executive of the Louisville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The Louisville Branch is focused on community development and education, as well as regional economic research and policy input. She was honored as one of the 40 under 40 in 2020. I am always inspired by smart people and she is one of the sharpest I have met.

—Mellone F. Long, Executive Director

Alberta Jones

Alberta Jones was a civil rights activist and the FIRST black woman prosecutor in Kentucky. She was murdered brutally and thrown off a bridge and they still don’t know who murdered her. She was the first attorney for Muhammad Ali.

What I find most inspiring about Alberta Jones is that she was a black woman attorney and she was the first. They hated her power so much they felt the need to murder her!

—Johnique Ison, Senior Neighborhood Liaison

Anna M. Wallace

Anna M. Wallace is my late grandmother. She lost her parents due to the 1937 flood and was adopted by another family. As a five-year-old one day she just started playing the piano. With no formal training and an exceptional ear she began playing at church at age nine and by the time she was in her teens she began playing in churches and for groups across the southeast. She toured well into her 50s all the while raising 8 children on her own.

My grandmother was resilient. Whenever she faced challenges (as she did for much of her life), she was focused and determined to overcome and excel for her sake and for the future of her family.

—Ja'mel Armstrong, Neighborhood Liaison

Mary Margaret Mulvihill

Mary Margaret was a beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandmother and friend. In her professional life she served as an alderwoman in Louisville and later was a public service advocate. These roles gave her the opportunity to direct her remarkable energy, kindness and resourcefulness to benefit the community—particularly those in need.

She also served on the TARC Board of Directors. Mary Margaret went door to door in 1974 in support of a referendum, which increased our occupational tax to create TARC and fund mass transit here in Louisville.

Her many volunteer activities included her longtime service at the St. John’s Center for Men and her work with Coalition for the Homeless. Mary Margaret was consistently kind and caring to almost all people that crossed paths with her. She saw the best in us.

—Prasanthi Persad, Finance and Development Director

Johnique Ison

Johnique is a young professional who works as a Senior Neighborhood Liaison at Center for Neighborhoods. She's had plenty of experience working within communities and with underrepresented groups, implementing changes among both. Johnique is a University of Louisville graduate and is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work at the University of Louisville. Johnique is extremely knowledgeable and very active within the city of Louisville and is a great role model for young black women in the city.

Johnique is the rose that grew from concrete. She has overcome a lot and never let her experiences define her. She doesn't use her past circumstances as an excuse to not succeed. Instead, she exemplifies fortitude and seeks out the proper resources and tools necessary to succeed. In addition to helping herself, she helps anyone she can. Johnique is often sharing information about resources, networks, and grants that can be of assistance to those in need. She shares the knowledge she has and empowers others in the process. Johnique is a champion of the people, but she is also her own true champion and inspires me to be the same.

—Tahjena Muldrow, Neighborhood Liaison

Dr. Lilialyce Akers

As stated by The Kentucky Commission on Women, Dr. Akers was "a petite woman with a soft-spoken voice, but when she detects inequality or injustice, it's with the roar of a lion that she goes to work as a catalyst for change. As an educator, Dr. Akers' involvement never stopped at the classroom door. She encouraged her students to participate in the passage of the Kentucky Equal Rights Amendment and the march in D.C. to support the national ERA. In the 1980's, Akers helped organize the first show for women-owned businesses in Kentucky. In 1993, Dr. Akers attended the UN's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and was later named Program Chair for the national conference on sustainable development that drew more than 2,000 people from all 50 states and six foreign countries. Akers is a representative to the UN Commission on Women, and has presented seminars at the UN's Third and Fourth World Conferences in Kenya and China. Dr. Akers has been actively involved with BPW at both the local and national levels encouraging women to break through the glass ceiling and challenge the status quo. Her work on the BPW Foundation has provided mature women with scholarships to improve their education and advance their careers."

What I find most inspiring about Dr. Akers is her environmental advocacy and her staunch support for women's rights. I was fortunate enough to be her research assistant in the late 1970's and early 80's at the University of Louisville where Dr. Akers founded and directed the Women's Studies Program. She was a nurturing mentor and someone I will always be thankful to have known and called a friend.

—Christi Stevens, GIS and Data Coordinator