Sojourner Truth Institute Honors Explorers Founder

Battle Creek (MICH.)-On November 19th, the Sojourner Truth Institute of Battle Creek, Michigan, presented Sonya Bernard-Hollins with an award in honor of women who give back. The inaugural Dr. Velma Laws Clay Vanguard Award was presented to Bernard-Hollins for her work with youth and Michigan African American history.

Some of the Explorers attend the event and pose with Bernard-Hollins after she received her award.

The Institute cited the recipient’s dedication for history as a charter member of the Sojourner Truth Committee responsible for the Sojourner Truth Monument in Battle Creek, her work as author of Here I Stand: A Musical History of African Americans in Battle Creek, MI; and as founder of the Merze Tate Explorers youth organization, among many other accolades.

Descendants of Truth, and more than 200 community leaders, students, and supporters came to the event held at the First United Methodist Church in Battle Creek (the same church the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at in 1961). Bernard-Hollins, center, poses with Kimberly Holley and Vivian Laws Ritter of the Sojourner Truth Institute surrounded by descendants of Sojourner Truth.



The entire event focused around youth as the Sojourner Truth Choir, and youth theatre presented history and song in honor of Sojourner Truth. The tireless efforts of the late Dr. Velma Laws Clay also was recognized as a leader in community pride and history preservation. Youth actors share the life of Sojourner Truth and her famous, “Ain’t I a Woman” speech.