Shipe receives signature Rotary award

Susan EspirituDowntown, Our Town Neighbors

Vivian Shipe and I AM the Voice of the Voiceless received the 2023 Peace Award from the Rotary Club of Knoxville. The presentation was May 16 at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Shipe is the seventh recipient of the Peace Award. The previous winners were Yassin Terou of Yassin’s Falafel, the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, the Community Law Office, Bridge Refugee Services, C.O.N.N.E.C.T. Ministries, and the YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley, according to Brooks Clark of the club.

In a letter to Shipe, club president Bill MacGrath said Shipe and her organization embody “the ideas manifested in Rotary International’s vision to make a positive and peace-building impact on our community and the world.” MacGrath added: “The availability to access community resources established by I AM the Voice of the Voiceless has strengthened our community’s severely low-income citizens, who believe they do not matter and feel they have no voice nor representation, by committing to walk with them to help them create a better everyday life.”

In a June 2022 article in KnoxTNToday, Betty Bean wrote that Shipe picks purple, a hybrid color, like America. Bean asked Shipe why she was running for election as a county commissioner at-large. Shipe explained that she had wanted to run before after “being on the other side of the podium” for 50 years, bringing issues to the city council, county commission and school board. “But I got caught up by the Hatch Act.” Since her retirement from the U.S. Postal Service, Shipe was free to run. She lost that first race, however, to newcomer Kim Ingram Frazier.  Bean’s Article 

Shipe said she understood that running at-large meant more work: “I’ve been in all different parts of the county, and I’ve seen all those needs. Everything I have done has been at-large, and I’ve been helping people I don’t know for a long time. Need doesn’t see color, doesn’t see party. I see it from a human standpoint. The Lord says put your hand to the plow and don’t look back.”

Shipe chose the color purple to illustrate her campaign literature because purple isn’t a primary color – it’s a hybrid, like America. Bean wrote that Shipe has three children, James Shipe Jr., Jacob Shipe and Madonna Murphy, as well as eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren (three of whom were born 10 days apart). She is raising two of her grandchildren, Kaden and Aaliyah, both students at West High School.

Shipe said folks feel they haven’t been heard. “I deal with the person who’s right there in front of me. … People are reaching out, hurting. There’s loneliness, frustration, a feeling of inability to control their circumstances. That Covid – you couldn’t make it go away. But the Lord says to put your hand to the plow and don’t look back, so I get up every morning and give it my best for 12-14 hours.”

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