The Pauli Murray Award

Established in 1990, the Pauli Murray Award commemorates the life of the late Reverend Dr. Pauli Murray (1910-1985), a distinguished and remarkable person who confronted discrimination, racism, and sexism in her own life.  The Pauli Murray Award is presented annually by the Orange County Human Relations Commission to an Orange County youth, an Orange County adult, and an Orange County business that have served the community with distinction in the pursuit of equality, justice, and human rights for all residents.  Click here for information on the most recent and upcoming Pauli Murray Awards event.

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31st Annual Pauli Murray Awards

This year's Pauli Murray Awards was held virtually via Zoom Webinar on Sunday, February 28, 2021 at 3:00 pm.

Watch the recording below! *Program begins at 6:00*

Adult Winner

Photo-Quinton Harper_Adult WinnerQuinton Harper studied journalism and political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for his service in the National Black AIDS Movement.

Quinton is an HIV activist, voting rights advocate, community organizer , political campaigns manager, and public service leader . He led his first campaign at the age of 15 and has supported local grassroots leaders and candidates to turn their protests into politics for nearly 20 years.

Quinton serves as the visionary team-leader for Activate! IFC, a voting and advocacy project with the local Inter-Faith Council for Social Services. He chairs the Affordable Housing Commission and serves on the Human Services Board in Carrboro, where he works to connect and expand access for more people to participate in local government and civic culture.

Quinton received the North Carolina ACLU Champions of Liberty Award in 2017, and the Charlotte Powerhouse Project’s Power of One Award in 2016. His heroes are Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, and his late aunt, Minnie Harper.


Youth Winner

Photo-Savannah Clay_Youth WinnerSavannah Clay is an eighteen year old Senior at Orange High School. She comes from a close-knit family of six, and is passionate about helping others and fighting for social justice through equity work and beyond. As President of the Minorities Achievement Program (MAP) and a leading member of The Equity Team at her high school, she's been able to help uplift students of color and students from other marginalized groups by amplifying their voices and providing them with a safe space.

Outside of school, she's actively a part of clubs such as The Mayor’s Leadership Club that also seeks to target and address issues within the Hillsborough community. She believes she's become a better person and leader thanks to these clubs, and she love them dearly! After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill or Duke University, she desires to become a teacher because she love working with children.

Business Winner

Present Day on Main is co-owned by Sophie Suberman and Soteria Shepperson.Photo-Present Day on Main logo

Photo-Present Day on Main owners_Business winner






Photo by: Landon T. Bost

Sophie Suberman is a co-owner of Present Day on Main and a co-founder of Grow Your World, a community engagement and development program that partners with local schools and universities, community members and organizations to create access to opportunities and build intergenerational, multiracial networks of support for youth.

Sophie is passionate about community, equity, reciprocity and love (a simple word with complex application!). She values practice and engagement, learning through experiences to improve her ability to be part of diverse communities and develop organizations that empower and support their staff. A native of Chapel Hill, she believes in a Chapel Hill that reckons with its privilege and its powerhoarding so that all voices are heard and all citizens participate in building an interconnected, empowered and loving community. 

She is honored to be receiving this award with Soteria to honor all the work they and their staff do to embody Pauli Murray's mission and legacy.

Soteria Shepperson, known as “I AM SOTERIA”, is a first generation college graduate, graduating from George Mason University. She is a woman of color who identifies as Espresso. She finds herself paving lanes in concrete, identifying as an artivist (art + activist), a culture shifter and sustainer. Shepperson anticipated basketball to be her ticket out , but began sustaining physical injuries in high school that ended her career. Poetry became a therapeutic tool that she used to get out of hardships, connecting early on with the legacies of influencers such as Maya Angelou, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nikki Giovanni.   

Her work centers purpose, not in what one is able to do, but in who one was born to become. She challenges stereotypes of colorism, sexism, racism, and stigmas of criminality that she witnessed in her life and through the experiences that have be lived and overcome by others, inviting herself and others to be the heroes they’ve been waiting for. Her recent work encourages courage to move from a place of outraged witnessing to courageous participation in dismantling unjust systems.  

In addition she and her partner co-own Present Day on Main which is a local coffee shop in Carrboro, NC that infuses social justice, equity and hope by diversifying their customer base, being intentional about using art to invite community and justice while making sure things like coffee and tea are served. They work to transform narratives renaming the business in January of 2021 to Present Day on Main in hopes we all learn that the past can help us LIVE in the Present.  

Soteria is also the Co-Founder of Grow Your World which is a nonprofit organization that operates a youth-driven community engagement and development program. GYW is grounded in the belief that equity and access benefit everyone and create win-win-win dynamics for people, the community, and the planet. 

 Shepperson has performed internationally, in schools, prisons, at conferences and notably the International Civil Rights Museum and the 2019 and 2020 Women’s March (Raleigh, NC).

Receiving this award speaks to who Soteria is on every level, to her humanity, her artistry, her business approach and most importantly to the Living Legacy she is hoping to give and not just leave.  

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Keynote Speaker

Nikki Giovanni HeadshotNikki Giovanni is a poet, Fisk University graduate, and a University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech. Through more than two dozen volumes of poetry, essays, books, and other works, Nikki has raised awareness of social issues of race and gender through writing.

Among Nikki's numerous accomplishments are an unprecedented 7 NAACP Image Awards, a Grammy nomination, a finalist for the National Book Award, over 20 honorary degrees, and 3 "New York Times" and "Los Angeles Times" Best Sellers, which is highly unusual for a poet.

Featured Guests

Jaki Shelton Green HeadshotJaki Shelton Green, ninth Poet Laureate of North Carolina is the first African American and third woman to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate. She is a 2019 Academy of American Poet Laureate Fellow, 2014 NC Literary Hall of Fame Inductee, 2009 NC Piedmont Laureate appointment, 2003 recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature. Jaki Shelton Green teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and has been named the 2021 Frank B. Hanes Writer in Residence at UNC Chapel Hill. Her publications include: Dead on Arrival, Masks, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song, Feeding the Light, i want to undie you. On Juneteenth 2020, she released her first LP, poetry album, The River Speaks of Thirst, produced by Soul City Sounds and Clearly Records. Jaki Shelton Green is the owner of SistaWRITE providing writing retreats for women writers in Sedona Arizona, Martha’s Vineyard, Ocracoke North Carolina, Northern Morocco, and Tullamore Ireland.

Alani Rouse HeadshotAlani Rouse is a young adult poet from Orange County and current student at UNC Greensboro studying Psychology. Alani began taking poetry seriously in high school and was a part of BlackSpace. Alani’s work explores themes of social issues, blackness, sexuality and identity. Alani is most passionate about dismantling the school to prison pipeline, education and mental health as it pertains to black and brown youth. In 2019, Alani won the National Juvenile Justice Network’s (NJJN) Young Justice Leader Award. Most recently, Alani has performed work at Poetic Justice, a social justice spoken word event sponsored by EmancipateNC.

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Pauli Murray Award Winners

Year Youth Adult Business
1990 -- Louise Echols
Ralph Pendergraph
Rev. Tim Kimrey
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1991 *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held
1992 *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held
1993 -- Charlotte Garth Adams --
1994 -- Midred Berkeley --
1995 -- Rebecca Clark --
1996 -- Allan "Lightning" Brown --
1997 Alicia Hermann (Keesling) Timothy Miles --
1998 Liala Edwards Hazel Lunsford --
1999 Danielle Brittany Price Aubrey Chris Nutter Weaver Street Market
2000 Jacquelyn Lynn Payne (Rogers) Bonnie B. Davis
Joe Herzenberg
Sports Endeavors
2001 Kristin Mattison Peter Richard Kramer Women's Workout Club
2002 Rachel McCook Shirley Marshall Carol Woods Retirement Community 
2003 Laura Williamson Mariah Ann McPherson Kelsey's Cafe
2004 -- Frances Finney --
2005 *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held
2006 -- Florence D. Soltys Balloons and Tunes
2007 -- Dorothy Johnson
Frances Jones
Fleet Feet Sports
2008 Camellia Lee Josephine Holman-Long Cliff's Meat Market
2009 Elizabeth McManus Robert L. Campbell DooR to DooR
2010 *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held *No Ceremony Held
2011 Joseph DeVito Maggie West Chapel Hill Rehabilitation and Healthcare
2012 Emma Morris Crystal Fisher --
2013 Desaray Rockett Judith Blau Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe
2014 Emma Catanzaro Elizabeth "Binnie" Davis
Walter Faribault, Jr. 
Music Makers Relief Foundation
2015 Linnea Van Manen
Ruth George
Reyna Rivera
Deborah Stroman
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2016 Korie Dean Flicka Bateman Mediterranean Deli
2017 Kenzi Patrick Mariela Hernandez --
2018 -- Lorie L. Clark Joe Van Gogh
2019 Thea Barrett Mae McLendon --

30th Annual Pauli Murray Awards Photos