South Bend: City Billboards Honor Local African American Leaders

February 22, 2024

As a part of Black History Month, the City of South Bend released a series of billboards in the community to honor local African American leaders who've made important contributions to South Bend's rich history and culture.

"It's important that we recognize the significant achievements that our Black leaders make in our community," said Mayor James Mueller. "I am honored to provide this special thank you and recognition to these deserving leaders for their service and countless contributions to South Bend."

The leaders being honored as a part of Black History Month are:
  • Samuel Diggins Jr.
  • Kesha (Kay) Farlow
  • Hollis Hughes Jr.
  • Arnez Lee
  • Diana Miller
  • Earl Townsend Jr.

Leaders Under 40 Award
  • Alexaundria Groves

Obama Award
  • Brian Frazier

Special Tribute
  • Charlotte Pfeifer

The honorees will be featured on three digital billboards located at South Bend Ave. & Edison, Lincolnway East & Ironwood Dr. and South Michigan and Ireland for one week starting February 19 until February 25.

Additionally, Mayor James Mueller will host an Awards Ceremony and Reception for this year's honorees on Thursday, February 22 at 6:00pm at the Charles Black Community Center. This event is free and open to the public.

Please see the biographies of the honorees below:

Samuel Diggins Jr.

Samuel Diggins Jr. is a lifelong resident of South Bend. He attended Riley High school graduating in 1980, furthering his education at Vincennes University.

Before applying to the South Bend Police Department, he worked with his father's company, "Diggins Painting and Drywall," learning a skill he still uses often.

In 1990 he was accepted to the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, graduating in the class of 90/99. He has worked in the positions of Patrol Officer and Corporal. He attended and graduated from the Instructor's Academy and became a Defensive Tactics Instructor for the South Bend Police Department, and in 2007 he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, by former Chief Darryl Boykins. He currently supervises the 2nd detail on the northwest and southwest sides of town.

Sergeant Diggins enjoys being a leader and role model for the men and women he supervises each shift, and also the students at Adams High School where he has worked part time security for the past 21 years and counting.

Sergeant Diggins is happily married to his loving wife, Deborah of 37 years. He is the proud father of four sons, Samuel III, Kheanan, Khamron, Khalin, and one daughter, Domonique. He is "Pawpaw" to three grandsons, who will soon be joined by another grandson and a granddaughter.

Sam has many interests including but not limited to weightlifting, working out in the CrossFit room, trying new restaurants, listening to music and playing the bass guitar. He recorded an album with the gospel group The True Tones titled "Believe it, Receive it" where he was the bass player of the band. Sam has recently accepted his call to the Ministry where he has served under his father's leadership at Believers Church of God in Christ for the past 37 years.

Get Aways and Long Cruises with his wife, and their travel buddies which consist of family, are always a great time, and anticipated whenever he gets the opportunity. Sergeant Diggins looks forward to continuing to serve his community with dignity, pride, and honor.

Kesha (Kay) Farlow

Kesha (Kay) Farlow grew up in South Bend, Indiana, raised in a single-parent household as one of eight children. Experiencing poverty and struggle firsthand, she was driven to build a better life through education and entrepreneurship.

She earned her bachelor's degrees in marketing and business administration from Indiana University South Bend, and completed her MBA with a perfect 4.0 GPA through ITT Technical Institute's online program. Since 2001, Kay has been continuously learning about money, real estate, and wealth building, obtaining professional licenses in real estate, mortgages, life insurance, and investments.

In 2017, an article on South Bend's racial wealth divide inspired Kay's vision for the IMPower Center. She began regularly commuting from her Indianapolis home to serve the South Bend community's financial needs. As a Regional Vice President with Primerica Financial Services, Kay purchased a commercial building in South Bend to open both a financial brokerage and the IMPower Center.

The IMPower Center provides space for local and national businesses focused on community development through entrepreneurship, home ownership, wealth building, life skills, mentoring, and social services. Its mission is to properly plant, protect and prepare families for generational empowerment.

Hollis Hughes Jr.

Having moved here at the age of seven from Oklahoma, Mr. Hollis E. Hughes Jr. is a lifelong resident of South Bend. He and his family migrated to South Bend to escape the worst of segregation and seek better employment.

He married Lavera Knight, an educator who was active in the South Bend Community School Corporation, who passed away from a heart attack in 2016 after 49 years of marriage.

He is currently married to Roxann Pedesclaux since 2022, who was a social worker and community activist in her own right. He has deep familial connections in South Bend and his favorite parts of the city of South Bend are the change of seasons and the openness of the community. A community he feels every individual can make a difference in.

Hollis completed his BS in Education from Ball State University in 1965 where he has maintained an active connection as a member of the alumni community by serving on the board of trustees at the university and by being a member and president of the alumni association. Upon graduation he became a social studies teacher at LaSalle Academy in South Bend, a job he says was the best he ever had because of how connected he felt to the students and their success.

Originally, Hollis aspired to be a college professor of sociology or psychology, but he found being on the ground on helping others in his local community was more fulfilling and engaging. During his career, he often spoke to groups of young people and college students and feels he managed to get the best of both worlds anyway. Hollis was drawn to work in human resource management working with community resources, education initiatives, and other programs to get resources to the people who need it most. He continued this career path of service until his retirement as President and CEO of the United Way of St. Joesph County in 2007 due to health reasons.

Since retiring he continues this lifelong tradition of service through his work with the alumni association at Ball State; working to ensure the administration is "walking the walk".

His advice to others who aspire to serve their community is that we are never truly alone, recognize, that "everybody needs somebody", and that no action (no matter how small) is significant as every act can be an inspiration to others.

Arnez Lee

Arnez Lee is a lifelong South Bend, Indiana resident who is a devoted wife, mother, and grandmother.

Arnez graduated from Washington High School, Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications, Indiana Wesleyan University with a Master of Business Administration and Principal Licensure Certificate, and Indiana University with a Master of Science in Education with a Counseling and Human Services concentration.

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Arnez has served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University South Bend for the last two years in the Counseling and Human Services Department where she's enjoyed helping to shape and prepare future School Counselors for the rigorous but important task of preparing our youth for their future.

As a proud product of the Westside, Arnez currently serves as the Guidance Director at her alma mater, Washington High School. Her true passion is working with students and their families to help them pursue and achieve their life goals and succeed after high school.

She has worked in the community with youth in various capacities such as Twenty-first Century Scholars, University of Notre Dame Upward Bound, Michiana Pop Warner, River City, and WHS' Parent Football Booster Club to name a few, for the last 30 years.

Arnez has also coached girls' and boys' basketball teams over the years as she is an avid sports fanatic who can frequently be found cheering on her own kids and those of the community as they compete! She and her family often work the scorers' table at most WHS boys' and girls' basketball games, which she loves to do! She firmly believes that athletics is an avenue to build character and integrity and teach skills that students need to WIN in the game of LIFE!

Arnez is a longtime Greater Saint John Missionary Baptist Church member where Andre A. McGhee is her Pastor.

Arnez is also a member and Immediate Past President of the South Bend Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, where she has served in various leadership positions and currently chairs the Education Committee.

Arnez has always been driven to guide and develop students in the South Bend area because of her deep belief in education. Arnez truly embraces the practice of passing on the values instilled in her since childhood by her mother and community members, particularly the esteemed late Mr. Charles Martin, Sr.

She believes knowledge is power and understood that her charge was to help empower youth to be the best version of themselves through education, community service, and civic engagement! Arnez works daily to help students take control of their future, today!

Diana Miller

Diana Miller was born April 12, 1955 to Cardell and Lucy Hubbard. She and her seven brothers and sisters were raised in Buchanan, Michigan. From the time she was young, Diana was gifted to excel in music and sports. Not only did she play softball during a time before Title IX, which enhanced girls' opportunities in sports, she played piano and organ for her church and sang with her mother and brother, known as the Hubbard Singers, across the United States.

A trailblazer in many rights, it was no surprise that she caught the eye of a young man from Jackson, Mississippi, also living in Buchanan, Michigan, Eddie Miller. In July of 1973, Eddie Miller and Diana Hubbard wed and from their union was born Eddie Junior (Million) Jonathan (YPJ), Karrah and Tarrah (Micki).

A devoted wife and first lady of their ministry they founded together, Faith Apostolic Temple, Diana was also a stay-at-home mom who was committed to raising her kids in a home where God, education, service to others and love for humanity were emphasized every day.

During the Millers' time living on Blaine Avenue near Muessel Elementary, Diana was an active parent serving as a teaching assistant due to her credentials from Indiana University South Bend, and she was seen as a mom to many in the neighborhood.

Her home remedies for treating chicken pox and her famous homemade chocolate chip cookies blessed many and still do. One of the most anointed singers on the planet, Diana was signed to Tyscott Records, a national gospel recoding label, with her brother Derek Hubbard. They were known as Derek and Diana and they blessed many across the globe with their anointed songwriting and vocal performances.

Diana eventually started and managed Faith Apostolic Childcare Ministry where dozens of children and their families were blessed with safe, faith focused, early learning childcare for twenty years. Diana and her team contributed to the foundational years of NBA players, college graduates and entrepreneurs.

Today, Diana and her husband of 51 years, Bishop Eddie Miller continue to support and provide guidance to their son Pastor YPJ who is now the senior pastor of the ministry they founded over 45 years ago.

Diana is a visionary and tactical worker who prefers to be behind the scenes and out of the spotlight. Many do not realize that it is thanks to Diana's skills as a visionary and her ability to do the "in the weeds" work, that Faith Alive's architectural layout, interior design and operations are all structured the way they are.

Whether she is designing a space, cooking a meal for 300 plus people or vacuuming hundreds of square feet of space, Diana has devoted her life to loving and supporting her husband and children, serving her community and supporting the work of God and the people of Faith Alive Ministries.

In addition to being mom to Million, YPJ, Karrah, Micki and her nephew Drevon, one of her greatest joys is being "Gammy" to her grandchildren Miracle, Brianna, Zoe, Kaity, Ayanna, Million, Bryce, Calvin, Jamari, Topanga, Snookie and Bryesha.

Earl Townsend Jr.

Mr. Earl Townsend, Jr. has spent over 50 years working with the youth in South Bend and surrounding communities. He has served as a teacher, mentor, sports coach, employment coach and liaison. He has worked for the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, Family and Children Center and the South Bend and Elkhart school systems. He taught school for 27 years and coached for 40 years.

Upon completion of college in 1970, Townsend began working for Elkhart Schools at Pierre Moran Junior High School.

In 1972 he was hired by Joseph Dickey, former director of the YMCA Community Service Division in South Bend. Townsend had the duty of bringing the community to the YMCA.

As a teacher and coach, counseling students to some degree is a give; it's something one would do naturally in the course of working with young people. But Townsend has always taken it a step further.

He first became an official counselor in 1972 when he was at McKinley Elementary School where he initiated the Career Club. The program included 5th and 6th graders. Townsend remembers Dickey saying, "If we can't get blacks to come to the Y, let's take the Y to the black community." Dickey asked Townsend to organize leagues in the housing projects. So, Townsend set-up leagues for flag football, softball, and basketball; basketball drew about 100 boys. He later brought the kids into the YMCA.

Townsend also earned his WSI and became the first instructor for black children at the former South Bend Natatorium (currently the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center). At the same time, he was approached to begin the nationwide NBA-YBA Youth Basketball Association Program at the South Bend YMCA.

One of Townsend's first students in the late 1960s said he met Mr. Townsend at Pierre Moran Junior High School. He said he was a very angry 15- year-old kid headed down the wrong track until Mr. Townsend got a hold of him. He credits Mr. Townsend with being one of the most influential people in his life.

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Townsend's work history, volunteerism and mentorship has shaped the lives of many great leaders in South Bend such as: Maurice Scott, Anthony Douglas, Shawn Henderson, Derrick White, Rafael Morton, Matt Adams and many more. Townsend, in his lifetime, has touched the lives of over one thousand young people.

Alexaundria Groves

Alexaundria Groves is a proud South Bend native and graduate of John Adams High School.

She comes from a close knit family and her roots run deep in the very community that helped raise her.

A long time member of the Boys & Girls Club of St. Joseph County, which her mother was the director of for nearly 20 years, Ms. Groves has always been involved with her community and a part of community building initiatives.

She served as a Junior Volunteer for the City of South Bend with then, Asst to the Mayor, Mr. Lynn Coleman, reviewing grants for youth programming. She was also a nominee for the Boys & Girls Club Junior Youth of The Year award for service and citizenship.

Her parents and family have always instilled values of respect, service to others, compassion and hard work into her fabric.

She graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis with her Bachelor's Degree in General Studies with a Concentration on Social and Behavioral Sciences. She has a background in early childcare, criminal justice as well as community advocacy.

Ms. Groves currently works with middle and high school aged students focusing on college and career readiness programming and initiatives, including personal development.

Ms. Groves has always had a passion for youth development and working in the arts, in particular, modeling. She began her modeling journey in 2005 when she was crowned Miss Michiana.

No additional avenues were available in South Bend at that time so after graduating college she stayed in Indianapolis where she signed with a local agency. For the next few years, she used that opportunity to build her brand by gaining industry knowledge and establishing a larger network of entrepreneurs which has led to lifelong connections as well as friendships.

She was able to participate in numerous fashion shows including Women Empowerment Events, one of which honored Inspirational Speaker, Iyanla Vanzant, multiple appearances in Midwest Fashion Week and Indiana Black Expo fashion show walking for celebrity designer Korto Momolu, she has done promotional modeling for Revlon's "Creme of Nature" natural hair care brand, David's Bridal and has also been published in multiple magazines including Obscurae, Canvas Rebel and The Celebrity Online.

In 2017, she became a freelance model, representing herself and soon ventured into entrepreneurship, coaching models independently, including group sessions with her former agency.

In 2019, Ms. Groves began hosting "Faces of Our Souls" community events in Indianapolis. These events promoted positive mental health, body image and provided support and exposure for small businesses. Merging her passion for community involvement and the arts, she included a fashion show and panel discussion during each event, showing the importance of self love,community support, inclusion and the power of healthy dialogue.

Ms. Groves returned home to South Bend, IN in 2021 and wanted to continue expanding her network and bringing a focus on fine arts and modeling to her community. She provided small workshops and community events at the former Martin Luther King, Jr. Center to test the waters and later connected with her now business partner, Ashley Varner -Warren to establish Michiana Modeling Workshop, LLC.

Michiana Modeling Workshop (MMW) is a monthly mentorship and model development program based out of South Bend, IN. The program helps aspiring models with the confidence and skills that they need to begin their modeling careers. The curriculum consists of modeling basics, fashion industry knowledge, business skills, and personal development.

Ms. Groves strives to continue evolving and constantly becoming the best version of herself while working to position others to be their best selves as well. She will remain an advocate for her community by way of service and support.

Brian Frazier

Native of Michiana, current resident of South Bend, Indiana, and Global Citizen, dedicated to living a life that inspires people of all ages to experience the wonders of life; living by the mantra, "See more. Be more."

Brian is equipped with nearly 25 years of Multimedia experience in the field of Television, Film, and Production. His professional career began working in local TV stations WNDU-NBC, WHME, and WNIT-PBS.

Today, Brian owns a video production company called Frazier Kid Productions. His client portfolio includes companies such as Microsoft, Cabarrus Rowan Community Health Centers, The State of Indiana, the University of Notre Dame, The E.D.G.E Foundation, and the Tennessee State University Foundation Board.

His work has been seen on networks such as A&E Television, BET, theGrio, and leading streaming platforms like Amazon Prime.

Passionately, Brian serves as the Media Director at Faith Alive Ministries. He has used his production skills to build the media team that broadcasts Faith Alive Ministries' services world-wide.

Brian also has a heart for empowering the next generation. He founded and leads The Frazier Kid Foundation, a 501c3 organization, with the mission to expose at-risk and underrepresented youth to careers in the arts by offering basic video production skills to youth for free in his state of the art studio.

Since the foundation's inception, The Frazier Kid Foundation has provided over $10,000 in scholarships, hosted HBCU college trips, facilitated college readiness panels and recruitment fairs, as well as paid for the college application fees for hundreds of young college hopefuls.

Brian Frazier, graduate of Buchanan High School, later earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting, from Tennessee State University.

Brian is committed to serving the global community as a proud member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated.

Charlotte Pfeifer

Charlotte D. Pfeifer-Gillam is a native Ohioan who grew up in Michigan and has lived in South Bend, Indiana for the last 58 years years where she raised her family.

She graduated from Indiana University South Bend with a BA in History and an MPA in Public Affairs.

Charlotte had an outstanding career in corrections where she began as an intern probation officer in Adult Probation and ended up as the Executive Director of Community Based Corrections of St. Joseph County.

After leaving corrections she established a private consulting group, Charlotte Pfeifer & Associates. The agency specialized in Diversity Training, Board Development, and Community Outreach for Companies, Businesses, and Social Services Agencies. The specialty is establishing safety to allow the experience of training on sensitive issues to flourish in a non-threatening manner. The need has only grown more.

Charlotte was hired at IU South Bend in 1995 as the Director of Campus Diversity and later became the Director of Judicial Affairs. She retired from Indiana University as a professional staff member in 2013 but continued as an Associate Faculty member teaching part-time in the Department of Social Work as well as Women's & Gender Studies.

Her areas of teaching are diversity, equity, multiculturalism, undoing racism, confronting bias , and how to have civil discourse.

She served the City of South Bend as an elected official as a member of the South Bend Common Council from 1995-2007.

Charlotte was the first Black President of the Common Council and repeated as president two additional terms. Her areas of interest while on the council were neighborhood development/revitalization and human rights.

She has been shown appreciation by the community with numerous awards and recognitions. Three recent awards she is especially proud of are the Sojourner Truth Award from the YWCA, The Distinguished Alumni Award from IU South Bend, and the Making Democracy Work Award from the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area.

Charlotte is no longer an elected official but continues to believe deeply in a citizens right and obligation to vote and has worked diligently on political campaigns. She also feels strongly about health and diet. Eating a plant dominant diet, whole grains, and fruit is essential.

Charlotte continues to serve her "Beloved Community "by serving on community boards and organizations such as 466 Works NDC, South Bend Riverbend Math Center, Reproductive Justice Initiative, and her neighborhood association.

Charlotte is married to Verge Gillam and enjoys her family, friends, and living in her Near Westside neighborhood.

Charlotte loves to empower others by sharing her favorite quote by Marianne Williamson whenever she has the opportunity.

The popular quote reads, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

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