Shirley Stephens Thompson was raised in New York City and Long Island during the turbulent Civil Rights era of the 50’s and 60’s. She attributes those years, along with childhood visits to the south, to planting in her the seeds of working for social justice and making a positive difference in her community.
Her participation in civic affairs has taken many forms, including serving as a parent representative at the local and state levels; board president of the Freddie Thomas Foundation; member of the Genesee Valley Chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs; member and officer of the Cutler PLUS Community Block Club; and member of the Board of Education for the Rochester City School District from 2000 through 2007, serving as president for two years.
She retired in 2010 from the Greater Rochester Chapter of the American Red Cross, where she earned certifications as a national diversity trainer and a volunteer administrator. Prior to Red Cross, Shirley worked to establish the city-wide Union of Parents while with the Center for Educational Development, and served as administrative assistant for Ruth Scott, the first elected president of Rochester City Council.
Shirley has remained active in retirement. During her participation in Occupy Rochester in 2011, she became a student and practitioner of nonviolence. In addition to numerous other organizations, she has been, or is, involved with Take Back the Land Rochester; the Black Women’s Leadership Forum; Shades of Sisterhood; and Facing Race, Embracing Equity. Most recently, she joined the volunteer faculty of the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative of St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center.