Portia Shipman

Junios Smith | July 17th, 2019
Portia Shipman (Photos by Mykel Media Company, LLC)

Portia Shipman (Photos by Mykel Media Company, LLC)

In 2008, Shipman founded the Sherri Denese Jackson Foundation for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Inc. after her friend’s body was found buried in a backyard in 2008. Jackson was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, DeCarlo Bennett in 2006, but her whereabouts were unknown for months until Bennett made an announcement.

“June 26 made it 11 years since her remains were found in the backyard,” Shipman said. “She went missing in 2006 and was missing for 19 months. Suddenly, there was a plea bargain and he only received 13 years. Nobody knew about it until court, on the same day the remains were found. I spoke up about (DeCarlo) and said he knew where she was buried, and he was brought to the site in a police car to show where Sherri was buried. An hour later, her remains were found.”

Due to the horrific loss, Shipman focused on helping victims of domestic violence break free from the abuse, while educating the community of Greensboro and beyond. Hundreds of people have participated in programs with thousands being reached through public awareness campaigns. There has also been bigger attention garnered as the cable channels TV One and Oxygen have shone light on Jackson’s death, helping Shipman get the word out in a greater manner.

“In the past, we pretty much did the same programs, but with us getting the media attention, we wanted to find a way to leverage that in order to benefit the organization,” Shipman said. “We’re looking to do campaigns, speaking engagements, education summits and work with the sheriffs and school departments. We want to take it to the national level because of what we’re doing.” Shipman created the “Paint The City Purple” domestic violence awareness campaign, traveling with a group to Baltimore in order to spread the message.

“Nobody wants to raise their hands about domestic violence, so it’s important for us to put it in the forefront,” Shipman said. “The loss of a life has significance, and we want to campaign in as many cities as we can to help everyone. We try to hold ‘Paint The City Purple’ in the first week of November to help the families of those who need an additional hand. Also, on our founder’s day, we remember the lives lost.”

Shipman has done extensive work in the Greensboro area, working in home health care for 30 years, spending six as the former North Carolina NAACP Regional Director, and receiving numerous awards for leadership and community involvement. Shipman said she receives a high volume of calls with people needing her assistance. “My phone still rings at least 30 to 40 times a week, either talking with someone who has questions about getting into a shelter, a person wanting me to attend the funeral of a family member or speaking for someone who’s going through it.”

As her reach has expanded with the organization, Shipman said there are several ideas in the works. “We’re looking to have a ‘Women Empowering Women’ workshop, having guest speakers come in, including survivors,” Shipman said. “We want to have mindful meditation, self-care, seminars on how to take care of children and how children are affected. This will also turn into an outreach effort, going out to shelters and talking to women, giving them free reign to talk about their relationship. We want to have a potluck, bringing in food and pocketbooks fill of items — things for a bath, perfume, lotions, and lipstick.”

Shipman said awareness also needs to be made when it comes to both the elderly being abused and men who want to help others going through the worst. “People don’t know about what some elderly people go through, especially in the health care industry,” Shipman said. “They’re subject to abuse in the homes and workplace, and they don’t get adequate health care, which creates a lot of issues relating to the elderly and people with a disability. The training course we’re going into will address how to stop and prevent it. “We’re also having a ‘Men Speak’ program, where it’s an open forum and the ones who come can learn the traits of an abuser. My husband, James Baldwin, coordinates it and there are other men on board. The message is that there are men against domestic violence and a lot of good men don’t have the chance to say ‘hey, I’m not him. I try to compromise.’ Nobody deserves to be controlled.”

On June 21, Shipman was able to move her organization downtown the better service the people and hopes to continue raising awareness.
“We did a lot of good stuff in the East Market Street location, but it’s time to move on,” Shipman said. “We’ll be closer to the courthouse and City Hall downtown, and we’ll be able to do more for the community. I serve the south, east and north sides of Greensboro, and there are other things I want to do in the city.” Ultimately, Shipman said the victims must never be forgotten. “We need to continue honoring those who lost their lives and need to shout out the survivors. It’s not an easy thing to go through.”

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