One Mercer alumna is making a difference in social justice and civic engagement one day at a time with her dedication to educating Macon citizens about what power they hold in their community.
Sheknita Davis, a Macon native, was always aware of the scenery around her community, and her fascination with Mercer began when she was only a child.
“My grandmother would ride past this huge building, and I remember one day asking what that building was,” Davis said. “She explained to me that it was a college, and I said, ‘One day I’m going to go to that college.’”
However, Davis’ grandmother noted that Black people typically did not attend Mercer. Nevertheless, Davis persisted toward her dream and eventually enrolled at Mercer despite the racial barriers and many hardships she had endured before she stepped foot on campus.
“I was a high school dropout, was a teen mom and had four kids by the time I was 20,” Davis said. “Mercer was always in my heart, and as I got older and my kids were older, I decided to go for it.”
Davis wanted to work in human services so that she could give back to her community and put her passion for service into practice. While she worked at several businesses in Bibb County and even started her own, she felt drawn to go back to her roots and the University she had admired as a child.
“I had the urge to go back to school, and I perused Mercer’s website to see what type of degree I would be interested in,” Davis said. “I landed on McAfee School of Theology and learned so many wonderful things about being able to assist individuals within a community and tie it to my faith, as well.”
Davis realized that within her community there were severe inconsistencies because of barriers strategically placed based on systematic racial separation that limited the number of resources in certain areas.
“I was compelled to not be a person who was complaining about what was taking place, but to be a part of the solution,” Davis said. “I just think that we need a chance and an opportunity to recover and acknowledge what has happened in our community.”
Davis began her entrepreneurial service journey during graduate school with the creation of In His Image, an agency that assists people with channeling their preexisting impressions of themselves to their potential outcomes.
“I started that three years ago with the idea of being able to help businesses and individuals identify whatever inner image they had that was either creating barriers or driving their success,” Davis said. “The way you see yourself determines how your output and success in life will be.”
After earning two degrees from Mercer – one from the College of Professional Advancement and one from McAfee – and the cherished “Double Bear” title, Davis won the Griffin Bell Award for Community Service, the highest honor the University bestows upon a graduating student.
Although many achievements contributed to her selection for the award, her most significant was the creation of The People’s Advocacy Group.
“I started The People’s Advocacy Group out of community crisis,” Davis said. “The group is built on four pillars: citizens’ rights, civic engagement, community accountability and restoring cultural identity.”
Through this effort, Davis has been able to touch the lives of many in the Macon-Bibb County community, particularly those in desperate and seemingly hopeless situations. She recounted one instance where she assisted tenants during a massive housing eviction sweep.
“The landlord, who did not live in Macon, hired a management service to handle the removal of the tenants, and many received eviction notices or threats of eviction,” Davis said. “Just helping them to write letters to collection companies explaining what happened and going to court with them in certain situations was my favorite part.”
Davis emphasizes the importance of remembering people on the other side of a crisis and how their lives might be affected by decisions made in the highest realms of government and civic affairs.
“If our tagline is ‘Moving Forward Together,’ we need to know who we are leaving behind when we say that and focus on the humanity of the situation,” Davis said. “That’s important for me because I’ve been on both sides of not having resources and being the person responsible for where certain resources go.”
Although Davis is decorated with accolades, her achievements and continuing plans for community outreach are rooted not in gaining personal recognition but in doing what is implicitly, morally and socially required of her.
“I feel like I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do,” Davis said. “What matters to me is that I’m doing what I’m supposed to help and do my part to ensure that people are treated like human beings.”