Tribute for City of Southfield’s first African American Councilwoman Barbara Talley planned for June 26

June 19, 2023

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The city of Southfield will host a special tribute for the City’s first African American Councilwoman Barbara Talley on Monday, June 26 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Southfield Pavilion, 26000 Evergreen Road. The City will also permanently name the circle drive in front of City Hall ‘Barbara Talley Way’ as part of the recognition. 

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force, Inc. in collaboration with the city of Southfield, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.- Southfield Alumnae Chapter, Hope United Methodist Church, Southfield Historical Society and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.®-Pi Tau Omega Chapter of Southfield will recognize former Councilwoman Talley for her many years of community and civil rights activism, volunteer work, and many other notable accomplishments and contributions to the City. She is fondly called the “Mother of Civil Rights in Southfield.”

Mrs. Talley was the first African American elected to the Southfield City Council, serving from 1983 until 1989. During her tenure on City Council, she initiated an affirmative action plan hiring minority police, fire, management personnel, and elevating women in city government. She founded the Southfield Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force in 1985 along with other charter members to promote peace, brotherhood, and non-violence. The MLK Task Force has hosted the annual MLK Peace Walk since its inception, celebrating the 38th annual event last January which continues to be the largest in the state of Michigan.

“This Tribute to Mrs. Talley is well deserved for her continuous dedication to helping and improving the community,” commented Southfield Mayor Dr. Kenson Siver.  “Our paths have crossed often over the years as we worked together on several projects, from being a co-founder and charter member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force to working on a publication in honor of its 30 years of existence. She have always been a positive force in Southfield.”

She is the author of a book entitled "Pathways to Interfaith Dialogue: An Innovative Model for Peace and Community Building. She was the Executive Director of Detroit Renaissance District Peace Center at Hope United Methodist Church. She was instrumental in the erection of the Peace Poles in the city of Southfield and holding remembrances about peace on earth. She was also the project director of a traveling exhibit called “Pathways to Freedom in the Americas: Shared Experiences between Michigan, USA and Guerrero, Mexico.” The Exhibit debuted at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and was on display for three months for the community to view. Mrs. Talley directed the activities between the Museum, Wayne State University professors and Mexican citizens to make the exhibit a reality. The exhibit is currently on loan to the World Beat Museum in San Francisco, California and has travelled to Mexico, as well as staged at Lear Corporation, Chrysler Corporation, Eaton Corporation, Southfield Public Library, and Marygrove College in Michigan. 

“I have always found Mrs. Talley to be a very professional woman with a sense of how things should be done for the common good of society and our community,” commented Councilman Daniel Brightwell. “She is often the voice of reason in a sea of chaos that sometimes erupt in large organization. That voice of reason has been respected in many settings because of the “fairness” that Barbara has always shown. Listeners know Barbara is speaking from the heart.” 

Mrs. Talley was instrumental in securing funds and commissioning James Spearman to create the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that is in the Southfield Public Library lobby. Mrs. Talley earned her bachelor’s of science degree (B.S.) from Wayne State University and Master’s in Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Central Michigan University. She retired from Oakland County Government as a senior financial analyst. She is a member of several civic organizations: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority - Southfield Alumnae Chapter, Southfield Historical Society, National Congress of Black Women, and Hope United Methodist Church. Mrs. Talley has received many awards including the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc., Drum Major for Justice Award for the Beloved Community from the United Methodist Church, and Distinguished Warrior from Urban League of Detroit & Southeastern Michigan. She remains active with the Task Force, Hope Church, and the sorority. She is also an active member of the National Congress of Black Women and Southfield Historical Society. 

“Barbara has been instrumental in the advancement of human and civil rights and provides an example to us all why community is so important,” according to Faira Glenn, current president of the MLK Task Force.  “We are proud to lead the tribute to her,” she added.  

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Task Force, Inc. is an all-volunteer, grassroots civic organization. Its mission and purpose is to celebrate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to accept the challenges of making the promise of America as a land of freedom, equality, opportunity, and brotherhood.

Southfield was the first city in the state of Michigan to hold a Dr. King peace walk or march. The first Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Walk took place on January 20, 1986, commemorating Dr. King’s birthday. The walk continues to grow in size and scope each year, with year-long educational and community outreach activities.

The event is free and open to the public.  For more information, call Dorothy Dean, Tribute Co-Chair, at (248) 790-0531 or