For more than four decades, Carlenia Ivory has been an unapologetic advocate for opportunity and education for children in Charlotte, NC.
A native of Cameron, TX, she was one of nine children of a single mom, who stressed the importance of education as the key to the future. Ivory came to Charlotte in 1969 to attend Johnson C. Smith University. Supporting herself through grants and full-time jobs, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1972.
As a young adult, she encouraged and supported each of her siblings in completing their college education. The experience kindled what would become her passion and trademark focus: improving education for all children.
Initially, much of her energies were focused on advocating for families in the Oaklawn, Beatties Ford Rd., and Hyde Park communities, where she and her late husband, Titus L. Ivory, lived and raised their sons, Titus Lovell Ivory II and Terrell Ivory.
One of the many accomplishments of her tireless efforts was raising more than $2.6 million in build the Oaklawn Recreation Center, which includes an outdoor play area, a computer lab, classrooms, multi-purpose space, and a gymnasium. Although the facility was later renamed the Ivory Baker Center in her honor, she gives credit to the impact of groups working together for the community.
“Together with the help of the Charlotte chapter of the Links Inc., Charlotte Junior League, and The Crown Jewel Links organization, we were able to build a recreation center for children in a poverty area in Charlotte,” she said.
In 2009 Ivory was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Bev. Perdue.
In 2017, a member of the Charlotte City Council, Al Austin, resigned to accept a job with the state Department of Transportation and recommended Ivory fill his unexpired term. She was appointed by unanimous vote and took her seat in July 2017. The position enables her to continue advocating for equal housing, economic growth, education, and better transportation for Charlotte and especially in the African-American community.
“Beatties Ford Road, to me, is the heart of District 2,” she said. “It is an area we need to work together on to improve economic development, progress for educational programs, and extend business opportunities in this specific area.”
And while Ivory advocates for today, she is also looking toward the next generation of leaders who will step forward and help build their community. With that in mind, she continues to work in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system and with numerous nonprofits to raise opportunities for students and for those in need.
By Ashani Smith