Photo of Debra Stanley
Debra Stanley


“Fighting Shit that Ain’t Right is in My Soul.”

Debra Stanley’s life can be defined in part as one dedicated to helping others and fighting social injustice in all forms, even when it might be to her own detriment. When Debra’s fifth grade teacher, who “liked to do cruel things to black students,” spit in Debra’s face, Debra stood up to her even though it resulted in a paddling and suspension. As an adult working as a guard in San Quentin Prison, “an environment that seems like it thrives on all the ills and negatives of life,” Debra greeted each inmate with a cheery “good morning,” even when the response was to shut up.

In South Bend, Debra’s commitment to “fighting shit that ain’t right” began at the Chapin Street Health Clinic where she did “outreach to address the social health needs of folks.” Dedicating herself to understanding “people’s perspectives,” Debra realized a significant deficit existed in helping people with social/sexual health problems. In the early days of HIV/AIDS, Debra realized that no one was working on these issues, and “somebody had to stand up.” Debra began learning everything she could about AIDS/HIV in order to help educate others about how to prevent HIV/AIDS as well as to provide comfort for those suffering from it. Debra has taken her education message into the South Bend Community Schools, multiple churches, and other groups.  She has also formed Imani Unidad, a non-profit organization to help spread her message to wider audiences.

Over 20 years later, Debra is still standing up and educating others. According to Debra, “for me, it’s all about trying to bring a sense of social justice to social and sexual health.” Whether it’s presenting in a school classroom, a church sanctuary, or a community forum, Debra continues to “talk loud and long” fighting the shit that ain’t right.

  • Founder and Executive Director, Imani Unidad
  • Community-Based Learning Coordinator, Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns
  • Board member, GLBT Resource Center of Michiana
  • Past Director of Prevention Education, AIDS Ministries/AIDS Assist
  • Past Case Manager, Chapin Street Health Center

Information compiled from oral history collected by The Michiana Women Leaders Project