2017 Honoree

Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson


JoAnn Watson is a native Detroiter, and has been honored as a “Distinguished Alumnus” of the University of Michigan. She is the Associate Pastor of West Side Unity Church & is Host of the Radio/TV show: “Wake Up Detroit” featured on Comcast Channel 91 via Watkins TV Broadcasting and 910 AM Radio Superstation.  Rev. Watson also hosts a weekly Faith television program, “Wake Up World”, on The Internationally broadcast Word Network. She was formerly:  City Council President Pro Temp, NAACP Executive Director, YWCA Executive Director, YWCA of the USA Assistant Executive Director; and Liaison, Congressman John Conyers. She holds an Honorary Doctorate, is a College Professor at Wayne County Community College, and teaches at The Unity Urban Ministerial School. She is founding President of the National Association of Black Talk Show Hosts, Serves on the Advisory Board for American Girl, is a Consultant to Pathways to College, and is a member of The Detroit Council of Elders and The National Black Council of Elders.

Dr. Watson was a delegate to the 2001 U. N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa & the 1989 Women for A Meaningful Summit in Russia.

Dr. Watson was recognized by The Nation Magazine in 2009 as “the most valuable local elected official in the USA.” As a workaholic legislator, Watson sponsored thousands of laws, including: “Water Affordability Plan” to help low-income citizens avoid water shut-offs; laws banning texting and talking while driving; ban on smoking in public places; resolution to mandate summer jobs for youth; “Bank on Detroit” program to promote financial health; AfricanTown/Paradise Valley Business District to promote the economic well-being of Detroit’s Black Businesses; Cost-Recovery Ordinance to re-coup millions from  utilities whose power lines are monitored by Detroit Police & Fire Fighters; 15 points added to job applications of City residents; and a “Marshall Plan” to fund the economic re-structuring of the City; among other initiatives.

Watson is a member of the National African American Reparations Commission, and was a contributing author to “Should America Pay?”, the landmark publication on Reparations, published in 2003.

She has served as chair of the Detroit chapter of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA) & is a long-time member of N’COBRA’s national board. She is featured in the 2002 scholarly publication, “Seven Women who are National Leaders on Reparations”.

Rev Dr JoAnn Watson is the daughter of an African Methodist Episcopal Minister & is the eldest of 10 born to Jefferson Nichols, Sr. and Rev. Lestine Kent Nichols. She is the mother of 4 (Damon, Nefertari, Stephen B., Maya); grandmother of 4 (Jendayi, Troy, Damon Jr., Carolyn Marie), & God Mother of 40.

Jessica Care Moore Tribute to the Honorable JoAnn Watson. 2013.