On this last blog for Black History Month, we want to celebrate a contemporary empowered woman who continues to inspire us through her activism and dedication to the community. She is inspirational as a leader, passionate about revitalizing neighborhoods and making life better for families in the community. Today we are celebrating Bootsie Neal as a Dayton Trailblazer.
Idotha “Bootsie” Neal has been a resident of Dayton, Ohio since 1974. She is a native of Newbern, Alabama. Most of her childhood, she lived in Buffalo, New York and graduated there from East High School. After earning her BA at Howard University in Washington D.C., she moved to Dayton and pursued her postgraduate education at the University of Dayton. She earned degrees in Counselor Education and Public Administration and is a licensed counselor and social worker.
In 1989, she was appointed by the Governor of the State of Ohio to serve as Commissioner on the Ohio Lottery. In 1991, Neal was the African American woman elected to serve as Dayton City Commissioner. As commissioner, Neal was instrumental in the neighborhood redevelopment efforts in the Wright Dunbar Business Village on West Third Street - the neighborhood, where Wilbur and Orville Wright had their bicycle shop and began inventing powered flight and African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar began his literary career. Later, she would become President of Wright Dunbar Inc., a non-profit organization committed to this revitalization project, a leadership position which she held until 2014.
Neal also served as the Director of Central State University, Dayton campus for eighteen years and as an adjunct professor for 24 years. During this time, she and Margaret Peters (Dayton historian, whom we wrote about last week) organized a “Lunchtime Lecture Series” in 2001 at the University of Dayton to celebrate Black History Month.
Neal is the owner of Neal and Associates, a consulting and training firm. She has presented before the United Nations and has given lectures and speeches around the world, including South Africa, Brazil, Bosnia, Germany, Israel, Japan, and Zambia.
Bootsie Neal has committed her time and efforts to advocating for children, families, and development of her community. She has been active with several community organizations among which include Montgomery County Children’s Services for the Love of Children program, Habitat for Humanity, the Downtown Dayton Partnership Vision Committee, and the National Council of Negro Women. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding work and service including the Paul Laurence Dunbar Humanitarianism award, the Martin Luther King Image award, John Ellis Volunteer of the Year, and Dayton’s Top Ten Women.
Neal’s life motto is: “Keep God first, respect yourself and others. Love life and laugh. Grow from your challenges, seize opportunities and always believe that the best is yet to come.” It is clear from her achievements and honors from the community that she most definitely lives by this motto each and every day.