Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards Ceremony Held Oct. 17

Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards held Oct. 17
Cheryl Wattley photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas and the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum Steering Committee recently announced recipients of the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards. A tireless activist for civil rights, Ms. Craft played a crucial role in integrating Dallas and also the State Fair of Texas. To honor legacy, the State Fair and Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum Steering Committee recognize those following in her footsteps as advocates for positive change in our community. They were recognized Oct. 17 in a virtual ceremony.

The Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum Steering Committee established and executed the selection process as part of their civil rights education and awareness initiative. Nominations were evaluated based on impact and active involvement in the community, commitment to social justice through notable efforts, and evidence of time and resources used to address issues in the community.

As partners with the Steering Committee, the Fair brings the community together to honor and celebrate the Humanitarian Award recipients. In addition to the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, they renamed a Big Tex Scholarship to honor Ms. Craft and her legacy. Formerly known as the Pete Schenkel Scholarship, the opportunity open to six South Dallas/Fair Park Dallas ISD schools will now be called the Juanita Craft Scholarship.

Legacy Award Recipient Cheryl Wattley

Wattley received the lifetime achievement award for her “important and sustained contributions to the understanding and promotion of civil rights.” Professor Wattley joined the inaugural faculty of the UNT Dallas College of Law. She serves as Director of Experiential Education overseeing the law school’s externship program and the law school’s Community Engagement Program. Professor Wattley is also the recipient of the Dallas Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP’s President’s Award.

Wattley continues to work on the vindication and liberation of persons wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. She represented Richard Miles in his release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and ultimate exoneration. Ms. Wattley continues to work with Miles as a board member for his non-profit organization, Miles of Freedom.

Juanita Craft Humanitarian awards
Karen Brooks-Crosby photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

Legacy Award Honorable Mention – Karen Brooks-Crosby, who recently retired as president of Dallas City Homes after 20 years as president. Under her leadership, Dallas City Homes developed and preserved the affordability of more than 2,400 apartments, and participated in the construction, renovation or development of more than 350 homes for sale. DCH has developed projects such as Hillburn Hills, 711 N. Beckley, Flats at Five Mile Creek, and over 400 single-family homes. Her impact has been significant over the decades, from leading and sustaining community-owned real estate assets to preserving affordable housing options in the ever-changing Bishop Arts neighborhood.

Visionary Award Recipient Lynn McBee

McBee received the visionary award that recognizes those individuals whose contributions are currently creating a positive effect on civil rights and community transformation in Dallas. They committed their personal time, resources, and passion to take on a challenge that addresses equity and fairness presently. For over 27 years, Ms. McBee has spent more than 45,000 hours of service for more than 30 different non-profit groups. She focuses on education, serving homeless, protecting children, and fighting domestic violence.

McBee served seven years as CEO of Young Women’s Preparatory Network, a public-private partnership that creates STEM-focused schools of choice in an all-girls setting. She is also co-chair of the Board of Directors of For Oak Cliff, a community organization rooted in South Oak Cliff, focused on ending systemic poverty in the Superblock 75216 (recognized as one of the most impoverished zip codes in the U.S.) Their mission focuses on education, community advocacy, and expression through arts to help individuals and families break free from cycles that enable poverty.

Lynn McBee photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

Visionary Award Honorable Mention–Justin Henry, who currently serves as the board president on the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) Board of Trustees after being elected in June of 2018. He previously served as chairperson of the DISD District 9 Task Force, the chair of the Dallas ISD Racial Equity Task Force, and a member of Dallas ISD Citizen Budget Review Commission.

Catalyst Award Recipient Tiara Cooper

The Catalyst Award is for those under the age of 40 making an impact in civil and human rights in Dallas by creating new initiatives and opportunities. Cooper is a formerly incarcerated Black woman, eager to share her experiences with the criminal justice system. She previously coordinated with Texas Organizing Project (TOP), Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, and Outreach Strategists, and also assisted and organized field teams, phone banks, and trained campaign teams in Dallas County.

She is known for knocking on hundreds of doors for voter registration, to listen to community concerns, speaking at community events, and organizing training for young adults and youth. As a proud servant and an upcoming faith leader dedicated to justice, Cooper transitioned from LIVE FREE Fellow to LIVE FREE Texas Organizer with Faith in Texas.

Catalyst Award Honorable Mention–Rev. Todd Adkins, Pastor of Salem Institutional Baptist Church, he is responsible for the creation of The South Dallas Faith Coalition. The group of over 50 organizations and churches meet monthly. Their organization helps connect historically disenfranchised communities – with government and corporate entities – to positively impact economic and social growth in South Dallas.

They also address several educational issues in partnership with Dallas ISD to provide the needs of children in the local community. This includes using the church to provide tutoring and school events. Rev. Adkins is a chaplain with Total Hospice and Palliative Care and a previous chaplain with Methodist Hospital. He has received numerous awards including the 2013 Dallas Area Interfaith Honoree for Exemplary Community Service.

Spark Award

This award recognizes a young person between the ages of 14-21 who is making an impact in their schools, neighborhood, or local community by contributing to making our world an even better place now and in the future.

Juanita Craft Humanitarian awards
Eric Gonzales photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

Spark Award Recipient – Eric Gonzalez, who leads youth athletic initiatives for Puede Network, a nonprofit organization committed to teaching civic engagement and promoting higher education via a scholar’s program. Born to immigrant parents from Mexico, the South Oak Cliff native is deeply committed to his role as a boxing and soccer coach. He participates in a community food pantry delivering produce to 5,000 families. Working with the food distribution efforts, in partnerships with local food banks, in Oak Cliff communities—many officially designated as food deserts—he has helped provide over 100,000 pounds of produce to families in need.

Spark Award Honorable Mention – Maya Nanan. In 2014, at age 12, she established the Siblings and Friends Network to encourage siblings of special needs individuals and their friends to come together and advocate for the creation of a more inclusive country. Inspired by her brother, who was diagnosed with Autism eight years ago, she now leads a team of 200 youth volunteers and organizes activities and events to create opportunities, a support network, and advocate for special individuals. She conceptualized and executed the first Autism Fun Day and Autism Christmas Party in Trinidad and Tobago. Her team organizes Autism Outreach Booths throughout the country, especially in rural areas, where they educate the general population on Autism and special needs.

Juanita Craft humanitarian awards
Maya Nanan photo courtesy State Fair of Texas

Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards

The award recipients were honored Oct. 17 in a virtual ceremony. For more information on the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, please visit BigTex.com/JCHA. For more information on the recently renamed, Juanita Craft Scholarship and how to apply, please visit BigTex.com/Scholarship.

Since its inception in 1886, the State Fair of Texas has celebrated all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment. The nonprofit organization helps to preserve and improve Fair Park; plus underwrite museums, community initiatives, and scholarship programs to support students throughout Texas pursuing higher education. Visit BigTex.com for more information.