For the sixth year, the State Fair of Texas and the Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum are proud to announce the recipients of the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards. Juanita Craft tirelessly fought for civil rights and played a crucial role in integrating many Dallas establishments, including the State Fair of Texas. In honor of her efforts, achievements, and impact, the State Fair and the Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum commend the following individuals who continue her legacy as advocates for positive change in our community. They will be recognized at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 15, at the Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center in the ballroom during the 2023 State Fair of Texas.
The Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum established and executed the award selection process as part of their civil rights education and awareness initiative. Nominations were evaluated based on impact, active involvement in the community, commitment to social justice through notable efforts, evidence of time and resources used to address issues in the community and the quality of the submission. In partnership with Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum, the State Fair of Texas brings the community together to celebrate the Humanitarian Award recipients.
First awarded in 2019, the Spark Award is designed to recognize a young person between the ages of 14-21 that 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.
Spark Award Recipient – Emmy Martinez
Emmy Martinez is a senior at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, the first public all-girl school in the state of Texas. There, Emmy has received a rigorous education and a sisterhood where every girl is empowered to lead – something she has done through her involvement with three key organizations. In her time with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), she has learned that leadership is about serving others. Emmy has been able to assist the Dallas Community with over 300 hours of community service by serving lunch at the Bridge Homeless Shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic and packing food at the North Texas Food Bank during the holidays. LULAC also introduced her to Young Leaders, Strong City (YLSC), an organization that has empowered this once timid, soft-spoken girl into a force to be reckoned with. As she became more involved with YLSC, Emmy began exercising the power of her voice. Today, she is one of the youth leaders who puts on an annual Racial Equity Summit for our city, where hundreds of high schoolers come to learn about racial equity. This love for diversity took Emmy to Ghana, Africa, where she spent her summer learning about the education system as she volunteered at the Christian International High School. As she embarks on her college journey, she seeks a degree in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as she wants our world to see the beauty and value every individual brings to the table.
Spark Award Honorable Mention – Kendall Gayle Washington
At the age of 16, Kendall Gayle Washington graduated from Dallas College with an Associate of Arts and Science. Now a non-traditional freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, Kendall has her heart set on pursuing journalism and one day owning her own media and production company. Kendall is a Jill of all trades with a heart of gold, having received WFAA’s Student-Athlete of the Week while ranked at the top of her senior class at Bishop Dunne Catholic School. She served as co-captain of the varsity cheer team, a lead ambassador, vice-president of the National Honor Society (NHS), and president of African American Awareness. In 2021, she founded the Empowerment 101 club and currently serves as president. She also achieved her Bronze and Silver Awards as an Ambassador Girl Scout, receiving her Gold Award last spring. She joined the Texas Metro News team as a multimedia journalist, where she writes newspaper articles, manages social media, and creates news packages. Within two weeks of working with Texas Metro News, her first article, “New and Improved: Austin Street Center,” was published in the weekly newspaper. Kendall serves as the co-historian for the Black Student Alliance’s Freshman Action Team at UT, along with working at Good Morning Longhorns and Bevo Video Productions. Most recently, Kendall was selected to intern as a host at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Her accomplishments are impressive, and she’s only beginning. Kendall is living proof it is not about age – it is about hard work, a positive spirit, and determination.
Individuals under the age of 40 who are making an impact on civil and human rights in the city of Dallas by creating new initiatives and opportunities.
Catalyst Award Recipient – Reuben Lael Griffin
Reuben Lael Griffin, also known as “Reuben Got Soul,” is an electrifying talent hailing from Dallas, Texas. He captivates any audience with his unique blend of old-school, jazz, R&B, and contemporary pop influences. He has performed at venues throughout Texas and across the country and has shared the stage with many notable artists in the industry. His single “Stand Up” is a modern-day “What’s Going On” or “A Change Is Gonna Come,” penned as a call to action for all generations to be the change they want to see in America. When Reuben is not on stage, he is advocating for social justice with nonprofits and civic organizations in Dallas, including the Our Vote Our Voice voting coalition and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., where he is the state national programs chair, the regional voter engagement committee, and mentors’ collegiate brother at Paul Quinn campus as the advisor of the Iota Kappa chapters. During the pandemic, he organized “Pack the Polls,” a 50+ car caravan through communities in Pleasant Grove, South Dallas, and Oak Cliff to encourage residents to vote, which continues today. He is also a member of the National Urban League of Young Professionals, leading the communications team in branding their initiatives to support advocacy, leadership development, and community outreach. A member since 2015, Reuben has served in various leadership roles and was selected as a National Urban League Emerging Leader in 2019. Most of all, he loves impacting the lives of children as a Dallas ISD educator, using fine arts to motivate children to succeed in life academically and creatively. He has transformed the community’s 200+ youth fine arts program from a choir concert to a full-blown original musical, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” that highlights the heroes and contributions of the civil rights movement. His work extends to the Black Academy of Arts & Letters, where he’s been an Assistant Program Director for the Summer Youth Arts Enrichment Program since 2021, and he serves as chairman of the Millennial Board. In addition, Reuben serves as an Arts Commissioner for the City of Garland and is affiliated with the Dallas Theater Center and 24-hour Dallas. Throughout the metroplex, Reuben is well known for his steadfast service, passion for advocacy, and his ability to utilize the power of music to serve and uplift all he encounters. He’s an exceptional servant-leader to watch.
Catalyst Award Honorable Mention – James Armstrong III
J.A. Armstrong III is a change agent focused on improving the economic conditions of historically marginalized communities. He currently serves as President and CEO of Builders of Hope Community Development Corporation (BOHCDC) – a multi-faceted community development firm that focuses on creating pathways to economic mobility primarily through real estate and building thriving neighborhoods. Through his leadership, BOHCDC has emerged as a nationally recognized leader in affordable housing and community building, addressing the increasing demand for affordable housing while building over $30 million in wealth for low to moderate-income families. J.A.’s previous experience includes an extensive background in banking and finance at top Fortune 500 firms like J.P. Morgan Chase and New York Life securities. His mix of corporate and community experience has led to serving on multiple boards and commissions, including the Housing Finance Corporation, Chair of the Sports Arena Tax Increment Financing District overseeing the distribution of a multi-million-dollar fund, and board member of the statewide agency Texas Association of Community Development Corporations. He also serves as a board member of bcWorkshop and the Trinity Park Conservancy CDC. Additionally, J.A. serves as a senior advisor to the Congressional Office of District 30. James is a proud graduate of Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in finance. In 2017, James was awarded the Dallas Business Journal 40 under 40 award for his accomplishments in business. James’ greatest role is serving as Lead Pastor of The Community Fellowship Church in West Dallas.
Designed to recognize individuals whose contributions are currently creating a positive effect on civil rights and community transformation in Dallas. This individual has committed their personal time, resources, and passion to take on a challenge that addresses equity and fairness presently.
Visionary Award Recipient – Lacy L. Durham, Esq.
Lacy is an award-winning civil rights advocate, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) champion, attorney, and human resources subject matter expert with over 17 years of experience guiding Fortune 200 companies and large nonprofits. She is currently an Assistant General Counsel at Constellation Energy, one of the nation’s largest producers of carbon-free energy. Service is of the highest importance to Lacy, and she has influenced the lives of many through her philanthropy, advocacy, and humanitarian efforts. She is passionate about advancing humanitarian efforts, early pipeline programming, and implementing innovative strategies to create diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments that enhance employee engagement. In addition, Lacy is an ally of women, children, and disadvantaged persons, frequently speaking on issues around civil rights and social justice, employee benefits and compensation, and issues affecting youth. She has helped write and produce award-winning projects aimed at addressing these issues and has held numerous civic and professional leadership roles, including serving on the board of the Dallas Theater Center, the ChildCare Group, Pipeline to Possibilities, and many more. She is nationally recognized for her contributions to her profession, community, and educational institutions, having received numerous awards and accolades, including several 40 Under 40 honors (Dallas Business Journal, Nations Best Advocates, and National Black Lawyers), an Extraordinary Minority in Texas Law award, Dallas Regional Chamber Young Athena Award, National Bar Association Humanitarian Award, and Altrusa International Outstanding Woman of Tomorrow. Lacy earned degrees in both accounting and finance from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and holds an MBA from Louisiana Tech University, a JD from Southern University Law Center, and an LLM in Taxation from the Southern Methodist Dedman School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in Louisiana and Texas. Lacy aims to live according to her favorite quote by Erma Bombeck, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”
Visionary Award Honorable Mention – Jamila Thomas
Jamila Thomas is a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar appointed by the Presidential Centers of William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. She is a native of Dallas, Texas, and a graduate of Florida A&M University, where she received her undergraduate degree in Business Administration and a graduate degree, Master of Business Administration. She also has a Master of Arts degree in Divinity from The University of Chicago Divinity School. Jamila is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University with a commitment to establishing a theory of practice for culturally responsive leadership. In 2018, at the direction of the Dallas ISD Superintendent and Board of Trustees, Jamila created and established the district’s Racial Equity Office. In this capacity, she was responsible for developing culturally responsive policies and programs designed to close the achievement gap and simultaneously build culturally intelligent practices for all faculty and staff. In 2020, Jamila guided the Texas State Board of Education toward the historic and unanimous statewide adoption of the African American History course. Jamila now serves as the Senior Vice President for Big Brothers Big Sisters Greater Dallas and is responsible for building the strategic plan for community and corporate engagement. She also serves on Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, where she provides guidance on policy and framework development for agencies across the United States.
A lifetime achievement award for individuals, families, or organizations that have made important and sustained contributions to the understanding and promotion of civil rights.
Legacy Award Recipient – Dr. George Elvin Keaton Jr.
George Keaton was a fifth-generation descendant of Taylor and Laura Turner, who were among the earliest of the African American families in Dallas County. Each of them had been brought to Texas enslaved before the Civil War. He was the only son born to the parentage of photographer George Elvin Keaton, Sr., and educator Albertine Turner Keaton. Dr. Keaton’s interest in his family’s history was first sparked by listening to oral accounts of African American history and life from his maternal grandmother, Leona Foreman Turner. He and his mother were volunteers for Dr. Mamie McKnight’s BLACK DALLAS REMEMBERED, which was active for about twenty years beginning in 1984. George attended Dallas public schools; Clara Oliver Elementary School, and Boude Storey Middle School, and graduated from Skyline High School with the class of 1975. George obtained a Bachelor of Education from North Texas State University in Denton, Texas; and two Masters of Arts from Amberton University in Dallas, Texas. When Dr. Keaton retired after 31 years of service to Dallas ISD, he continued to research his family’s history and to collect historical materials pertaining to African American families in Dallas. In 2015, Dr. Keaton founded a new historical organization dedicated to preserving, researching, and teaching Dallas history and the history of surrounding areas, calling it REMEMBERING BLACK DALLAS. He accomplished many things in the brief time he operated his new organization, which he developed into a vibrant community service-oriented nonprofit. Among other things, he composed and presented two full-stage plays depicting the lives of significant early Dallas leaders in the African American community. He developed and led a series of historical tours of notable African American sites and freedman’s towns in Dallas, as well as a series of trips to significant historic sites in the southern states and was a regular speaker for organizations seeking to learn more about the African American history of Dallas. In the years before he died, he sought to obtain numerous Texas State Historical Markers throughout Dallas County, recognizing important people and significant sites in the history of African Americans. Additionally, he worked tirelessly to achieve appropriate recognition for not only the achievements of African Americans in Dallas but also recognition of the atrocities that many of them faced from the earliest days through Reconstruction and then the so-called Jim Crow era in Dallas. He was a powerful advocate for the equal rights of all citizens to achieve their dreams and basic equality and was passionate about his calling to make a difference in this city. Dr. Keaton passed away late last year after a very brief battle with cancer.
Legacy Award Honorable Mention – Resource Center
Founded in Dallas in 1983, Resource Center (originally named the Foundation for Human Understanding) is one of the nation’s largest organizations providing a wide range of programs and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual and more (LGBTQIA+) community members and critical assistance to people living with HIV and AIDS and their families. More than 62,000 people each year benefit from services, including medical, dental, nutritional, mental health, housing, and financial support, through multiple clinics and facilities throughout the DFW area.
Please join us in congratulating these individuals for all their efforts in the community on Sunday, October 15, at 2:00 p.m. at the Briscoe Carpenter Livestock Center ballroom. For more information on the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, please visit BigTex.com/JCHA. For more information on the Juanita Craft Scholarship and how to apply, please visit BigTex.com/Scholarship. For more information on the Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum, please visit FriendsofJuanitaCraft.org.