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Juanita Craft Humanitarian awardees announced

juanita j. craft
Juanita J. Craft

The State Fair of Texas and the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum Steering Committee has announced the recipients of the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, in honor of the  tireless activist for civil rights who played a crucial role in integrating many places across the city of Dallas, including the State Fair of Texas. In honor of her efforts, achievements, and legacy, the State Fair and Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum Steering Committee are recognizing individuals who are following in her footsteps and continue to be advocates for positive change in our community. These individuals will be recognized at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 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. In partnership with the Steering Committee, the State Fair of Texas brings the community together to honor and celebrate the Humanitarian Award recipients. In addition to the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, the State Fair of Texas recently renamed one of the Big Tex Scholarships 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

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 – Cheryl Wattley

cheryl wattley 2
Cheryl Wattley

Professor Cheryl Brown Wattley joined the inaugural faculty of the UNT Dallas College of Law from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She serves as the Director of Experiential Education overseeing the law school’s externship program and the law school’s Community Engagement Program. Professor Wattley graduated from Smith College, cum laude, and received her Juris Doctorate degree from Boston University College of Law. Before entering private practice, Professor Wattley worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Connecticut and later transferred to the Northern District of Texas, in Dallas. In 1995, President Clinton nominated her for a federal judgeship. The author of several books, she has also served on a variety of civic and professional boards and committees. Professor Wattley is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Dallas Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and the Dallas Chapter of the NAACP’s President’s Award. Professor Wattley continues to work on the vindication and liberation of persons wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Professor Wattley represented Richard Miles in his release from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and ultimate exoneration. She continues to work with Mr. Miles as a board member for his non-profit organization, Miles of Freedom.

Legacy Award Honorable Mention – Karen Brooks-Crosby

Karen Brooks-Crosby recently retired as president of Dallas City Homes after 20 years as president.  Under her leadership, Dallas City Homes has 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. In its history, DCH has developed projects such as Hillburn Hills, 711 N. Beckley, Flats at Five Mile Creek, and the construction of more than 400 single-family homes—many of which took place under Brooks-Crosby’s leadership. Her legacy in the community-development space is one of growth and sustainability for one of the strongest nonprofit development organizations in Dallas. 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. Brooks-Crosby helped foster Dallas City Homes’ success and furthered its mission of community stewardship.

Visionary Award

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.

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Visionary Award Recipient – Lynn McBee

For more than 27 years, Lynn McBee has worked more than 45,000 hours of service for more than 30 different non-profit groups where she focuses on education, serving homeless, protecting children, and fighting domestic violence. For more than seven years, McBee has served as the 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 and is hyper-focused on ending systemic poverty in the Superblock 75216, which is 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.    

A biochemistry graduate from the University of Texas, McBee continues to serve as manager and employee owner of New England Biolabs.

Visionary Award Honorable Mention – Justin Henry

Justin Henry currently serves as the board president on the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) Board of Trustees and was first elected to this role in June 2018. He previously served as chairperson of the Dallas Independent School District 9 Task Force, the chair of the Dallas ISD Racial Equity Task Force, and a member of Dallas ISD Citizen Budget Review Commission. Henry received his J.D., with honors, from the University of Texas School of Law in 2010. In 2005, he received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in secondary education from Loyola Marymount University in 2007. While in law school, he spent the summer of 2011 working for the ACLU-Texas to increase awareness of and worked litigation to stop the school to prison pipeline. Prior to attending law school, Justin was a middle school math teacher at Pio Pico School in South Los Angeles. During his two years in the classroom, he worked to empower his students, most of whom began the school year below grade level, to achieve academically and positively impact the world around them.

Catalyst Award

For individuals under the age of 40 that are making an impact in civil and human rights in the city of Dallas by creating new initiatives and opportunities.

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Catalyst Award Recipient – Tiara Cooper

Dallas native, Tiara Cooper, is passionate about local grassroots empowerment and justice. As a formerly incarcerated, Black woman, she is eager to share her experiences with the criminal justice system. Creating an impact on her local community, Tiara has previously coordinated with Texas Organizing Project (TOP), Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, and Outreach Strategists. Tiara has 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 or just to listen to community concerns, speaking at community events, and organizing training for young adults and youth, all while building a powerful base of formerly incarcerated leaders. After being selected to participate in the Obama Foundation’s Community Leadership Training Day, Tiara knew it was time to make a total commitment to the God-given mission of leadership. As a proud servant and an upcoming faith leader dedicated to justice, Tiara is honored to transition 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, Rev. Todd Adkins is responsible for the creation of The South Dallas Faith Coalition, a collaboration of more than fifty organizations and churches that meet monthly. The organization helps connect historically disenfranchised communities – with government and corporate entities – to positively impact economic and social growth in South Dallas. In addition, the coalition addresses several educational issues in partnership with Dallas ISD to provide the needs of children in the local community, including 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. Adkins is a graduate of SMU with a Master of Theological Studies, and Dallas Baptist University. He is married to Michelle and the father of two.

Spark Award

Mrs. Craft focused on the development of young people as leaders. This 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 – Eric Gonzalez

Eric Gonzalez 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, from whom he derives much inspiration, the South Oak Cliff native, is deeply committed to his role as a boxing and soccer coach, as well as his participation in a community food pantry delivering produce to 5,000 families. It is the food distribution efforts, in partnerships with local food banks, in Oak Cliff communities—many are officially designated as food deserts—in which Eric takes the most pride. Over the past four years, he has helped provide over 100,000 pounds of produce to families in need.

Friends of Juanita Craft House & Museum

Derek AveryMember
KD BrownMember
Judith HartmanInterim Finance Chair
Cannon FlowersGovernance Chair
Carnell BrameSecretary
Andria JacksonMember
Marsha JacksonMembership Chair
Sarah JacksonMember
Linda LydiaMember
Trinity OjoInterim Marketing Chair
Patricia PerezMember
Tamara Redic-CottrellFundraising Chair
Shelly SkeenCivil Rights Designation Chair
Renita Joyce SmithMember
Candace ThompsonBoard Chair
Chandler VaughnMember
Cecelia VenableHistory and Collections Chair
Akilah WallaceMember
Jessica WebbPrograms Chair

Spark Award Honorable Mention – Maya Nanan

In 2014, Maya Nanan established the Siblings and Friends Network at age 12 to encourage siblings of

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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.

About the State Fair of Texas

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 State Fair of Texas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with proceeds helping to preserve and improve our home, Fair Park; underwrite museums, community initiatives, and scholarship programs to support students throughout the Lone Star State pursuing higher education; and help improve State Fair operations. The 2021 exposition runs September 24 through October 17 in Fair Park. Visit BigTex.com for more information.

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