MLK Recommitment Banquet to Honor Five With 'Salute to Greatness' Awards

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Northwest Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Council will hold its 23rd annual Recommitment Banquet at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, in the Fayetteville Town Center as the final event in the local celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

William “Trey” Smith, a senior at the University of Arkansas, will deliver the keynote address.

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available on the council’s website.

Five annual Salute to Greatness awards will be presented during the banquet:

  • Henry Childress will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Sir Phillip Masson will receive the Ernestine White-Gibson Individual Achievement Award
  • Chassidy Hurst will receive the Rodney Momon Youth/Young Adult Award
  • Frankie Wilks will receive the Rev. J.A. Hawkins Posthumous Award
  • Compassion Fayetteville will receive the Non-Profit of the Year Award

The council will also award 12 scholarships to Northwest Arkansas high school students and five scholarships to current undergraduates.

“The Northwest Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Council members are ecstatic to have the opportunity to present 17 scholarships in order to further the academic success and assist in financing our leaders of tomorrow,” said council President Angela Mosley Monts. “In the first year of the Recommitment Banquet we were able to award two scholarships. The growth of this event and the community support we have received over the past 23 years have made all the difference.” 

The Recommitment Banquet is presented in conjunction with the University of Arkansas, which serves as the executive producer of the event.

Sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting Danielle L. Wood-Williams, chair, sponsorship sub-committee at sponsornwamlk@yahoo.com.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: William “Trey” Smith

Trey Smith, a Fayetteville native, is currently a senior Theatre Major at the University of Arkansas. Trey is very active in the Department of Theatre at the University of Arkansas.

He serves as an undergraduate representative and has performed in 12 shows at the University of Arkansas, including: She Kills Monsters, Angels in America, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, The Mountaintop, and this spring he can be seen as Booth in Topdog/Underdog. Trey is very active on campus serving as a R.O.C.K Camp Mentor and orientation mentor. Formerly he served as the vice president of the Black Alumni Scholars Society, a member of the Student Alumni Board, a Freshman Success Advisor, a participant in Student Support Services, and the president of the Northwest Arkansas Dream Keepers. After graduation Trey plans to live in a studio apartment in New York with eight of his closest friends while pursuing a career in acting.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Henry Childress

This award recognizes lives noted for unselfish acts of kindness, service and giving.

Henry Childress was born in Fayetteville in 1959 to Henry Columbus Childress Jr. and Christine Marie Childress. He was the youngest of three children, with his older sister Rita Faye Childress and older brother Tony Curtis Childress.

He attended preschool in the basement of St. James United Methodist Church and looked forward to attending the then “colored school,” Lincoln School, on Willow Avenue. However, his father was a member of the Human Relations Committee, which was focused on the total integration of Fayetteville, including integrating the elementary schools in Fayetteville. Most people are under the impression that all Fayetteville schools were integrated in 1954, but Childress and his brother Tony were two of six students in the initial class to integrate Fayetteville elementary schools by attending Peabody training school, on the University of Arkansas campus in 1964-65. The following year Fayetteville public schools were opened to African American children at Washington and Jefferson elementary schools.

Childress is a member of St. James United Methodist Church. He has held many positions over the years, including Children’s Ministry Leader, Lay Leader, Lay Speaker, Liturgist and is currently Adult Sunday School teacher and Trustee chair.

Childress accepted a teaching position in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1986, where he was head boys basketball, football and track coach, while teaching science, physical education and study skills. In 1987 he signed a contract to play semi-pro basketball with the Wyoming Wildcatters of the Continental Basketball League after a summer tryout, but was cut before getting to training camp.

He began teaching 8th grade science at Ramay Junior High School in 1991, also acting as head basketball, assistant football and assistant track coach, making him the first black head coach in Northwest Arkansas public schools. He coached for 8 years until resigning from coaching duties to be full-time in the classroom, where he is still teaching and serving as a mentor, a shoulder, a disciplinarian, and a helping hand.

In 2005, he earned a Master of Education degree from the University of Arkansas.

In 2009, he helped revitalize the Community Club, which takes care of the Historic Black Oaks Cemetery, just south of the Fayetteville National Cemetery. The following year he received the St. James United Methodist Church Worship Committee Community Service Award. He also served on the board of the Yvonne Richardson Community Center.

ERNESTINE WHITE-GIBSON INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Sir Phillip Masson

This award is given to an individual who has given to his or her community through service, leadership, and commitment.

Sir Phillip grew up in Springfield, Illinois. He moved to Northwest Arkansas in 1999 and attended Westark Barber College in 2000-2001. He opened Skillz Unlimited Barber Shop LLC in 2001 and continues to operate it.

During his years of service in Northwest Arkansas he provided opportunities for many of black minority-owned barber shops in the area. Masson has provided back-to-school haircuts and school-supply drives. In 2016, he volunteered in conjunction with other organizations to provide free haircuts to the children’s and homeless shelters in Northwest Arkansas. He supports and sponsors families in need during the holiday season. His was the first barber shop in the region to take part in the national Barber Shop Books Program, a pilot program geared to get more boys of color to read books.

Masson would like to expand his career by continuing to provide opportunities for others to grow in their lives.

RODNEY MOMON YOUTH/YOUNG ADULT AWARD: Chassidy Hurst

This award is given in recognition of a youth or young adult who has exemplified strong character, leadership, and service to the community.

Chassidy Hurst, the daughter of Howard and Tracey Hayes Hurst, grew up in Marion, Arkansas. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences, majoring in human development with a concentration in child development from the University of Arkansas. Upon graduation she began working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas. She went on to pursue her Master of Science in community health promotion at the University of Arkansas, while working as a graduate assistant for Pat Walker Health Center under the Wellness and Health Promotion program, focusing on raising awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. Hurst also interned with the Center for Community Engagement, working with inclusion and social justice.

Hurst has been involved with Urban League Young Professionals of Northwest Arkansas, and was the graduate advisor for the Black Alumni Scholar Society and the Black Student Association. She is also an alumnus of the Clinton Global Initiative University, planning a mentorship program for school-age minority males focusing on mental health.

In her free time, Hurst enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends, traveling, and pouring into others and her community.

REV. J.A. HAWKINS POSTHUMOUS AWARD: Frankie Leo (Lackey) Wilks

This award recognizes a person whose life and service had a positive impact on the community.

Frankie Leo (Lackey) Wilks was born on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 1925, in Cane Hill. Today, the word Thanksgiving often evokes images of family and friends feasting on elaborate meals. The same is true of Mrs. Wilks: her name evokes pleasant memories of family and friends feasting on her Sunday dinners. 

Wilks was a faithful member of the St. James Missionary Baptist Church. On Sundays throughout the late 1960s, the 1970s and the early 1980s, she and her family would pick up University of Arkansas students for church. At least once a month following church service they would bring the students to their home for Sunday dinner. Wilks was instrumental in the lives of countless African American students. At times when students didn’t have the bus fare to visit home the Wilks’ residence became a home away from home. Their home was also known for transforming into a hair salon where Wilks would skillfully press and curl hair for students and other women in the community. She tirelessly fed the hungry in the community, cared for the elderly and gave her skills and resources to anyone in need.

Wilks began caring for people many years prior to her days with U of A students. She moved to Fayetteville as a teenager and worked for a local family by taking care of their little girl. She relocated with the family to St. Louis, Missouri, where she also attended cooking school. Upon returning to Fayetteville, she met and married Wayne Wilks. They had three children, Robert, Donnie and Regina. Mrs. Wilks was their greatest cheerleader as they pursued education, sports, music and life. While raising her children she went back to school to get her GED. She also worked as a cook for Lincoln Elementary School, and moved to Jefferson Elementary School when Fayetteville Schools integrated.

Eventually Wilks stopped working outside of the home to care for her ill son Donnie. It became her priority in order to avoid making two trips a week to Little Rock. She was trained to operate a dialysis machine and give Donnie treatments three times a week at home. Wilks continued her cooking, canning and gardening to share with others in the community.

Frankie Wilks passed away in 1982 leaving behind a rich legacy of love, community, and generosity. That legacy lives on through the lives she touched and through her son and daughter: Robert and Rose Wilks, Regina and Glen French, her three grandsons, four granddaughters, two great-grandsons and five great-granddaughters.

BUSINESS/NON-PROFIT OF THE YEAR AWARD: Compassion Fayetteville

Compassion Fayetteville is a cooperative effort by caring individuals who volunteer their time to encourage and promote a culture of compassion in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville is one of more than 100 cities around the world to earn the designation as a Compassionate City by the International Campaign for Compassionate Communities. All individuals, groups and organizations are welcome and encouraged to participate.

Since Compassion Fayetteville was formed in 2013 it has accomplished many acts of compassion, including support for organizations such as Therapeutic Foster Care, EngageNWA, Seven Hills Day Center, Epic Compassionaries, CanopyNWA and The Cisneros Center, as well as establishing an annual city of Fayetteville Black History Month and conducting an annual citywide food drive.

The Black Lives Matter Team of Compassion Fayetteville plans events all year, as well as during Black History Month, to promote the black community in Northwest Arkansas and to celebrate and appreciate past, present, and future contributions made by Black citizens.

Future plans for Compassion Fayetteville include an increased focus on alleviating local poverty and food insecurity while continuing to promote cultural diversity and integration.

Compassion Fayetteville believes compassion is a choice, not a suggestion.

Contacts

Angela Mosley Monts, President
NWA MLK Council
479-575-2812, ammonts@uark.edu

Danielle L. Wood-Williams, Chair, Sponsorship Subcommittee
NWA MLK Council
479-575-4825, dlw11@uark.edu

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