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- SPECIAL REPORTS
Posted online June 19, 2012
The Key Newsjournal honored as Organization of The Year
LEXINGTON- For six months, the S.T. Roach Community Conversations have focused on issues affecting Black men. We wanted to strengthen the series by adding a thematic element and to balance out our programming. Given the already established and wildly successful Black Women’s Conference we thought it would provide a good balance to produce a series that focused on men,” said Frank Walker, English professor and Director of UK’s African American and Africana Studies (AAAS) Program.
To culminate the series, organizers planned the first ever Sankofa Awards to honor outstanding men and one organization in the Lexington community.
The inaugural Sankofa Awards ceremony kicked-off a big Father’s Day weekend in Central Kentucky. A near capacity crowd gathered in the University Of Kentucky College Of Law Courtroom to watch video presentations and hear speeches from the honorees.
“We wanted to end with awards in order to project a set of values that we think more accurately sum up Black men better than mass media does,” said Walker. “We also recognized the need for us to honor the best of us and the fruits of our labor and not wait for others to do it.
The Key Newsjournal was presented with the Organization of The Year Award. Key Newsjournal Publisher,LaMaughn Muhammad, accepted the honor on behalf of the company. “We are very honored and humbled being selected for the award and a re further motivated that such an esteemed group thought to give us this award. We look forward to the continued S.T. Series. It has enhanced the knowledge base of the community and helped many grow closer to the scholarship at the University of Kentucky.”
Walker said, “We were particularly impressed with the Key Newsjournal’s consistent coverage of events that are about sustaining and building a stable Black community. In addition, we also felt that The Key provided a successful model of Black entrepreneurship in the 21st century with its multiple radio, print and electronic formats.”
Father of the Year, Julius Johnson was honored by the Fayette County Fatherhood Initiative. An emotional Johnson, asked his family members to stand and nearly a third of the audience stood. They were there to continue their support of his transformation.
“I put my family through a lot. My son suffered a lot while I was gone,” explained Johnson”, who spent most of his son’s early life behind bars for selling drugs.
“My son’s mother lost custody of him and my mother took him in. I was determined to get out and get custody of him,” he said. He worked hard at jobs paying minimum wage until something better came along, just to prove he was stable. He said that by the time his final custody hearing was held, there was no question that he would be granted full custody.
Johnson is a single father of his 11 year old son, but he doesn’t parent alone. “I can’t take the full credit; I have a lot of people who help. My mother and aunt ask me about his dental appointments, shots, and a lot of things I have no clue about. At first it was overwhelming, talking to his teachers and all the school work. I told my family that I couldn’t do it without them. I’ve always had people who supported and pushed and made me feel like I could do it.”
“They stepped out of the box to honor me,” Johnson said of the honor. And fittingly, he said the award remains at his mother’s house. “I feel like we all share this award.”
The University of Kentucky Africana and African American Studies Department honored Doran Hairston, an incoming UK freshman, as Young Man of The Year. This baseball playing honor student also writes poetry.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity chose Vaughn Little as the Man of The Year. Little is a football coach, instructor and father of three daughters.
The S.T. Roach Series
The S.T. Roach Community Conversations series, in its second year, is a collaborative event that was held again at The Lyric Theatre.
The series features a variety of UK faculty members speaking from their area of expertise. It’s something they love to do. Walker says, “I remember how excited and anxious UK faculty members were to take their expertise off campus and to engage with members the community.”
With UK laying off staff members, the availability of funds is obviously a concern for anyone at the University. “Even with the drastic budget cuts that are still occurring at UK, we plan to continue the series and recruit new partners with hopes of kicking it off in December again. We are currently working on possible themes.”