Editor’s note: Sericia Cole is executive director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock, and Charles Stewart is a retired bank executive, community leader and CEO of Stewart Real Estate Development.
The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame (ABHOF) was founded in 1992 by Charles Stewart and Patricia Goodwin McCullough with a mission to recognize the accomplishments of black Arkansans who have achieved national and/or international acclaim in their chosen fields of endeavor.
As an authentic Arkansas cultural and historical institution, ABHOF is a reminder that inspiration and motivation can be drawn from African-American men and women with Arkansas roots who have overcome obstacles to achieve extraordinary success. Each Hall of Fame member has dispelled any notion that where one comes from is a limitation to what one may achieve.
Each year, a steering committee selects an impressive roster of achievers for induction. Previous honorees include:
• Dr. Samuel Kountz from Lexa (Phillips County), who perfected the technique for kidney transplantation;
• Louis Jordan from Brinkley (Monroe County), known as the “Father of Rhythm & Blues”;
• Dr. Oliver Keith Baker of McGehee (Desha County), who heads the Yale University Physics Department and the team that proved the existence of the Higgs boson (also known as “The God Particle”);
• and from Schaal (Howard County), former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders.
The 23rd Annual Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Oct. 17 recognized the Class of 2015 inductees: “Luenell” Batson, comedian, actress and writer; Dr. Mildred Barnes Griggs, Esq., educator and social entrepreneur; Cortez Kennedy, NFL Hall of Famer; Bishop Donne Lindsey, religious, business and civic Leader; C. Michael Tidwell, dancer, choreographer and educator; and medical researcher and clinician Eddie Reed, M.D. (posthumous).
DEMONSTRATING WHAT IS POSSIBLE
The accomplishments of these esteemed individuals demonstrate the depth and breadth of talent, as well as the ingenuity of spirit, that has originated from Arkansas. The notable deeds and efforts of each year’s class, many of whom are unsung, demonstrate to all what is possible with ambition, hard work, determination and opportunity.
To honor its members and educate the public, ABHOF maintains two public galleries: a portrait gallery in the rotunda of the Statehouse Convention Center and a more comprehensive exhibit housed at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (MTCC), the Arkansas’ museum of black history and culture.
A museum of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, MTCC collects, preserves, interprets and celebrates African-American history, culture and community in Arkansas from 1870 to the present. MTCC is a historical and educational trove of black achievements – especially in business, politics and the arts. The partnership between MTCC and ABHOF allows for the prominent ABHOF exhibit located on the museum’s third floor, as well as other projects.
ABHOF and MTCC also work collaboratively with the Clinton Presidential Center to present a Distinguished Laureate Lecture/Performance Series each February, a free public program that features lectures, performances and master classes for students conducted by a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Furthermore, MTCC is the venue the ABHOF Foundation uses to announce its annual grant awards. The awards are funded by the Induction Ceremony and Gala and presented to other nonprofit organizations that focus on improving education, health/wellness, youth development and economic development in black and other underserved communities throughout Arkansas.
To the men and women of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame now and in the future, the two organizations provide unique exposure for the brilliance of achievement earned by African-Americans with Arkansas ties and roots. Together, the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center are committed to acknowledging those who may never receive worldwide attention, but whose endeavors have nonetheless contributed to the fabric of our state and nation.