Behind The Scenes Honor Recipients

Vernon L. Owens

Humanitarian Award Recipient
Vernon L Owens

As Director of Programs for the Dovetail Project, a fatherhood initiative dedicated to helping young fathers ages 17-24 in Chicago, Illinois, Vernon teaches young men parenting skills, life skills and felony street law. Upon completion of the program, students receive their GED and guaranteed employment along with a monetary stipend to begin their new journey. Vernon has served as a leader in this organization since January 2012 and, within the last 10 years, has witnessed the organization grow to become the largest fatherhood initiative in the state of Illinois to date. Vernon began working as the organization’s facilitator and, over the years, welcomed change as he elevated to Director of Programs. Vernon was raised in the same environment as most of the young men that participate in the program. An environment and neighborhood plagued with drugs, gang violence, and lack of resources. Vernon remembers being told that he wouldn’t amount to anything as jail was a frequent visit for him as a young adult. Fortunately, Vernon took those comments to heart and challenged himself. He had a desire to be an example and become a person that changed for the better before it was too late. Vernon‘s life story is no different than the young men he leads. Now, he prides himself on positioning these young men where their goals are attainable by educating, engaging and empowering them. Each of the men have come from backgrounds of limited to no support. Several having families give up on them and, others, having endured a form of trauma whether domestically or environmentally. Unfortunately, Chicago is mostly known for the violence that plagues the city and Vernon believes that his job is to help change that narrative. In doing so, the young fathers of the community become better informed which translates “Better Father & Brighter Future“.

Halo Award Recipient
Carey “CJ “Jenkins

Carey “CJ” Jenkins has sat at the forefront of community agitation, education, and organizing in the civic engagement field; he spent the past 18 years in the world of community engagement/organizing and has helped position young leaders and communities of color to become stakeholders. A student, leader, and advocate with deep issue driven/voter registration knowledge, CJ has championed organizations and communities; his trainings have motivated over 10,000 young leaders nationally to embrace the being the change agent they want to see in this world. CJ has built a reputation for developing organizing strategies, identifying leaders, and building out strategic plans. He also helped develop and manage a nontraditional online organization model for nonprofit organizations to reach the grassroots communities while utilizing social media. Embracing the core values of community, love, and non-violence, CJ consistently ranks among the top organizers in the country. He is a winner of the Milwaukee Put Down The Guns Campaign, writing and articulating the sentiments of the community. Hand selected by Harry Belafonte to serve on the executive community for The Gathering for Justice. Public speaker and universities across the country such as UNLV, Clark University, Texas Southern, Cleveland State, UWM, and FAMU, CJ is a winner and recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Boot Camp, and former Steering Committee Member for Generational Alliance’s Grant Review Board. CJ is a former advocate/crisis mentor at Running Rebels Community Organization where he was responsible for monitoring and servicing at risk you. He is a former teachers assistant at 38th St. school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From 2004-2012 CJ has served as WI State Director, National Training Director and Deputy Director for The League of Young Voters. In 2010, he was invited by the White House to attend a meeting on issues dealing with youth issues and policy. Since 2014, he’s served as the Senior Organizer/Organizing Director for The New Georgia Project. His passion is family, community, and making sure that the elder’s sacrifice of the pairs will not be in vain. He lives by the creed, “We are the ones we have always been waiting for!“

Clarence Avant

Honorably mentioned
Lion Heart Award Recipient

The quintessential guy-behind-the-guy, Clarence Avant has spent his half century career in the music business staying, circumspectly, out of the spotlight. It’s unlikely that many outside of the industry even know his name; but within it, there are hardly any who do not. Often referred to as the “The Black Godfather “or “Godfather of Black Music“, Avant’s list of accomplishments is long, broad, and varied. Initially a nightclub manager, Avant spent the 1960’s managing the likes of Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith. He went on to found two record labels, through which he gave the world Bill Withers, Sixto Rodriguez, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. He helped broker the sale of the legendary Stax Records back in the late 60’s; 30 years later, he became Chairman of the Board of Motown Records, and subsequently the first African-American board member of PolyGram. He launched one of the first fully black owned radio stations, and didn’t hesitate to take stands in defense of black culture as a consultant to MGM and ABC in the 1970’s. These and assorted other industry accomplishments line Avant’s résumé, but it’s for his role as an industry mentor and an enabler for other African-Americans in the music business that Avant is perhaps the most lauded. In addition to Jam and Lewis, figures as diverse as LA Reid and Babyface, Sylvia Rhône, Jheryl Busby, and Jimmy Iovine count him as a key mentor. He persuaded NFL star Jim Brown to launch an acting career. He’s been an active figure in politics since 1960s and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016. As Avant’s lifelong best friend Quincy Jones once put it, “Everyone in this business has been by Clarence’s desk, if they’re smart.“