Recipients of 2020 Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards Announced

DALLAS – October 1, 2020 – For the third year, the State Fair of Texas and the Friends of Juanita Craft House and Museum are proud to announce the recipients of the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards. Juanita Craft was a tireless activist for civil rights and 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 the Friends of Juanita Craft House and Museum 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 in a virtual ceremony at 2 pm on Sunday, October 11.

The Friends of Juanita Craft House and Museum 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.

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.

Catalyst Award Recipient – Maggie Parker

Maggie is the managing partner and founder of Innovan Neighborhoods, a community-oriented development and consulting firm. The team leverages the 30-year track record of an international, full-service private real estate company alongside community development strategies to build and strengthen neighborhoods in concert with community stakeholders. Innovan Neighborhoods partners with nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and neighborhood associations to implement their vision – from joint ventures for affordable single-family homes to leading phased, master-planning development strategies in transitioning neighborhoods. Prior to forming Innovan, Maggie led a community development financial institution, closing $3.1 million in loans; raising $4.4 million in capital; and providing various training opportunities to serve low-to-moderate income communities. These projects included financing award-winning healthy food option as well as providing affordable rental and homeownership options with several nonprofit developers. Maggie serves on the Board of Texas Mezzanine Fund, the DFW Regional Housing Consortium, and supports other community-based initiatives/committees benefiting the region.

Catalyst Award Honorable Mention – Matt Houston

Matt Houston is Principal of MLH Enterprises, a Dallas-based firm that provides education, professional development, and leadership consulting to organizations across the country. A desire to drive change, specifically in the area of economic equity for all, is Matt’s personal mission. He believes the path to success is through education and business creation. To that end, Matt works tirelessly to advocate for new businesses, wealth and job creation, and communities that create and value their economic engines. Matt is currently a professor of entrepreneurship and leadership at the University of North Texas at Dallas School of Business. Houston is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Dallas Economic Opportunity Leadership Academy. Matt also serves as executive board member of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce and is engaged in other community and business organizations.

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 – Diane Ragsdale

As one of Juanita Craft’s “Craft’s Kids,” Diane Ragsdale began young learning to fight for and promote justice. Through her church, where she has been a lifelong member, through her mother and being a member of the NAACP youth council, Diane began the path of activism that would 0soon serve her entire city, as well as, her immediate neighborhood of South Dallas. Ms. Ragsdale served on the Dallas City Council including as Deputy Mayor Pro-Tem; worked for better minority representation in Dallas through the struggle to change city council seats from at-large to single member district voting (14-1); fought against police abuse; worked to pass an ordinance for the City to divest of its South African investments during  Apartheid. Diane founded and directs InnerCity Community Development Corporation which seeks to provide residents of South Dallas affordable homeownership, small business incubation, community education and medical services (dental, HIV/AIDS and a pharmacy). Justice and equity, extensions of her faith, are brought to life through her consistent and steadfast lifelong actions as a revolutionary servant leader.  

Legacy Award Honorable Mention – Dallas Leadership Foundation

Dallas Leadership Foundation was founded in 1995 to glorify Christ by addressing the root issue facing challenged communities — the lack of leadership. By focusing on systematic leadership development built on a foundation of genuine love and respect for people, relationships have strengthened within Dallas’ neighborhoods and created hope for sustainable change. Today, they serve as a bedrock for collaborative community transformation.

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.

Visionary Award Recipient – Marsha Jackson

Marsha Jackson is an active member at Friendship West Baptist Church. She is employed with Dallas Area Rapid Transit as the executive assistant to assistant vice president and a retired manager from AT&T with more than 30 years of service. During her tenure with AT&T, she was a 4-year term president of South Oak Cliff community relations team, working on numerous community activities including Adopt A Block, Junior Achievement, and adopt a playground at DISD schools. Currently Marsha is the co-chair of Southern Sector Rising, president of Second to None Riding Club, Red Cross disaster team member, Red Cross Sheltering, Canteen Member, Hip-Hop Rodeo staff member and newly appointed Down Winders board member. Marsha is a dedicated volunteer, usher, rodeo committee member, and community activist working for change in the city of Dallas. Masha is currently working to combat the environmental justice crisis of an illegal dump site in Southern Dallas, known as Shingle Mountain. These efforts may take years to see significant change, but in the meantime, she is working on bringing her vision for Southern Dallas to life by connecting with others in the community to rezone her neighborhood.

Visionary Award Honorable Mention – Cessilye Smith

Cessilye is a racial and maternal justice activist committed to tearing down walls of oppression and division by building bridges that lead to solution-based practices. Her journey began with her struggle of infertility and lack of awareness of her own body and then eventual led to the safe births of her own children. Over the years she has witnessed the devastating impact systemic failures in healthcare, housing and economics have had on the human condition. Having the ability to see the overlap in these structures has driven her to pursue justice in an unconventional way that brings people together. Cessilye’s passion for black women and for her community is what compelled her to co-found Abide Women’s Health Services, an organization that exists to improve birth outcomes in communities with the lowest quality of care. Executive Director, anti-racist and maternal justice activist, speaker, and educator are just a few of the many hats she wears.

Please join us in congratulating these individuals for all their efforts in the community. For more information on the Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards, this year and past year’s winners, please visit BigTex.com/JuanitaCraft.

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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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