The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute will host its 5th Annual Awards Luncheon on Thursday, Aug. 10, 11:30 a.m.-1:15 p.m., at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison. The theme for the event will be “And How Are The Children?”
“I’m expecting that it is going to be a great event … it looks like things are falling into place. After five years, I guess we should have learned a few things by now,” laughs Dr. John Y. Odom.
Odom founded the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute in Madison back in 2001 to not only serve the black community but to strengthen the entire community through a variety of social, educational and economic outreach programs. He started the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute Annual Luncheon five years ago for a variety of reasons.
“One, it’s our annual fundraiser. We operate on a very small budget and very thin margins. We aren’t one of the better-known non-profits in town and back at that time [of our first annual luncheon], we were hardly known at all. We knew that an annual event would help to raise funds,” Odom says. “But, secondarily, we wanted to raise awareness of some of our programs and what we intend to do and try to do. Thirdly, we want to celebrate some of those people who are doing some great things in our community who haven’t gotten as much recognition as they deserve.”
The luncheon will honor outstanding members of the Madison community selected by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute including Linda Allen, Charlestine (Charlie) Daniel, Will Green, Neil Heinen, Michelle Heitzinger, Ed Manuel, Ed and Tina Murray, and Johnny Winston Jr.
With all the great Madison community members, is it hard to narrow it down to seven or eight people?
“It really isn’t that hard,” Odom says. “We’re constantly thinking about people who might cross our paths throughout the year who we think we should acknowledge for the outstanding contributions they have made.”
The keynote speaker for the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute 5th annual Awards Luncheon will be Dr. Linda Michele Baron, the president and founder of Harlin Jacque Publications, a publishing and educational consulting firm established over three decades ago. Dr. Baron, a former New York City public school teacher, earned her master’s degree in reading and her doctorate in cross categorical studies from Columbia University’s Teachers College. She is an assistant professor in the Teacher Education Department at York College, City University of New York (CUNY), in New York City.
“I’ve known Linda for going on 30 years,” Odom says. “I first met her at the National Alliance of Black School Educators – a national organization who has a conference in a major U.S. city that brings together black educators from teachers to school administrators to professionals to professors. They come together to collaborate around educational issues that relate to African-American students. Linda was a standout speaker and participant then. In fact, I have brought her to Madison before in the ‘80s.
“She’s a poet, professor, and former public school teacher in New York. She owns her own publishing company,” he adds. “As far as what Charles Hamilton Houston is about in terms of entrepreneurship and economics, she’s the perfect speaker for what we are trying to do. She’s a delightful person who’s always positive and powerful.”
Dr. Baron, Odom adds, will be speaking on the overall theme of “And How Are the Children?”
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute prepares youth for economic independence by focusing on self-esteem, health, goal-setting, academic achievement, study skills, diploma and degree completion, work skills, business opportunities service to others and citizenship. Odom says that things are looking up for the organization.
“Our workshop at the Urban League last weekend went really well,” Odom says, speaking of “Right with the Law: Legal Rights and Responsibilities,” a workshop for local youth featuring Judge Everett Mitchell at the Urban League of Greater Madison on Madison’s south side. “The feedback from the students who were present at the event was great, so we’re looking to do something similar or close to it in the not-to-distant future, especially considering the gun violence that is happening in the city now.”
It can be hard for a small non-profit without paid staff to do everything it wants to do, Odom says.
“We have a lot of great ideas and we have been implementing them. I think we’ve been doing really well,” he says. “One of the frustrations and concerns is that it is very difficult to break through to get funding for what we know are great projects. It’s a struggle, but we hopefully will at some point get the funding to be able to do the programming that we want to do.
CHHI has had programs in the past that they, unfortunately, can no longer support due to monetary reasons including Summer Seminars, a center downtown that introduced middle school and high school students to a wide range of possibilities. “We also had a program called ‘Senior Saturdays,’ the late Al Studesville, our founding vice president, informed us that he knew that there were black high school seniors who were set to graduate but still had no goals or knowledge of what they would be doing next,” Odom says. “So, Al basically put that together and brought together college admission professionals, folks from Madison College and trade unions to bring together as many African-American seniors as possible to introduce to them to some options that they might pursue.”
Being able to operate those kinds of great programs and more is why fundraisers like the 5th Annual Charles Hamilton Houston Institute Awards Luncheon are so important for the organization.
“This event is a good fundraiser. I’m looking forward to the event. It will be interesting and it will be fun,” Odom says.
Tickets are $40 a piece. For more information about the 5th Annual Charles Hamilton Houston Institute Awards Luncheon, click here.