The 6th Annual Charles Hamilton Houston Institute (CHHI) Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the Sheraton Hotel will be a chance to recognize individuals who have served the Madison community in many outstanding ways.
“It’s our largest annual fundraiser and we operate on a shoestring budget,” Dr. John Y. Odom, founder of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute in Madison, tells Madison365. “So it’s very important. It’s a time to honor difference makers and we like to acknowledge people who have not received a lot of attention for decades of work.”
The 6th Annual CHHI Awards Luncheon will honor outstanding community members including Greg Jones, Camille Carter; Willie & Jewelline Wiggins, Dr. Michael Thornton, Edith Hilliard, Carlettra Stanford, Dwight McDonald, Jim Kramer, Ana Carmona, and Godwin Amegashie.
“These are people who are making a difference in our community and quite often doing it quietly,” Odom says.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Mr. Kwame Salter who was once the president of the MMSD Board of Education and a mayoral candidate for the City of Madison. Salter was born in Delhi, Louisiana and grew up in Milwaukee. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the UW-Whitewater, graduating Magna Cum Laude and earned his Masters in Educational Administration from UW-Madison. He served as the Director of the UW-Madison’s Afro-American Center as a young graduate student.
Throughout his adult life, Salter has been a campus activist, a community organizer, a political leader giving voice to the disenfranchised and a persistent force for strategic inclusion in corporate America. Salter retired as Sr. Vice President of human resources for Kraft Foods Global and is currently an adjunct professor in the School of Business at Concordia University in Chicago.
“He’s going to talk about truth – truth telling, truthful facts … the realities of what we’re dealing with,” Odom says. “The title of the luncheon is ‘Truth Be Told.’ Talking about the importance of truth-telling – especially in the social justice sphere and in terms of race relations.”
How long Dr. Odom known Mr. Salter?
“It’s interesting. I remember I was director of the Department of Human Relations for the Madison Schools from 1976-1980. I had heard about him when I first came to Madison in 1973 as a UW grad student, but I hadn’t met him,” Odom recalls. “I think he was on the school board at the time and he came up to my office door and he came in and we just started talking one day.
“So, I’ve known him for over 40 years,” he adds. “Since the late ‘70s. He’s been a friend of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute ever since it was conceived so he has quietly supported us for our 15-16 years of existence in different ways. This is just the latest manifestation of that.”
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute’s mission is to prepare youth for economic independence by focusing on self-esteem, health, goal-setting, academic achievement, study skills, business opportunities, diploma and degree completion, work skills, business opportunities service to others and citizenship.
“Things are going well at CHHI,” Odom says. “We’ve picked up some younger board members who are adding new energy and new talent and new perspective on things.”
Odom says that CHHI recently hosted a workshop called “Right with the Law: Legal Rights and Responsibilities” – a juvenile justice information seminar which offers youth knowledge into the U.S. Justice System with increased emphasis on policies and procedures.
“This is our second annual one where we bring together African-American lawyers to share with our young people about why they should be on the right side of the law, but if they ever find themselves confronted by police … what are their constitutional rights and how to handle it,” Odom says.
Odom says that CHHI’s 29-year-old S.T.A.R.S. (Summer Teaching to Advance Reading Success) program is going strong. S.T.A.R.S. has a long record of data-driven results, he says, in successfully teaching basic academic and social skills to children who are currently behind grade-level performance.
“It’s the longest-running pre-school program associated with the Madison schools,” Odom says. “This is the 29th year. My wife started it as a teacher. In 2004, it became a project of Charles Hamilton Houston Institute. So, we have four-year-old and five-year-old English speaking and Spanish speaking kids who are underperforming. We have four teachers – two English speaking and two Spanish speaking – who just do a fabulous job with that program.”
In upcoming events, CHHI will be part of an HBCU Fair. “The annual Charles Hamilton Houston Institute (CHHI) Awards Luncheon supports a lot of the work we do,” Odom says. “So we’re always excited to see the community come out and support it.”
The 6th Annual CHHI Awards Luncheon will be held Wednesday, August 15, 11:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison. Sponsorships for this event are available.