The Washington Association of Black Journalists (WABJ) Saturday held its sold-out inaugural “Special Honors Awards” gala, with awards presented to five of the region’s top journalists and communicators.
The event also featured an appearance by actor Jalyn Hall, starring as ‘Emmett Till’ in the movie “TILL (preview link below),” who presented a $10,000 check to WABJ President Khorri Atkinson to support the newly created WABJ Investigative Journalism Scholarship.
Presented by Hall on behalf of fellow “TILL” cast members and filmmakers and MGM’s Orion Pictures and United Artists Releasing, the scholarship will benefit local college journalism students and help further the organization’s efforts to increase the representation of Black journalists in the field of investigative reporting. By supporting up-and-coming journalists in the DC area, MGM, the cast, and filmmakers believe it will help open the door for even more journalists.
National Public Radio’s Trina Williams was also recognized with a special “WABJ President’s Award” for her longstanding work with WABJ’s annual Urban Journalism Workshop (UJW) for local high school students in its 36th year.
“It was truly a surprise and an honor to receive this award,” said Williams, who has been a volunteer with the workshop since 2002 and served as program coordinator for five years.
Special guests included Mayor Muriel Bowser, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, president and chair of the Export–Import Bank of the United States Reta Jo Lewis, and journalist and commentator Roland Martin.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation served as the title sponsor. Other sponsors included Washingtonian Magazine, Eaton DC, Axios, Democracy Fund, INSPR Media, FTI Consulting, The Washington Post, PHARMA, PEPCO, Punchbowl News, Brandire, AFSCME, The Washington Informer, The Center for Public Integrity and the Los Angeles Times.
“I am gratified by the immense attention and support our inaugural awards program received,” Atkinson said. “Despite the challenging times in our society and the continuing battle for diversity, inclusion, and equity in media, it is important that we pause and take a moment to celebrate the outstanding work being done by our own in the Washington, D.C. community. This event is the start of a new tradition for the organization. The WABJ Executive Board thanks our corporate, media, and philanthropic sponsors and partners for their generous support and for believing in our mission.”
The five honorees included:
Adelle M. Banks – Lifetime Achievement
Adelle M. Banks is the projects editor and a national reporter for Religion News Service, covering topics including religion and race, the faith of African Americans, and partnerships between government and religious groups.
Hamil Harris – Legacy Award
Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who has written hundreds of stories for various news organizations for nearly four decades. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Washington Informer, USA Today, and Religion Unplugged.
Tracee Wilkins – Journalist of the Year
Tracee Wilkins is the Prince George’s County Bureau Chief for NBC4 Washington. She’s an Edward R. Murrow Award and multiple Emmy Award-winning reporters.
Nolan D. McCaskill – Young Journalist of the Year
Nolan D. McCaskill covers Congress for the Los Angeles Times. Before joining The Times in September 2021, he spent nearly seven years at Politico, where he covered breaking news, Congress, the Trump White House, the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, and race and
Lon Walls – Excellence in Communications Award
Lon Walls is President & CEO of Walls & Associates and has been in the communications industry for over 40 years. Starting out as a reporter for the Atlanta Daily World and Toledo Blade, Walls first established himself in the field of public relations with the Red Cross. His roles as a PR manager included Howard University’s WHMM (now WHUT), Fairfax Hospital, and Children’s National Hospital. Walls also served as the Director of Communications for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and for the DC Department of Fire & Emergency Medical Services. He also served as President of the Capital Press Club. However, his public relations firm, Walls Communications/Walls & Associates, had the most impact on the Black community.
About WABJ Special Honors Awards
WABJ Special Honors is a new awards program created to honor and celebrate Washington, D.C., area Black journalists, educators, and communications professionals for their distinguished body of work. Awardees are nominated by their peers and recognized in five categories: Lifetime Achievement Award, Legacy Award, Journalist of the Year, Young Journalist of Excellence Award, and Excellence in Communications Award.
Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists (WABJ) is an organization for Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals, and student journalists in the Washington, D.C., metro area. As the largest National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Chapter in the region, WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession. For more information, please visit www.wabjdc.org.
TRAILER FOR THE MOVIE “TILL” – https://youtu.be/rkQi6GBwmSA
WABJ President Khorri Atkinson and “TILL” actor Jalyn Hall