The Honorable Otis King, Ex-Dean, Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TSU), and Houston City Attorney (1976 – 1978)
Otis King grew up in Houston’s old Fifth Ward during the 1940s, a time when the city was totally segregated. After graduating from Phillis Wheatley High School, he enrolled at Texas Southern University where he participated as a debater with the late Barbara Jordan as his partner. He returned to TSU after a two year stint in the army and entered law school. While in law school, he participated in the sit-ins and helped Eldrewey Stearns form the civil rights organization, The Progressive Youth Association. He was a professor of law at TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law for almost forty years, serving as its dean for ten of those years. He served under Mayor Fred Hofheinz as Houston’s first Black City Attorney.
Rev. William A. Lawson, The William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity
Rev. William Alexander Lawson is the founding Pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church located in Houston, Texas. Established in March 1962 with 13 members, the congregation has grown in excess of 3,500 members. The initial emphasis of the church was to help meet the spiritual needs of Baptists in a transitional community near Texas Southern University, but has become one of the leading Baptist churches in the city of Houston. Early in his career, Rev. Lawson served as Director of the Baptist Student Union and Professor of Bible at Texas Southern University in Houston. He shared in the formation of the first Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Houston, where he taught classes in Sociology and the Black Church. Rev. Lawson is a community and social action leader. He conceived and organized the United Way’s Houston Homeless Initiative in response to the growing number of homeless and jobless persons. More than $4 million was raised in a four-year period in support of that initiative. He established a service agency, incorporated in the State of Texas to serve community needs of citizens in the inner city, the Central City Comprehensive Community Center. Rev. Lawson created a program to register and mobilize voters in the predominantly African American precincts of the city.
In 1996, a group of friends gifted to Rev. Lawson a non-profit organization called the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace & Prosperity (’WALlPP”), which aims at bridging the gap between the powerful and the powerless. Through this institute, Rev. Lawson has brought attention to a very overgrown cemetery -Olivewood Cemetery - the oldest African American cemetery in the city of Houston; was the conduit that brought together all those businesses and organizations affected by the METRO rail system traveling down Main Street, eventually to be known as The Main Street Coalition; and created a school within the Houston Independent School District - the WALIPP Preparatory Academy - the first charter school for boys grades 6 through 8 in the nation. He is the recipient of the 1991 Silver Beaver Award in support of Scouting. He organized and sponsored the area’s largest and most productive scouting program. In its 35-year history, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church’s troops have produced over 100 Eagles.
Rev. Lawson did his undergraduate work at Tennessee A&I State University, Nashville, Tennessee where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree, returning to deliver the 1962 Baccalaureate address. He graduated cum laude from Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Kansas where he received the Master of Theology and the Bachelor of Divinity degrees. While there, he majored in New Testament Interpretation and was appointed Teaching Fellow in Homiletics. In 1986 he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Howard Payne University, in Brownwood, Texas; and in 1993, he received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Houston.
Rev. Lawson is married to Audrey H. Lawson. They have four children - Melanie, Cheryl, Eric and Roxanne - and two grandchildren - Robyn and Raven.
Deric Muhammad, Activist/Community Organizer
Deric Muhammad believes that man is given power for one reason; and that is to serve others. Muhammad is an accomplished Houston-based Activist/Organizer who addresses issues on Social Justice, Black Male Development, Police Brutality, Racial Inequality, etc. Muhammad prides himself in being an "on the ground watchman" of Freedom, Justice and Equality. A native Houstonian and member of the Nation of Islam, Muhammad has been seen and heard on CNN, BBC, FOX News, ABC, CBS, NBC, Chicago's Tribune, The New York Times, and the list goes on. Also an accomplished writer, his opinion editorials frequent the pages of the internationally-distributed Final Call Newspaper and the regionally-distributed African-American News & Issues. He maintains a blog at www.askbroderic.blogspot.com. You can connect with him on Twitter at @dericmuhammad/twitter.com.
Cherry Steinwender, Center for the Healing of Racism
Cherry Steinwender is a founder and serves as Co-Executive Director of the Center for the Healing of Racism. Founded in 1989, the Center for the Healing of Racism is an ethnically diverse, non-profit (501.C.3.) corporation located in Houston, Texas and was founded on the principle that the disease of racism mars the unity of the human race. Through her work with the Center for the Healing of Racism, Mrs. Steinwender helped to develop Dialogue: Racism, a nine-session or two-day seminar that examines the history and sociological phenomenon of racism in the United States. In these seminars, an ethnically diverse group comes together to explore and begin the process of healing racism. Mrs. Steinwender has regularly conducted the Dialogue: Racism seminars since 1990. Additionally, Mrs. Steinwender has conducted workshops for counselors, social workers, various municipal agencies, church groups, as well as for elementary, high school and university faculty and students. She has also conducted intensive weekend workshops in cities across the United States to aid communities in establishing local programs to deal with the issue of racism. Cherry Steinwender served on the Houston Community College (Central Campus) Racial Awareness Program (RAP), a task force established to engender a greater understanding of the problem of racism in the campus community, on the Advisory Board for the Center for Principle Leadership, as well as on the Advisory Council of the Office of Reconciliation Ministries. Mrs. Steinwender has received numerous awards and honors for her steadfast work in dismantling racism.
Eddye Rigsby, Civil Rights Leader
Eddye Rigsby Hamilton, 73, is a civil rights trailblazer. The native Houstonian was a part of the Texas Southern University group that played an important role in helping to desegregate Houston. On March 4, 1960, Rigsby along with more than 10 other students, gathered at a flagpole on TSU’s campus and marched to Weingarten Supermarket, located at 4110 Almeda Road and held Houston’s first sit-in. Hamilton served as the secretary of the student protest group that would later be called the Progressive Youth Association (PYA). The group’s unrelenting campaign led city leaders to reluctantly work behind the scenes to desegregate Houston. It took a matter of months for some businesses to desegregate. By the time Hamilton graduated from TSU in 1961, restaurants and hotels started to desegregate.
Hamilton was one of the first American-Americans to work at the Houston Police Department. She led a valiant campaign to help J.C. Hartman to become HPD’s first African-American supervisor. She also campaigned for some of HPD’s first black detectives.
Hamilton continues to promote and speak about pressing civil rights issues all across Houston. Hamilton and the TSU students’ crusade for justice laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Hamilton’s courage and determination are the results of her parents telling her over and over that justice and equality wasn’t just for a select few, but for all Americans.
Tyrone Tillery, Ph.D, Associate Professor of History, University of Houston
Tyrone Tillery, Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston, specializes in African American and civil rights history. He received his Ph.D. from Kent State University. His biography, Claude McKay: A Black Poet’s Struggle fro Identity, received a “Book of Note citation from the New York Times and was the winner of the l993 Gustavus Meyers Center Outstanding Book Award on the subject of intolerance in the United States. He is a past executive director of the NAACP, Detroit Branch, and recently finished work on a book on the role of government in race and inter-group relations in Detroit from l943 to l968.
Ernie Manouse, Anchor/Producer - HoustonPBS
"(Ernie is) among the best interviewers I had ever experienced. His intellect, charm and charisma make for television that is informative and entertaining. In the course of conducting a superb interview, he conveys his talent, humor, intelligence, compassion, understanding and wit."
Emmy Nominated Ernie Manouse broke into the national scene by beating out both Oprah Winfrey and Ted Koppel in securing the only interview granted by Stella Byrd, the mother of Jasper dragging death victim James Byrd, Jr.
A native of Binghamton, New York and a graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Manouse started with NBC Network News, then moved into radio with WLS in Chicago, and back to TV at HoustonPBS. With a naturally inquisitive nature, and a gift for gab, Ernie has worked his way through all aspects of talk – from producing a sex therapy show to hosting his own brand of chat and magazine programs. Manouse can be seen on PBS Stations across the country on his Emmy nominated series "InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse," or hosting numerous pledge and entertainment specials, including three of public television’s most successful pledge events with Suze Orman.
Houstonians first got to know Ernie from his six years hosting and producing the daily magazine program WeekNight Edition (which evolved into WeekDAY). Manouse's honors include KATIE Awards, Emmy nominations, Viewers choice regognition and Houston Chronicle's Ultimate Interviewer title. Internationally, Ernie is featured on the Houston episode of PrideVision’s world travel show “BUMP!”
In his off-time, Ernie keeps busy working within the community by donating his time to several causes. He has become a popular Master of Ceremonies and Host for events as diverse as The Pride Parade, the U.S. Military Ball, and the Cattle Baron’s Ball. Manouse currently serves on the advisory board of STAGES Theatre, and the Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre.
In October 2002, Ernie helped to create and producer the primetime magazine "the connection," which he hosted for two years.
In 2004, Manouse launched the syndicated series “InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse,” which lead Manouse to win an unprecedented five consecutive KATIE Award for outstanding Interview/Talk Show for the southern region presented by the Press Club of Dallas. Now in it's 5th season, this award winning series is distributed nationally to PBS stations across the country, and is currently airing in over 80 cities in the U.S. and the Virgin Islands. The show takes Ernie back to what he loves doing best – unedited, one on one interviews with noted personalities.
Another area Ernie enjoys is late night talk, and in early 2005, Manouse launched a late night chat fest. “The After Party” combines arts coverage, with up beat fun interviews reminiscent of Jack Parr's "Tonight Show". The series was a hit with critics and audiences alike, garnering the coveted Emmy nomination for Best Entertainment/Variety program in it’s first season. Also in 2005, Manouse received an Emmy nomination as Best On-Air Talent (non-news) for his current body of work.
2007 featured the launch of ErnieOnTV.com - Ernie's online home; increase in circulation of "The Friends of Ernie" newsletter; and even a Fan based MySpace page. TV-wise, Ernie produced the arts documentary "The Last 24" featuring the Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre.