By Darlene Donloe
Although it was billed as an awards show, church broke out and the spirit began to move in the Bay View Ballroom at the Marriott Marina in Marina Del Rey, CA, as the 2014 Faith Awards celebrated five honorees for their inspirational and informational contributions.
The three-hour program included gospel music, testimonials and praise reports from individuals who came to be honored for their works.
According to Hope Williams, the executive director of the Faith Awards, now in its second year, was created to showcase individuals that have faced the challenges of life and persevered to reach their goals.
(l-r) Hope Williams, Wren T. Brown and Keith David
The event, hosted by Hattie Winston, and produced by Kenneth R. Reynolds (Public Relations +), honored Wren T. Brown, Belinda Baker, Jacqueline Castillo, Juanita Jennings and Lisa Simmons-Jones. The honorees, all of whom had testimonies, were presented with a purple diamond.
Williams called the honorees ‘five ordinary people doing extraordinary things.’
Wren T. Brown, the founder of the Ebony Repertory Theatre, the first African American professional theatre company in Los Angeles history, became emotional during his acceptance speech.
“I walk by faith, not by sight,” said Brown, who is also an actor and producer with a long list of credits. “It takes faith to reach the unreachable.”
Belinda Baker was recognized for her Independent Living program for teens.
“I want to help women going through domestic violence,” said Baker, who revealed that at one time she was on drugs and lost custody of her three children. “I figured out I needed faith.”
Juanita Jennings is an actress with an extensive list of credits and, more importantly, a breast cancer survivor.
“It’s not about the little things I do like acting,” said Jennings. “God gives you many gifts. Some think life is hard, it’s not. Love God, others and serve.”
Lisa Simmons-Jones continues the work of her late husband, LAPD SWAT Officer Randy Simmons, who was tragically killed in the line of duty in 2008. Simmons-Jones, who wrote a book about her late husband called, 41D-Man of Valor, serves as the CEO of The Randal D. Simmons Outreach Foundation a non-profit that focuses on helping at risk youth and families in the underserved areas of Los Angeles County.
Jacqueline Castillo, who was not in attendance, is the founder and president of the non-profit Legacy Ladies, Inc. The organization’s programs include Adopt-a-Family and Adopt-a-School. Castillo is also a philanthropist, visionary, community advocate and businesswoman.
Presenters included singer and producer Kashif, actor Keith David, Dr. Dennis T. Holmes, Sharon Sumlin and Kim Roberts Hedgpeth.
Dr. Omowale Akintunde
Guest speakers included Dr. Robina Smith (oncoplastic breast cancer surgeon) and Dr. Omowale Akintunde (Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and associate professor of Black Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha), who brought down the house with his commentary on black/white relations.
Music for the event was provided by singer Charlene Moore, who was accompanied by The Ervin Pope Trio.
Kenneth R. Reynolds
"The 2014 Faith Awards made a tremendous impact on identifying the role of the organization,” said Kenneth R. Reynolds (Public Relations +), who produced the event. “An awareness of the achievements and struggles of these five people gave courage and strength to so many. Charlene Moore’s rendition of Marvin Gaye/Aretha Franklin’s "Wholly Holy," set the tone for a morning based wholly on faith. Dr. Omowale Akintunde's satirical monologues channeled shades of humorist Dick Gregory. I think the extremely diverse audience walked away with the same message!"
Hope Williams helms Faith, Hope and Love Unlimited, which was founded to inspire and enable all women of color, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens. The mission of the organization is to be of service to the community by encouraging people to follow their dreams so they can lead a fulfilling and purposeful life.