Power Of Story. Bridging Differences

March 23rd, 2017 | Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront

Atlantic Institute of Jacksonville hosted its 9th annual Peace and Dialogue Awards Dinner on Thursday March 23, 2017.  Board Member and reception MC for the evening Sabeen Perwaiz outlined the three awards presented to local individuals in recognition for their work.  Awards were presented in the areas of Community Service to Darnell Smith, 2017 chair of the JAX Chamber Board of Directors, Diversity in Media Award to Tessa Duvall who is the education, children and families reporter at The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, and Educational Service Award to Hope McMath, who has spent over 25 yrs at Cummer Museum in art education.  Each awardee gave an inspirational acceptance speech and encouraged the 200 guests to find commonalities and advocate inclusive communities and coalitions.

The awards were followed by Jacksonville son, energetic and passionate keynote speaker Al Letson.   All of their words resonated with the audience and were relevant to our nation’s climate.  The diversity of our audience and the words from the podium motivate all of us to do more to inspire interfaith efforts.  Atlantic Institute Jacksonville are grateful for the evening’s sponsors and Dinner Committee for their support of the event.

Keynote Speaker: Al Letson

Al Letson is the host of Reveal’s Peabody Award-winning public radio program and podcast showcasing investigative stories. Letson is a playwright, performance poet and actor. He also is the host and executive producer of “State of the Re:Union,” a public radio program airing on more than 200 stations. In each episode, “State of the Re:Union” travels to an American city or town to tell stories about the people and explore how communities are being created. The program won a 2013 Edward R. Murrow Award in the news documentary category. Letson divides his time between Jacksonville, Florida, and Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Their friendship-between a secular American and a madrasa-trained sheikh-had always seemed unlikely, but now they were frustrated and bewildered by the battles being fought in their names. Both knew that a close look at the Quran would reveal a faith that preached peace and not mass murder; respect for women and not oppression. And so they embarked on a yearlong journey through the controversial text.

Community Service Award

Darnell Smith
Darnell Smith is the 2017 chair of the JAX Chamber Board of Directors.  He has been Florida Blue market president for the North Florida region since 2013. He will begin as chair-elect of the chamber board in January. He has served on the boards of directors for the Cathedral Arts Project, the Otis Smith Kids Foundation, the PACE Center for Girls in Jacksonville, Ritz Theatre & Museum and the YMCA, as well as the Florida Blue Foundation, Florida Blue’s philanthropic affiliate.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Florida State University and is a graduate of the advanced management program at Harvard Business School.

Diversity in Media Award

Tessa Duvall
Tessa Duvall is the education, children and families reporter at The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida. She presented at 2015’s TEDxJacksonville on her Butler Middle School reporting – “Learning the Truth About Bad Schools”. Previously a reporter with the Midland Reporter-Telegram in Midland, Texas. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with degrees in news/editorial journalism and sociology and a minor in political science. With experience including internships at The Arizona Republic (Phoenix) and The Commercial Appeal (Memphis), as well as three years on the College Heights Herald staff at WKU.

Based on her continuing work to expose racial injustice in her community, she was also asked to speak at an annual event commemorating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. by the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This year, she received the Jacksonville Junior Chamber’s “Jacksonville Influencer” award at the Outstanding Young Professionals Awards.

Educational Service Award

Hope McMath
Hope served at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens for 22 years, moving from Director of Education to Deputy Director, before seven years as the organization’s Director. She led the organization through an important period of growth, both through capital expansion and a significant increase in visitation. Her work at the museum and beyond has been recently recognized with the 2016 One Jax Humanitarian Award, a Cultural Icon Award from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, and most recently the Voice of Equality Award from Equality Florida. She gives her time to a variety of organizations and causes including the State of Florida Council on Arts and Culture, Any Given Child Jacksonville, TEDx Jacksonville, We Are Straight Allies, and is co-leading White and Woke, a campaign and mobilization effort to raise awareness among white people to dismantle institutional racism.

Community Service Award:

This individual has made a large contribution to our local community through involvement in community service, organized projects, and/or promoted diversity while still striving for excellence in community service projects.

 Media Award:

Given to an individual who, through blogging or journalism has made an outstanding contribution to promotion of diversity awareness, intercultural understanding, empathy between cultures and religious groups, or cooperation of diverse individuals in community improvement initiatives.

 Educational Service Award:

The individual has held a leadership role at a university or an institution that promotes education. This individual has distinguished themselves by generously contributing their time, energy, expertise, leadership and dedication in order to inspire a love of learning in students of all backgrounds and abilities.