The Washington Association of Black Journalists (WABJ) announced five winners of its first annual “Special Honors Awards.” The awards will be presented at a gala on Saturday, December 10. The gala, presented by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will be held at Eaton DC, 1201 K Street NW.
The five journalists and communications professionals receiving awards were nominated by WABJ members and selected for their exemplary contributions to the journalism field and for positively impacting local and national communities.
“We are excited about this inaugural event, which showcases the contributions of our membership to the Washington region,” said WABJ President Khorri Atkinson. “Our esteemed honorees have done impactful work throughout their stellar careers worth celebrating and emulating.”
The honorees are:
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. An award-winning journalist, Banks joined Religion News Service in 1995. She previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton. Banks spearheaded RNS’ “Beyond the Most Segregated Hour” project, which won a 2021 Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council, and an RNS multimedia project on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington that won a 2014 Wilbur Award.
“I am tremendously honored to receive this recognition from the Washington Association of Black Journalists. Writing about religion and race has been a major focus of my career, so I particularly appreciate being recognized for my reporting related to the faith of African Americans and to Black history that often has ties to the realm of religion. In these times when journalism – and the world in general – is in crisis, it is fitting that organizations like WABJ take the time, energy, and funding to lift up work from journalists that can help people gain a better understanding of one another and grasp what has gone on before to hopefully lead to a brighter future.”
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. In 2006, Harris was on the team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He also was the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal, and the Peabody Award.
“I cried when I learned that I would receive this award because it comes from a new generation of reporters, writers, and editors who are members of the WABJ. My heart is full because I am 62, and I have spent the last 40 years fighting to report and write stories, and it has not always been easy. But I know that to be validated by my colleagues feels so good. I am so honored,” said Harris.
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 reporter. Wilkins’ roots run deep in Prince George’s County. She was raised in Beltsville, Maryland, and graduated from High Point High School. She was a News4 intern, and after graduating from Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD, she returned to NBC4 as a production assistant and later a news writer.
“I am honored to be recognized by the Washington Association of Black Journalists as its 2022 Journalist of the Year. To be nominated and supported by this historical organization and my esteemed colleagues is humbling. It is my mission to tell the stories of my people with dignity, honesty, and truth. I am thankful I get to do this work in the community that raised me,” said Wilkins.
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 policy. He is an alumnus of Florida A&M University and serves as deputy chair of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Political Task Force.
“People may know me by my byline. But some of my greatest impacts have been made behind the scenes, privately pouring into others. Few people see that aspect of my career outside the beneficiaries themselves. So, it’s truly a blessing to have been nominated by people who are both familiar with my body of published work and some of what I do offline. I often feel like I can and should be doing more, but I’m honored to receive this recognition and be reminded that I am seen and doing enough. To WABJ, thank you for creating this opportunity to recognize local talent, and to those who nominated me, thank you for seeing me as someone worthy of being recognized,” said McCaskill.
Lon Walls – Excellence in Communications Awards
Lon Walls is President and CEO of Walls & Associates, Inc., formerly Walls Communications. He established the firm in 1993 after leaving his position as vice president and manager of the Washington, DC, office of Hill & Flowers Public Relations, a Chicago-based public relations agency. Walls served as the Director of Media Relations and Special Projects for the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington. During his tenure at DOT, he managed and coordinated all media relations activities for the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Transportation. In addition, Lon created and implemented a nationally distributed radio news actuality service and managed an extensive internal communications system for the Department’s 110,000 employees nationwide.
“I’m both honored and privileged to receive this recognition from the Washington Association of Black Journalists. I feel truly blessed to have come to Washington, DC, in the late 70s and been able to have an impactful career in communications at almost every level, nonprofit, local government, the federal government, and the private sector. And to have trained and influenced many young communications professionals along the way is what I value most. And now to be recognized for my efforts by my peers is truly a meaningful honor,” said Walls
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.
Tickets are available at wabjdc.org/specialhonors
PHOTO: Religion News Service