Reatha Clark King Award

The Reatha Clark King Award for Excellence and Youth Motivation through the Cultural Arts was developed by VocalEssence in 2007 to celebrate and recognize outstanding leaders who are in the field empowering young people through direct contact, making a way for them to be as successful as they can be. It was named after the VocalEssence WITNESS co-founder and pioneering African American scientist, educator, and philanthropist Reatha Clark King.

Presentation of the award is made by VocalEssence each year at the annual VocalEssence WITNESS concert. The honoree is presented with an original work of art by Ta-Coumba Aiken as a memento of the award.

Award Recipients

2019: Hallie Q. Brown Community Center

2019: The Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, named after the prominent African American educator, activist, and author, improves the quality of life in its community by providing access to critical human services, fostering and promoting personal growth, and developing community leadership. Executive Director Jonathan Palmer has led the organization through a period of renewal as it enters its 90th year serving the community in more ways than ever: with senior programs, an early learning center (ELC), services for low-income families, food security, after-school programs, and more.

2018: Dr. Jacob A. Gayle, Jr. and the Medtronic Foundation

2018Dr. Jacob A. Gayle, Jr. and the Medtronic Foundation work to empower the next generation and make our community stronger. Jacob has led the Medtronic Foundation as its Vice President since 2011. From a young age, Jacob was encouraged by his parents to be a global citizen and embrace all cultures as his own. He was charged to live life with vision and mission, and to not only remember those who came before him, but also to be responsible for those who come after him and need help in order to fulfill their destiny. The Medtronic Foundation focuses on supporting health and health access initiatives in communities where Medtronic employees live and give. In 2016 alone, the Foundation gave more than $48.2 million back to communities world-wide, and employees volunteered more than 64,000 hours to nonprofits in their communities.

2017: T. Mychael Rambo

2017: Regional Emmy Award-winning actor, vocalist, arts educator and community organizer T. Mychael Rambo has made an indelible mark in the Twin Cities performing principle roles at such theaters as Penumbra, the Guthrie, Ordway, the Children’s Theatre and Minnesota Opera, to name but a few. He has appeared on stages nationally and internationally, has recorded two popular CDs, is an accomplished residency artist with organizations such as VocalEssence and COMPAS, and holds a position as an affiliate professor in the College of Liberal Arts, Theatre Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota. T. Mychael has been recognized with numerous awards for his work, and is the recipient of several fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, the Bush Foundation and more.

2016: Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson

2016: Active in the Civil Rights Movement since the 1960s and a leading figure in education, particularly in minority affairs and diversity, Dr. Josie Robinson Johnson has worked with VocalEssence WITNESS as a principal at St. Peter Claver Catholic School in St. Paul and as a supporter of the WITNESS School Program throughout the community.

2015: Sanford Moore

2015: A pianist, composer, arranger and producer, Sanford Moore is perhaps most noted as founder, director and arranger of the award-winning vocal jazz ensemble Moore by Four. He has traveled internationally with his ensemble doing concerts and workshops, sharing the stage with such notables as Harry Connick, Jr., Sarah Vaughn and Dizzy Gillespie. Sanford has been an important part of the VocalEssence WITNESS program, participating in seven concerts since 1992, not only with Moore by Four, but as a pianist playing music by Duke Ellington, Dr. Billy Taylor and Hannibal Lokumbe. In addition, he has supported the VocalEssence Talented Tenth Apprentice Program, empowering talented urban-area high school students to receive professional music and vocal training.

2014: General Mills

2014: General Mills is committed to engaging and supporting communities where its employees live and work. More than 60 years old, the General Mills Foundation and corporation have given more than a billion dollars in support of causes tied to education, the arts, hunger and nutrition wellness and natural disasters in its communities. Its Communities of Color grant program, founded in 2004, supports nonprofits — including schools, theaters and other Twin Cities organizations with programs that enrich the lives of people of color — and has served more than 700,000 children, families and individuals across the Twin Cities with a total of $4.5 million in grants.

2013: Phyllis Wheatley Community Center

2013: A nonprofit organization that has served more than 200,000 youth and families since its inception in 1924, Phyllis Wheatley Community Center (PWCC) in Minneapolis is one of the oldest organizations in Minnesota to continuously deliver services primarily to African Americans. It provides comprehensive, quality programs in lifelong learning, child development and family support for the diverse greater Minneapolis community.

2012: Theresa Neal

2012: Theresa Neal was raised in the Rondo section of Saint Paul by a loving, strong family and community. Her professional career has spanned 33 years with Saint Paul Public Schools. She began her career at Highland Park Senior High School as a Youth Advocate, working with adjudicated youth. She was a school social worker for more than 20 years at Highland Park High School before moving into school administration. Theresa became an Assistant Principal at Como Park Senior High School for three years.  In 2005, she was appointed as Principal of the Correctional School Programs, which includes Boys Totem Town School (a WITNESS Partner School), the Juvenile Detention School Program and Transitions for Success.

2011: Sharon Sayles Belton

2011: Sharon Sayles Belton’s career has been forged on a lifetime dedicated to public service. In 1993, Sayles Belton was the first African American and the first woman to be elected mayor of Minneapolis. She is currently vice president of Community Relations and Government Affairs for Thomson Reuters, where she focuses on key issues that impact the legal businesses of Thomson Reuters, its customers and employees. She is also recognized for her service as a member of the VocalEssence Board of Directors from 2002 to 2008.

2010: Laysha Ward

2010: Laysha Ward, president of Community Relations and the Target Foundation, where she oversees domestic and international grant making, community sponsorships, cause marketing initiatives, volunteerism and other civic activities. Ward, who started her career with the Target Corporation in 1991, serves on the board of the Executive Leadership Council, a national membership organization for African-American executives and is also a member of The Links, an international women’s service organization.

2009: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page and Diane Sims Page

2009: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page and Diane Sims Page, co-founders of the Page Education Foundation, which assists minority and other disadvantaged youth with post-secondary education. The foundation offers scholarships to students of color who demonstrate a positive attitude toward education and agree to act as tutors, mentors, and role models for younger children in their communities.

2008: Patricia A. Harvey

2008: Patricia A. Harvey, a senior fellow at the National Center on Education and the Economy/America’s Choice in Washington, D.C., where she works with district superintendents and state commissioners of education to develop state and district policies and structures that help American students equal the performance of their peers in the world’s best-performing nations. Before assuming her current position, she was superintendent of schools for six years in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where significant gains in the achievement of all student groups were made under her leadership.

2007: Ossie Brooks James

2007: Ossie Brooks James, principal at Lyndale Community School, a K-5 public school in South Minneapolis. The school’s vision is to provide a positive learning environment that fosters academic excellence, collaborates with the community, integrates the arts, promotes responsibility, and celebrates diversity. She has been principal at Lyndale Community Elementary School for many years and has engaged the VocalEssence WITNESS School Program in her school community to help realize the school’s vision.