Interfaith awards showcase Baha’i creativity and values

June 16, 2022
Interfaith awards showcase Baha’i creativity and values

Seventeen of the DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards for 2022, including two of the top “Best in Class” honors, were bestowed on Baha’is for publications, websites and design at the annual Religion Communicators Council (RCC) convention. The awards, announced May 11, recognize excellence in religion communication.

“It’s always a joy to see that others have appreciation for the writing a person does, all alone, hidden away in their garret … or their basement, as the case may be,” says author Susan Engle, a Baha’i in Lafayette, Indiana. “I rejoice for a day, then get back to work.”

Engle’s book Hazel Scott: A Woman, a Piano, and a Commitment to Justice was a category winner for Non-fiction: Youth – Single Work. 

“Hazel Scott’s story has been hidden away for seventy years,” Engle says. “Most of the comments I’ve read about the book express amazement that her musical talent, her service to her country during World War II, and her work to support the equality due to African Americans has not been widely recognized.” Her reputation was unfairly tarnished during a Congressional hearing in 1950.

“She is one of so many unheard voices that are being uncovered and celebrated today,” says Engle. “I was affected by her courage, and I hope that young readers of the book are as well.”

Engle was also acknowledged during the RCC Awards ceremony for being a prolific judge of these peer awards. She reviewed 26 entries. “Judging for the DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards sharpens my appreciation for the fine, passionate work being produced by interfaith religion communicators across the country,” she says. 

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Brilliant Star Online won the top award, Best in Class, for its website for families, which complements Brilliant Star children’s magazine.

“There are so many platforms competing for kids’ attention these days and Brilliant Star is a safe, informative and fun online world with no commercialism,” said senior editor Amy Renshaw in accepting the award.  

Renshaw says that one thing that makes the site different is it emphasizes spiritual development. “Along with encouraging kids to be world citizens and use their virtues to be of service to the world, we also are encouraging kids to develop their qualities of patience and love and friendship.”

“There’s so much conflict and unrest in the world, and a lot of it is around religion and we’re happy to be part of an organization that supports harmony and friendship among religions,” she says. “I think with all the conflicts in the world today, the work we’re doing as faith communicators is more important than ever, and it really does make a difference.”

“There’s a teaching in the Baha’i Faith,” she continues: “‘consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.’ And RCC gives us an opportunity to do that. And we really deeply appreciate it.”

Contributors named on the award were: Amethel Parel-Sewell, C. Aaron Kreader, Amy Renshaw and Heidi Parsons. In addition, Renshaw acknowledged the outside firm of Studio Pax, which does the web design.

Renshaw says that the DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards are a sign to their colleagues, audience and others that their work has value and impact.

“Since creative work can be so subjective,” she says, “it’s really helpful to have that confirmation from outside of our organization that we’re doing good work.”

The print version of Brilliant Star won awards in these other categories: Magazines – Series, Category Winner; Magazines – Single Work, Award of Merit; Illustration: Cover or Feature – Single Work, Award of Excellence.

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Designer Richard Doering was awarded a Best in Class for the cover of the 2021 Annual Report of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. The report as a whole won an Award of Merit.

“The Annual Report represents the culmination of not only the year 2021 for the growth of the Baha’i Faith in the United States, but also it represents the culmination of a 25-year-long series of plans that we’ve been getting by the supreme governing body of the Baha’i Faith, which is called the Universal House of Justice,” Doering said. “So it really represents the growth and development over a long period of time, not just in a single year. So I think it also stood out for that reason.”

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Alan Hatchett was a category winner in the Video Documentary—Series for his work on Rich Tapestry Series/ Minneapolis: Playing a Humble Part.

Hatchett says that he hopes that when people watch the video series they will “see the value of the Baha’i community-building process, and see ways in which Baha’is can come together in times of crisis to unify, unite and help heal the communities that they live in.” 

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Much of the awarded work was done in collaboration with others who are not members of the Baha’i Faith. For example, the design firm NeigerDesign helped bring one special issue publication to life: A Spiritual Path to Unity and Social Justice: The Baha’i Faith in America.  Their team, headed by Carol Neiger and Jonathan Amen, worked closely with the Baha’is to get it just right. The publication won five awards: Category Winner in Editorial – Single Work; and Illustration: Article or Story – Single Work, and Awards of Merit for Illustration: Cover or Feature – Single Work, Publication Design: Cover or Feature – Single Work, Specialty Publications Other – Single Work

“We tried to encapsulate what was happening in the Baha’i community-building process,” says Henry Warren of the Baha’i Office of Communications, whose detailed work with NeigerDesign was highlighted in an award for Best in Category for Illustration.

“The challenge was to figure out how to illustrate the different practices and principles that our Faith is engaging in, and effectively communicate the ideas to an audience that may not be Baha’is,” Warren says. “The designers were able to fully understand and re-articulate the idea on their own.”

The publication won four other awards: Category Winner in Editorial – Single Work; Awards of Merit for Illustration: Cover or Feature – Single Work; Publication Design: Cover or Feature – Single Work, Specialty Publications – Single Work.

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Joyce Litoff, who edits the US Baha’i News, was the recipient of two Best in Category awards, for Newsletter – Single Work and Newsletter – Series. This electronic publication offers a variety of inspiring quotes from the Baha’i writings, news items, video stories, podcasts, resources, family features and profiles of Baha’is putting their faith into action. The newsletter is designed for those who are interested in learning about and engaging with the U.S. Baha’i community.

The Religion Communicators Council posted the complete list of awards. 


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