National communication awards spotlight Baha’i efforts

April 16, 2021
National communication awards spotlight Baha’i efforts

Baha’is won three of this year’s 12 DeRose-Hinkhouse “Best in Class” awards from the Religion Communicators Council at their annual conference on April 6. The awards honor excellence in religion communication. In all, Baha’is claimed recognition in twelve different categories. The top three awards were:

Best in Class
John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Man, a Trumpet, and a Journey to Bebop by Susan Engle
This is Engle’s second of three books for middle-schoolers about African American Baha’is. “As far as the wider culture goes, African Americans in this Faith have made a huge contribution,” she says.

Engle says she wasn’t really a jazz fan when she started research for the book, “But, boy, I am now!” she says. “Dizzy was such a consummate emcee and performer. He was so funny and warm and so understated.”

“But he was not shy,” she says. “Once he became a Baha’i, he talked to everyone about it and would insist on including a section on the Faith in his interviews with the press.”

Engle says that in addition to facts, books for children need to have lots of stories in them. One of her favorite stories about Gillespie is that he had a hot line–a red phone–in his house “just to connect with young people he ran into on college tours who were striving to become professionals. They had questions about the trumpet, music, transcription. He would talk to them about anything. Whatever they needed,” she says with admiration. “I thought, ‘I don’t have a kid’s phone.’ Do you?”

Engle says it takes about a year to research and write one of her books. “When I’m in the middle of writing, I can’t sleep. It’s a process of immersing oneself in other people’s reality,” she says.

And the reality for African Americans in the racist atmosphere in this country is sometimes unbearable, Engle says. She says things were difficult for Gillespie growing up in the small town of Cheraw, South Carolina. “But he brought people into music and into just joy. He was such a joyous man.” 

Engle says she is inspired by the stories of the people she writes about. “I just see how they rise above. It is just miraculous. They all were from strong, courageous people, no matter what was going on in their own lives.”

Best in Class
Brilliant Star Online by Amethel Parel-Sewell, C. Aaron Kreader, Amy Renshaw, Heidi Parsons of Brilliant Star / Baha’i National Center

“The website, Brilliant Star Online, complements our print magazine,” says senior editor Amy Renshaw.

“The magazine is focused on encouraging kids and youth of all religions around the world to be world citizens, to develop their spiritual virtues and qualities, and to be of service in their communities,” Renshaw says. She adds that the team loves that the website extends their print mission in the world online.

“The RCC has been a tremendous benefit to us over the years,” Renshaw says. “It helps us feel like we are part of a community of faith communicators. It’s just so exciting to see what all these different faiths are doing to promote justice … and cooperation among different faiths.”

Renshaw says, “The DeRose-Hinkhouse awards encourage us to continue to strive for excellence and share our work with others.”

Best in Class
US Baha’i News: A Circumnavigation on the Wings of Baha’i Choral Music by Joyce Litoff of U.S. Baha’i National Center 

This podcast series follows Christopher LaMountain, a Northwestern University student, who set out on a trip around the world in the summer of 2019. His goal was to visit Baha’i Houses of Worship around the globe and study the emerging musical culture at each. He kept a diary of his travels and was invited into the recording studio to share some of his travel experiences.

“Christopher is a fabulous diarist and storyteller, and it was a joy to interview him for this series,” says audio story producer, Joyce Litoff. “Van Gilmer, the music director of the Baha’i House of Worship also deserves a lot of thanks,” Litoff says. “Van really embraced and mentored Christopher when he joined the choir.”

“It is always a shot in the arm for me when my work is recognized by the Religion Communicators Council,” says Litoff, who has received past awards for her writing, editing and public relations work. “It always lifts me up and reminds me that even though I sometimes feel like I’m dabbling in these different media, I am bringing the best I can to it.”

Additional awards presented to members of the Baha’i Faith:

Magazines Series
Category Winner
Brilliant Star 2020 (Volume 50, No. 5 – Volume 51, No. 1) by Amethel Parel-Sewell, C. Aaron Kreader, Amy Renshaw, Heidi Parsons of Brilliant Star / Baha’i National Center

Magazines Single Work
Category Winner
Brilliant Star, “Hearts in Harmony,” Vol. 50, No. 6 by Amethel Parel-Sewell, C. Aaron Kreader, Amy Renshaw, Heidi Parsons of Brilliant Star / Baha’i National Center

Newsletters – Series
Award of Merit
US Baha’i News by Joyce Litoff, Thomas Mennillo, James Humphrey of U.S. Baha’i National Center

Newsletters Single Work
Category Winner
US Baha’i News — June 2020 by Joyce Litoff of U.S. Baha’i National Center

Articles and Stories – Series
Award of Merit
A Summer to Remember: U.S. community rallies to advance despite unexpected turns by Thomas Mennillo, Joyce Litoff, Richard Doering, and James Humphrey of U.S. Baha’i National Center

Other – Single Work
Award of Merit
Forging a Path to Racial Justice by Richard Doering of U.S. Baha’i National Center

Magazine: Article or Story – Single Work
Award of Merit
Family perseveres through pandemic: Brothers with genetic condition benefit from family and community support by Thomas Mennillo of U.S. Baha’i National Center

Magazine: Cover or Feature Item – Series
Award of Merit
Inviting more and expanding the possibilities: Experience pays off as more people build community in more ways by Thomas Mennillo of U.S. Baha’i National Center 

Illustration: Cover or Feature – Single Work
Award of Merit
Brilliant Star, “Bound Together,” Vol. 50, No. 5 by C. Aaron Kreader of Brilliant Star / Baha’i National Center

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