The Henderson County Black History Committee will host its annual scholarship banquet on Saturday, with guest speaker Malakoff native Bradrick Graves.

He is a 1994 graduate of Malakoff High School and recipient of a HCBHC scholarship. He was a drama student, playing a small acting part in Gambler V starting Country Music Award winner, Grammy Award winner and American Music Award winner Kenny Rogers. He has spent his life as a member of the First Baptist Church in Malakoff; where he served many years as an usher.

Graves continued his education at Tyler Junior College, receiving an associate’s degree in behavioral sciences. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia College and a master's degree in biotechnology from the University of Maryland.

He joined the Army National Guard and served continuously in  active and reserve roles for 22 years before retiring in 2015 at the rank of master sergeant. He was recognized with numerous awards and decorations, including the Bronze Medal — one the nation’s highest award for actions in combat.

Graves lives in Frankfurt, Germany, and works as a foreign service specialist supporting the U.S. State Department's Europe, Africa and Middle East foreign relations.

“As a United States diplomat, I enjoy the opportunity to visit more than 80 countries around the world,” he said. “I cherish my experiences and opportunities and enjoy encouraging others to appreciate cultural experiences.”

The banquet is set for 7 p.m. at the Malakoff Community/Senior Center. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at the door.

About the scholarship

One of the requirements for students when they apply for the HCBHC scholarship is to type one- to two-page essays on the national theme, “Black migrations,” with a sub-theme of “vision.” Here are the 23 scholarship recipients' insighst on these topics:.

• Hailey Fluellen of Brownsboro — Historians estimated that almost 6 to 7 million African slaves were imported to the new world during the 18th century. African slaves helped build the new nation into an economic powerhouse through the production of lucrative crops such as tobacco and cotton.

• Ashton Williams of Brownsboro — African Americans migrated to northern cities such as New York, Detroit, and Chicago.

They only wanted opportunities and jobs; they could work and live as human beings. The freedom that we have today is because of the vision and hard work that our ancestors put forth back in the Great Migration. Things are not great and there’s a struggle today, but we will keep fighting and never give up.

• Isaiah Castillo of Brownsboro — The Great Migration was the first big step that the nation’s servant class took without asking. It also was key to the struggles and accomplishments of the long Civil Rights Movement. Vision is spiritual insight and the light of the inner eye; a higher state of mind and spiritual vision can only be achieved through prayer and reading God’s word daily and much meditation. We should worship Him in spirit and in truth and know that we are His and He is ours, and no one can ever take that away from us.

• Jaylinn Womack of Trinidad — Although it was hard to leave all they have ever known to start over again, the migration has a huge impact on the African Americans who migrated to the North.  Segregation was not legalized in the North, but that did not stop the racism and prejudice.  In all the Great Migration was not a warm welcome as they envisioned it would be, but they were given way more opportunities than they could have ever had in the South.

• Hayley Ned of Trinidad: — The movement of black migrants led not only to physical changes, but societal changes.  The migrations of African Americans have impacted me personally, for I am African American.  It is because of their visions that I can dream and prosper.  It is because of these daring individuals that I can do the things that I am accomplishing today.  I am truly grateful for what all the black migrants did to shape the world for my fellow peers and I.

• Jazmyn Burden-Engle of Trinidad: — Black migration was a powerful movement among many African Americans. The time was stressful; many lives were lost, and many tears were shed for our fellow black Americans. This topic is very touchy and still alive today. I myself still experience people looking at me funny, going out their way to avoid coming in contact, etc., however, keep in mind the black migrations endured way worse things, but the hateful acts of people are still alive today. We survive by having the Grace of God on our side as our people in captivity did.

• Landon Criner of Athens — When I think of the terms Black Migrations and Vision, the Underground Railroad comes to mind. The conductors came to plantations pretending to be a slave with a vision to guide other slaves to freedom and equality. I will graduate from Athens High School and TVCC with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts; with plans to further my education at Texas Southern University; obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and the attend the late Thurgood Marshall School of Law to pursue a Master’s Degree in Business Law. My vision for myself is to always excel beyond what others think I can do and in spite of what obstacles may come my way.

• Samaj Richardson of Athens — During the Great Migration living in an urban area was a desired dream for African Americans. I believe that those courageous pioneers that stepped out on faith and traveled in the directions of where labor was needed were dreaming dreams. The lack of knowledge is what hinders you from understanding the importance of history. If I had the opportunity to fellowship with the pioneers of that era; I would confess that they have my up most respect.

• Jennifer Castillo of Athens — Black Migration began when Southern African Americans became aware of the labor opportunities in the North and left their current economic condition. It also created a new era in political activism and human rights acts among African Americans. Their vision is the reason why I am able to get a proper education and attend a public school as I am myself a person of color. We appreciate their visions and dreams along with God’s Grace; it’s because of them a person of color can dream higher and achieve more.

• Danaleigh Stiles of Cross Roads — The Great Depression caused a lull in the migration process during the 1930s, but the second wave of migration was strong between 1940 and 1970. African Americans within the United States continue to move around for a better lifestyle today. They enjoy an urban life where there is a strong, black middle class. There are no longer limitations for anyone when it comes to neighborhoods and careers.

• Brenda Aguilar of Athens — Rosa Parks sat so Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. could walk; so President Barrack Obama could run. African Americans arrived in America; many headed North where there was need of industrial workers. They migrated for a better life for themselves and their families. I personally can agree with this situation because my mother and father migrated from Mexico to America to provide a better life for my siblings and myself.  My vision is to change the environment of my town.

• Tamya Hubbard of Athens — I feel as if the Black Migration was a prosperous era for African Americans. They should be acknowledge for the continual contributions to the American society and be applauded for upholding the traditions and values influenced by their culture. The bravery it took for African Americans to flee their homeland in hopes of influencing freedom, is one of the biggest movements that will go down in history for years to come. Our history is inevitable towards our success and future and I plan to excel to make our ancestors proud.

• Olivia Garnerway of Trinidad — My vision is to become a Registered Nurse. I plan to work as hard as I can to accomplish all the things I need to do to fulfill my goals. I feel as though God is opening my path and it’s helping me see that if I work with God, accomplishing my goals will be a lot easier. As I seek for a better living conditions through higher education; I will count on God’s Blessings and the generosity of other to help me succeed.

• Andrew McBride of Athens — Vision is seeing what there could be and through the years visions of change have become more apparent. As we have seen through the years a lot of visions are met with a battle; sometimes the battle is against yourself, but usually there is someone; a group that you are battling because your vision might cause change for them. Visions are all different and they come from different mindsets and angles on life based off of your race and ethnicity.

• Everardo Garcia of Malakoff — When an individual migrates to another place most of them do it for various reasons. They all have a vision to make their own life and their family’s life better. They want their families to live in a great home and live in a safe environment. They do not want to worry about money, worry about being hungry, or the safety of their families. They have visions of hope and dreams no matter where you have migrated from or no matter the skin color.

• Keiundryia Walker of Malakoff — “What do you want to do when you grow up?” This is an indirect way of sparking the imagination and causing one to envision their lives. Though in often circumstances life doesn’t always happen exactly how we plan it, it’s more than worth living. Life is expected to send you on a journey full of highs and lows, but it is the responsibility to self to hold fast to your dreams as God gave them to us individually.

• Joseph Prnka of Malakoff — African Americans came with their diverse culture which they morph and mold when they reached their destinations in the Northern cities. The biggest and most well known was the Harlem Renaissance which spanned the length of the 1920s. This cultural explosion was arguably the first time African Americans were able to explore their own ideas and creativity without worrying about the repercussions of the South’s negative influence.

• Ka’Derrious Thomas of Malakoff — Migration back to the South played a big factor in getting Equality for African Americans and showed that changes were coming and they were getting more noticed as equals and not minorities. Migration to the South helped in setting up a corner stone for the African American race; it gave several political positions to blacks and set up more black owned businesses that ever before.

• Fantasia Bryant of Malakoff — Vision is one of the defining qualities of leadership; a leader calls people together, shares the vision, and inspires them to pursue it. We are a direct byproduct of our ancestors. We are their vision, their hope and though the battle is far from over, perseverance and endurance will carry us through to the end, as it did for our foremothers and forefathers.

• Chassity Harmon of Malakoff — The Great Migration became important in the artistic movement known first as the New Negro Movement and then later on as the Harlem Renaissance that would have an enormous impact on the culture of the era that led to increasing political activism among African Americans after being disenfranchised in the South found a new place for themselves in public life of North and West cities.

• Madelynn Dunklin of Malakoff — Black migrations were inspired by visions to make a better country and way of life. Although they were caused by horrible conditions and racism, they created something truly beautiful. African American children were able to have the same educational opportunities as white children and everyone was able to go into any place they wanted without having to worry about if it was segregated or not.

• Jamicah Gregg of Malakoff — Growing up as a young man of color, my parents and grandparents have taught me to appreciate and take advantage of the opportunity to freely gain an education without prejudice. Our forefathers marched, protested, were beaten, and shed blood for that very right we have today. If it had not been for the vision and bravery to take a leap of faith, there would not have been any of the inventions we have today.

• Na’Keldrick Cumby of Athen — The word movement to me means moving forward in a direction that will enhance my life in a positive way and also those that I meet along the way. I know I must move in a direction that others have traveled and I must cross the finish line of success. Then that’s where vision comes in; I have to see myself as the master builder. I cannot afford to be distracted by anyone who pretends to be with me, but have intentions to hinder my progress; for I know God is on my side. I can do all things through Christ who give me strength to weather any storm, cross any river, or climb any mountain. I CAN DO THIS!!!