Austin’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration began in 1983, and was planned and sponsored by the Texas Union African-American Culture Committee (AACC), University of Texas at Austin. In 1993, AACC joined with Huston-Tillotson College and in 1994, the two colleges worked with community-based service organizations giving birth to the first City-Wide MLK Celebration.
In June of 1995, the Austin Area Heritage Council was officially formed to oversee planning of Austin’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebrations. To create a more inclusive and family atmosphere, the Heritage Council reached out to non-African American-based organizations to participate and adopted the new title of “MLK Community Celebration.”
The mission of the Austin Area Heritage Council is to encourage interest in all cultures represented in Austin and to celebrate the rich history of Austin. The Heritage Council promotes understanding and respect among all people by creating and supporting multicultural activities as well as highlighting the achievements and talents of all members of the community regardless of race or religion. There are currently 11 members on the Heritage Council Board of Directors.
Carol Wright, Chairperson
Carol joined the Heritage Council in 2000 and served as the chair of the Youth Legacy Awards prior to being elected as chairperson of the board in 2004. She is an affiliate member of Leadership Austin and serves on the Community Advisory Board of KLRU, The Women’s Council of the African American Men & Boys Harvest and The Seedling Foundation. Carol is a graduate of Indiana University and brings over 25 years of community service to the council. She is employed as the Director of Educational Services at Skillpoint Alliance and is an active member of Zion Rest M.B. Church. Carol is happily married to Daniel and has two adult children.
Michael Winn, Vice-Chairperson
Michael brings with him more than 20 years of experience in community service organizations. He has a strong background in public relations, team development and project management. Since moving to Austin several years ago, Michael has been an active participant in the community and is a member of Wesley United Methodist Church. Michael is a graduate of Texas Lutheran University and is employed by Travis County Clerk as the Elections Program Manager.
Cheryl Lee, Treasurer
Cheryl became involved with the Heritage Council in 2001 to serve as treasurer. She brings over 15 years of combined experience as a financial advisor / educator and non profit manager to the council. She has an MBA in Financial Planning and is an Accredited Financial Counselor. Cheryl has her own financial planning practice with Ameriprise Financial Advisors.
Yvette Crawford-Lee, Secretary
A native Austinite, Yvette brings over 10 years of community service to the council and serves as the coordinator for the MLK Oratory Competition. She is an active member of Holy Cross Catholic Church where she participates as a member of the Liturgical Praise Dancers and the Knights of Peter Claver (KPC) Ladies Auxiliary, Court #284. Yvette is a graduate of Texas Tech University and is a Project Specialist for Austin Free-Net (AFN), a non-profit organization which provides technology training and computer access for the community, by fostering skills that enable people to succeed in a digital age. Yvette is also the proud mother of two adult children, Raphael and Mariah.
Para Jackson Agobga, Volunteer Coordinator
Para worked as a volunteer to the Heritage Council in 1993 and joined the board in 1998. After leaving in 2000 to start a family she returned in 2003, bringing with her a great deal of community and arts experience. Para also gives time and expertise to the Sickle Cell Association of Austin-Marc Thomas Chapter, Daisy Scouts and High Pointe Baptist Church Children’s Ministry. She holds a BA from Prairie View A&M University in Theatre Arts, and is the Theatre Manager of the Boyd Vance Theatre in the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center. Para is also the proud Mom to Carrie, Cecilia and Christopher, II.
Brenda Harris Burt, UT March Coordinator
Brenda Burt brings over 20 years of organizational experience both regionally and nationally. Mrs. Burt is a published author and among other things serves as Advisor for the Big XII Council on Black Student Government and Executive Board Member & Administrator for Central Texas Elite Track Club. She is an active member of Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church and coordinates events for the Black Women’s Professional Association. She currently serves a dual role as Director of Special Projects for the John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies and the Department of African & African Diaspora Studies at UT. Black Exes of Texas, Inc. named a scholarship in her honor. Brenda is a proud graduate of Morgan State University.
Joya Hayes, March & Festival Coordinator
Joya comes with 20 years of experience in volunteer and community service work. She is an Education Consultant for Trice Education Services, and a motivational speaker. As a motivational speaker, Joya has delivered speeches to over one-million people in six states and two countries. She has received numerous awards for her work with low income minority students in the Central Texas area. She is a proud graduate of Huston-Tillotson University, and she received her Master’s in Public Administration from Texas State University. Joya is also a member of Wesley United Methodist Church, and the current President of the Austin Graduate Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She currently serves as an Employee Relations Representative for the COA Solid Waste Services Department.
Dawnita Onyejiaka – Assistant Festival Coordinator
Dawnita became involved with the Heritage Council in 2004 and was added to the board in 2007. Dawnita brings with her over 20 years of HR and Diversity experience. Eight of those years has been with Dell, Inc. where she is employed in the Global Diversity department. Dawnita received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree from Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, TX. She is an active member of St. Mary’s Baptist Church in Pflugerville where she lives with her husband of 22 years and two wonderful sons.
Aaron Terry, Website Coordinator
In addition to an array of organizational and event planning skills, Aaron brings over 13 years of Information Technology experience to the board. He is a graduate of the University of Texas-Austin and has been employed by TrialSmith, Inc. as its Technical Operations Director since January 2002. Over the years, Aaron has always maintained active membership and leadership positions in various community service and volunteer organizations. Aaron currently serves as a board member for the Texas Black Expo Foundation and is a member of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
Socar Chatman Thomas – Assistant Festival Coordinator
Socar jas been involved with AHC for the past three years and joined the AAHC Board in 2006. She is currently employed as a real estate broker with Caldwell Banker United. She is a founding member of the Texas Association of Realtors Housing Initiatives Committee which focuses on providing affordable housing opportunities through out Texas. She’s also the 2008 Chairman of the Austin Board of Realtors, an active member of St. Mary’s Baptist Church in Pflugerville, mother of two princesses, Guinevere and Isabella, wife to Martin and is a proud Rice Owl in the field of Longhorns.
All of the members of the Austin Area Heritage Council Board of Directors serve in a voluntary capacity.