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Steve Harvey's Hoodie Awards honor unsuspecting community leaders

OULIMATA BA Special to the AmNews | 6/14/2012, 4:14 p.m.
Steve Harvey's Hoodie Awards honor unsuspecting community leaders

Community activist Malik Rhasaan was on the radio show "This Week in Blackness" when he received a text from a friend saying she was going to nominate him for a Hoodie Award.

"It just came out of nowhere," said Rhasaan, the founder of Occupy the 'Hood, a grassroots movement dedicated to educating and improving the lives of Blacks and Latinos. "The first thing I did was Google the Hoodie Awards, because I didn't know what they were," he said.

If selected, Rhasaan could win an award for Best Community Leader at the 2012 Hoodie Awards. Created by comedian and radio show host Steve Harvey, the Hoodie Awards honor the hard work and impact of people in urban communities that would otherwise go unnoticed. Nominees include the "Best" in 12 categories, including Best Beauty Salon, Best School Teacher and Best Church Choir.

This year's Hoodie Awards will be held in Las Vegas Aug. 2-5. In the meantime, "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" will announce four nominees in a category every day until June 19.

"I'm flattered," Rhasaan, 40, said. "I was wired that they trust me enough that I'm doing the right thing."

Rhasaan is not the only potential nominee who didn't know about the Hoodie Awards.

"Really, I was at loss for words when we found out we were nominated," said Detrick Simmons, choir director at the St. Mark Four Bridges Missionary Baptist Church in South Carolina. Simmons, 24, has been the choir director there for five years.

"It's still breathtaking for us that we are going somewhere that we have been working so hard for," he said. This is the first time the choir, which has 60 members, has been recognized for a Hoodie Award.

Valarie Pitts Sanders, a longtime member of the St. Mark Four Bridges Church, nominated the choir for the award. Sanders wanted to help bring recognition to the church's new community center.

"I was just dreaming about how I could help my pastor fill this place," Sanders, 47, said. "We have so many other churches; how can I help bring people to the church?"

Sanders went online at least five times a day to vote for her church's choir. Supporters can vote at steveharvey.com until the day the top four nominees are announced. The nominees for Best Church Choir were announced last week.

Kevin Parrott, director of the Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Florida, is also enthused to have his choir recognized for their talent.

"It's a huge joy, because the choir has never really been involved in this type of category before," said Parrott, who has been the choir director for three years. Parrot said the choir, which has 90 members, was shocked when they found out about the nomination. "For them to be even nominated has not only strengthened their moral, but the growth of the choir as well."

Rhasaan, on the other hand, doesn't feel he has done anything special to merit an award. Rhasaan is currently gathering a group of rappers to perform free concerts in 25 cities. Called conscious rappers, they will rap about the importance of activism within the community.

"I don't rap. I don't do anything. I've just got a big mouth," Rhasaan said. But unlike the church choirs, Rhasaan doesn't feel that his life, or the lives of those he helps with Occupy the 'Hood, has changed. "I think I haven't won anything yet--we are still struggling," he said.

Rhasaan will find out if he is one of the top four nominees on June 19. Winners in all 12 categories will be announced at the awards ceremony.

The Hoodie Awards is also holding an "Escape to the 2012 Ford Hoodie Awards" video contest. Listeners of "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" can go to the show's website to submit videos on why they should attend the Hoodie Awards, which will be voted on. Voting for this contest begins July 2, with the winner to be announced on the 6. The winner, along with the four nominees from each award category, will attend the Hoodie Awards ceremony.