As the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation prepares for its 25th anniversary celebration, Chairmen Karen and C.J. Duvall recognize the invaluable programs that the foundation offers throughout the state.
By Barrett Gay | Photography by Meredith Melody | Makeup by Bridget Baltimore with Barbara/Jean | Wardrobe from Barbara Jean | Jewelry from Sissy’s Log Cabin | Styled by Angie Baltimore
Imagine meeting your childhood hero — what would you say to that person? Just a few years ago, C.J. Duvall got that chance at an Arkansas Black Hall of Fame gala. “I was invited to introduce Lou Brock, a National Baseball Hall of Fame player with the St. Louis Cardinals,” C.J. recalls. “As a kid, we could run to the bleachers, and while he was warming up, lean over and say, ‘Hey, Lou! You’re my favorite player!’ So many years later, after he’s retired from baseball and I’m a grown man, I was able to lean over and say ‘Hey, Lou…’ and I was able to introduce him as an inductee.”
It’s civic icons like Lou Brock – and other honorees including Maya Angelou and John H. Johnson – that keep C.J. and his wife, Karen, invested in the foundation. “The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame highlights people who are nationally and globally known and have a sustaining impact on culture — not only African-American culture in particular, but American culture, period,” C.J. explains. Regarding these induction ceremonies, Karen adds, “I have always felt inspired by the stories of the inductees. They all worked diligently and achieved great success. It’s just amazing.”
The Duvalls also appreciate the programs and support that the foundation offers Arkansans. “This is an organization that serves Arkansas by providing grants to not-for-profits in various communities,” C.J. notes. “A majority of Arkansas counties have been touched by the foundation – across race, age, gender and socio-economic status. We’re participating in communities through our gifts, and that’s important to me. When I was a kid, my mother impressed upon us the importance of sharing and giving back. We didn’t have very much to give, but she seemed to always have a pot of coffee or some food on the table. She taught us the meaning of giving. The foundation is also teaching younger people – if they’re paying attention – that giving is paramount, and that becoming famous is nice, but if you look at the lives of many of those inductees, they’re people who have given in ways beyond measure.”
Through their work with the foundation and the Duvall Family Charitable Endowment, which offers grants for educational scholarships, C.J. and Karen lead by example with values of generosity + service. “I hope that my kids will learn through me that there are ways in which you can share and care and give to your community. You don’t have to make a lot of money, you just have to have the intent – the heart,” C.J. says.
This year, the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame Foundation is celebrating its silver anniversary with a variety show spectacular. The evening includes performances from jazz recording artist Cynthia M. Scott, an inductee, Jacquez Swanigan, actor and contestant on season 12 of The Voice and blues singer T.J. Hooker-Taylor – son of the late R&B legend Johnnie Taylor, an inductee – to name a few, with comedian/actress Luenell, an inductee, serving as emcee. Also returning are some of the best performances the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame has enjoyed over the past 25 years. “It is going to be a lot of fun and great night of celebration!” Karen says.
As the foundation continues to recognize outstanding Arkansans for their accomplishments and service to the state, the commitment from the Duvalls will also endure. After all, C.J. admits, “Service is what makes me excited.”
Getting to know the Duvalls
Favorite visual artist?
C.J.: Romare Bearden
Karen: my daughters
Favorite performing artists?
C.J. & Karen: our daughters
C.J.: Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Karen: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown & Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain