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"Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award" 2024 Recipients

The 21st Annual
Gordon Parks Celebration

Thurs, Oct. 3 - Saturday, Oct. 5, 2024

Gary Palmer's 600 x 450 CP.jpg

“Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award” 2024 Recipients


Kokayi Ampah, Art Evans and Fred Watkins will be the recipients of the “Gordon Parks Choice of Weapons Award” at the annual celebration October 3rd - 5th, 2024 in Fort Scott, Kansas. The celebration is in honor Fort Scott native Gordon Parks, noted photographer, writer,  musician, and filmmaker. The Choice of Weapons Award was established in Parks’ honor to be given annually at the celebration.  More detailed information about the annual celebration will be coming soon with a full press release. 

Kokayi Ampah, began his career at the Inner City Youth League in 1968 where with Bobby  Hickman (nephew of Gordon Parks) and Mahmoud El Kati,  he got a sense of community awareness and cultural  heritage. That same year he was introduced to the world of television at KTCA, a PBS affiliate in the Black Voices Training and Production Program. Through Bobby Hickman, Kokayi was able to visit the film sets of Bobby’s uncle Gordon Parks, Shaft’s Big Score in 1972 and in 1974 Leadbelly.

In 1977 Kokayi moved to Los Angeles and in 1978 he became the first African American union Location Manager in Los Angeles. His television credits include the A Team, Cagney & Lacey,  Knight Rider and Women Of Brewster Place.

His feature film credits include The Color Purple, Mystic River,  Million Dollar Baby, Poetic Justice, Space Cowboys, Mars Attacks and 22 other feature films. He served as  Associate Producer and Location Manager on the Five Heartbeats and Production Supervisor / Location Manager on Shawshank Redemption

In 1995 he was awarded the Feature Location Manager of the year award for the state of California. In 2015  he was awarded the LifeTime Achievement Award by the Location Managers Guild of America. In 2016 Kokayi  became the second Location Manager inducted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. In 2018  he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the African American Film Market Place. 

In the past 10 years Kokayi has written, directed and produced three short films, co-produced two other  shorts and co-produced a feature film Cliffs Of Freedom released in 2019. He released two documentaries, one  feature length, “A Tale Of Two Cities” in 2023 about his life at the Inner City Youth League in St. Paul, MN and the  other a short film in 2024 titled “Poinsettia: Hollywood’s Refuge” about the park where Black Hollywood networked in the 70’s and 80’s. 

Art Evans, is an actor, director and coach, who has made over 100 films and television program appearances spanning over 60 years. Evans is best recognized as playing the memorable character, Wilkie, alongside Denzel Washington in the Oscar nominated, all-star African-American drama, A Soldier’s Story. He is also popularly known for his role as Leslie Barnes with Bruce Willis in the action film Die Hard 2. He also appeared in Trespass (1992) with Ice Tea and Ice Cube and Metro (1997) with Eddie Murphy.


Art’s goal is to encourage the youngsters who engage him daily. He is a mentor, a storyteller and a avid activist for Peace. He is married to Babe Evans, artist and activist.


Art Evans was born in Berkeley, California. Art’s acting career, spanning over 60 years, started with Frank Silvera’s Theatre of Being in Los Angeles. He originated the role of David in James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner which premiered on Broadway in 1965. His first film-acting performance was in the film Claudine in 1974. Playing many instruments came in handy when playing Blind Lemon Jefferson in the movie Leadbelly (1976) and Solomon Northrop’s Odyssey, directed by Gordon Parks Sr.


 A few other Film credits include: Big Time (1977), The Cracker Factory (1979), National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982), Into the Night (1985), Fright Night (1985), Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986), Ruthless People (1986), Native Son (1986), White of the Eye (1987), School Daze (1988), The Mighty Quinn (1989), Downtown (1990), CB4 (1993), Bitter Harvest (1993), and Tales from the Hood (1995). Television appearances include: M*A*S*H, Hill Street Blues, A Different World, Walker Texas Ranger, Monk, The X-Files, Family Matters, Lincoln Heights, Last Man Standing. Recently Mr. Evans made a guest appearance on Real Husbands of Hollywood with Kevin Hart and did a voiceover in the animation-The Proud Family. Art is in the ensemble cast of BET’s Beauty and the Baller.


Mr. Evans has received several awards including two NAACP Awards, Best Supporting Actor and   “The Spirit Award”. And “Mentor for Success”, from the Celestial Awards Gala, SCYC Berkeley Legends, and INNERCITY Cultural Center- essence award. He has supported Sickle Cell awareness for 30 years and is a mentor to youth with Richard Lawson’s WACO Theatre. For over 40 years Art has been a practicing Buddhist. Art has been blessed with his wife, Babe, his two sons, three grandsons and one great granddaughter.

Fred Watkins, has been a professional photographer for over 35 years, traveling worldwide and photographing celebrities and heads of state from Nelson Mandela to Muhammad Ali. He is the only African American photographer to be in the White House Press Corps covering all the United States Presidents from George H. W. Bush to Donald Trump.


He grew up in Armstrong Court, a low income housing development in Greenwich, CT where he was first introduced to photography by his father, Reverend Frederick Watkins, Sr. Fred practiced his hobby at Western Junior High School and was on the yearbook staff and in the photography club at Greenwich High. He graduated from Western Connecticut State University, where he honed his photography skills working on the yearbook and was editor of the newspaper.

Fred started his career in the streets of New York as a paparazzi and worked in the Time-Life photo lab in New York City. He worked his way up doing freelance photography for Time, Life and People magazines. While at Time Inc., he met and became personal friends with Gordon Parks, a renowned Life Magazine photographer, movie producer, poet, and composer. This relationship led to Watkins being able to photograph Parks during the shooting of the movie, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey, which was filmed in 1983 and was based on the book of the same name. That Life Magazine assignment led Watkins to another assignment traveling with Minister Louis Farrakhan. The article appeared in Life Magazine in August of 1984.


Fred worked for Ebony and Jet magazines as a staff photographer for 20 years and is a member of the White House Press Corps. Among Fred’s most treasured assignments while working for Ebony and Jet was traveling on Air Force One. He was the first photographer to capture George W. Bush in his private quarters on Air Force One. He has traveled with Presidents Clinton and Bush to Africa, and with Jesse Jackson all through Brazil. Fred also traveled to Jerusalem to photograph the Gaza Strip and other historic landmarks. His most honored assignment was to document Nelson Mandela’s first tour of the United States after being released from prison in 1990.


Over the years Fred expanded his clientele to include ABC, ESPN, Pfizer, Miller Brewing Company, General Motors, Fox News, The National Football League and other Fortune 500 companies. He has been a “Good Morning America” still photographer from 1984 to present. Fred was recently contacted by the Smithsonian Institute and is now in negotiations to have some of his photographs placed in the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, DC. In addition to speaking to civic groups, and to high school and college students, he also exhibits a small portion of his body of work in museums, colleges, libraries and other public and private spaces. His hometown of Greenwich recently celebrated “Fred Watkins Day” with a proclamation acknowledging his accomplishments in the field of photojournalism.


Kokayi Ampah Head Shot.jpg
Art Evans Head Shot.jpg

Past Choice of Weapons Award Recipients

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