by Cody Cunningham

Headline

GOLDEN STANDARD AWARD: GIZETTE KNIGHT

This past year brought many challenges, including a global pandemic and the fight for social equality. But through these hardships, leaders have emerged to help their community continue to move forward and rise stronger than before.

Gizette Knight is the CEO of Reality Dreams LLC. She created the organization to raise capital through entertainment, awareness and fellowship, then use that money to help improve impoverished communities and assist those who are less fortunate. 

This week, the Phoenix Suns honored Knight for her work in the Phoenix community as their first Golden Standard Award recipient of 2021. The Golden Standard Award recognizes Black philanthropists throughout the Valley who are promoting equality and excellence during Black History Month. 

While receiving this award, Knight was surprised with a personalized video from Jevon Carter recognizing her for her outstanding contributions throughout The Valley. He wanted to thank her for fighting for the respect of the Black community by gifting Knight with his autographed, game-worn jersey from the NBA Bubble that reads “RESPECT US” across the top.

This interview is lightly edited for length and clarity.

WHAT IS THE BLACK HISTORY MATTERS MURAL PROJECT THAT YOU HAVE ORGANIZED?

Knight: "Today, February 1st, we're out here at the Carver Museum for the kickoff for the Black History Month Mural Project. I came up with that concept because I wanted to pay homage to our ancestors. Growing up in New York, we were taught about Black history and we were taught to celebrate Black History Month and we celebrated it. But the thing is, it was always the same figures. For me, I just had a sense, a feeling, that there was more to us than just our icon Martin Luther King, our icon Rosa parks, our icon and historian Harriet Tubman. So for me, I had to do research and that's when I discovered that our history is complex. It's rich. I just wanted to express that through art, because art is a way of bringing people together. I wanted, not just the Black people to know that we have value, because we do have value, but I want everybody to see our history. So, we're painting 28 murals representing the 28 days of Black History Month. In those murals, it's not going to be figures that you know. There's going to be figures that you don't know. That's the beauty behind this project, because it's educational."

WHO ARE SOME OF THE FIGURES YOU'RE GOING TO BE PAYING HOMAGE TO?

"We have Percy Julian. He synthesized plants, medicinal compounds, and that's how we were getting medicine from the plants is through his research. We have Tuskegee Airmen that's in here. We have Lincoln Ragsdale, who was a civil rights icon down here who also was a Tuskegee Airman. Right now, at the Carver museum, we have Frederick Douglas, George Washington Carver and Harriet Tubman. So, these are our people that I wanted to pay homage to and give notoriety to and recognize them for their sacrifices and their accomplishments."

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY?

"Because I'm part of the community. I look at people as my brothers and sisters – as family. I believe if God blesses you, you have to be a blessing to others. I may not be the richest person, but I have resources that I could give. For example, I do a day of kindness every year. What we do is we go down to the heavily populated homeless area in Phoenix and we give showers, we give food, we give haircuts, we even bathe their pets. We have workforce development down there. We have licensed counselors down there. I feel like it doesn't take millions of dollars to help people out. It just takes the will."

WHO IN YOUR LIFE HAS HELPED INSPIRE YOU TO GIVE BACK?

"My grandmother would sacrifice for us. There were times when my grandmother wouldn't eat, just so we would eat. There were times where I would see my grandmother doing whatever she had to do just to put food on the table legally. That sacrifice and that hard work and that dedication resonated with me. I felt like I needed to do that, like pay it forward."

WHAT'S THAT FEELING LIKE WHEN YOU SEE SUCH A DIVERSE SET OF PEOPLE COMING TOGETHER FOR THE BETTERMENT OF THE COMMUNITY?

"When I see people coming together, I think of the Civil Rights Movement because that was Martin Luther King's dream – that his people come together, that we unite. I feel good because he said, 'I may not get there with you, but we're going to get to the mountain top.' When I see people coming together, I think of Martin Luther King and his sacrifice and the things that he went through in the Civil Rights Movement, just so people could come together."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RECEIVING THIS AWARD FROM THE PHOENIX SUNS DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH?

"This is amazing, because it's sort of like people are getting it. We've been saying Black Lives Matter. We have value and we want equality and justice, and it's sort of resonating with people. After George Floyd passed away — or, I should say, he was killed — that's when it sort of was the turning point that maybe everything that they were saying is happening. So, for me to get this reward after I organized marches and protests and rallies, it's just amazing. I'm honored. I know there's more work to do. This is just the point of people recognizing, ‘We see you. We hear you. And we acknowledge everything that you're doing in this movement.’"

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