ATLANTA - The MLB Beacon Awards Banquet presented by Belk will have some very special guests in attendance at the Omni Hotel Grand Ballroom in Atlanta next Saturday.
American Civil Rights Leader Reverend Al Sharpton will formally introduce five "Freedom Riders," who were civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia.
The Freedom Riders scheduled to attend include Representative John Lewis, Bernadette Lafayette, Diane Nash, Carol Ruth Silver and Hank Thomas. Additionally, the Freedom Riders and Rev. Sharpton will be recognized on the field during pregame ceremonies prior to the Delta Civil Rights Game at Turner Field.
The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the region. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses.
The MLB Beacon Awards Banquet presented by Belk will celebrate the achievements of individuals whose lives are emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement.
This list includes Academy Award Winner Morgan Freeman, who will be receiving the MLB Beacon of Hope; Grammy Award Winner Carlos Santana, who will be receiving the MLB Beacon of Change; and Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who will be receiving the MLB Beacon of Life. American Civil Rights Movement Leader and Co-Founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Reverend Joseph Lowery will deliver the keynote speech, and Baseball Hall of Famer and Braves Legend Hank Aaron will also be honored at the event.
The Banquet is one of many festivities scheduled to occur in the days leading up to the 2011 Delta Civil Rights Game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, May 15 at Turner Field. The game and ancillary events have been developed by MLB and the Braves to recognize all those who fought on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans.