The Banquet is part of Civil Rights Game Week, which culminates with the 2011 Civil Rights Game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, May 15 at Turner Field in Atlanta.
“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to honor this esteemed group with MLB Beacon Awards,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, Executive Vice President, Baseball Development, Major League Baseball. “The impact each individual has made in their professional careers is admirable, but it is their personal pursuits of philanthropy, equal rights and integration that make them truly deserving of this significant recognition of accomplishment.”
Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman is one of the most recognizable figures in American cinema. His works are among the most critically and commercially successful films in history. Freeman portrayed Nelson Mandela in the 2009 film “Invictus,” which like the story of Jackie Robinson, showed how sport could have an impact on social change. Freeman, who also produced the film for his company Revelations Entertainment, ranks 10th among worldwide top-grossing actors of all time as his films have earned over $3 billion in cumulative ticket sales. In 1973, he co-founded the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop, which seeks to serve successful playwrights of the new millennium. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Earth Biofuels, a company whose mission is to promote the use of clean-burning fuels. He also supports Artists for a New South Africa and the Campaign for Female Education. A significantly important moment for him was when he funded the first racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi — one of his early childhood hometowns and where he currently lives. Charleston High School, which is in the community of about 2,100 residents, has an average of 80 graduates per year, and up until 2008 had separate, segregated proms for black and white students. In 1997, Freeman approached the school and offered to pay for the prom, provided it would be racially integrated. The school declined that original offer, but eventually accepted Freeman’s second attempt in 2008. This was the subject of the documentary Prom Night In Mississippi. The senior prom was a success, and still today, Charleston High School conducts integrated proms. For this significant moment in pursuing equality and integration with the young people of Charleston and for his wonderful career, Freeman will receive the MLB Beacon of Hope, given to an individual who influences our future through his support of children.
For forty years, and as many albums later, Carlos Santana has sold more than 90 million records and reached more than 100 million fans at concerts worldwide. To date, he has won ten Grammy Awards, including a record-tying nine for a single project, 1999’s Supernatural. In 1998, Santana was ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, whose web page on his induction notes, “Guitarist Carlos Santana is one of rock’s true and virtuoso guiding lights.” Among many other honors, Carlos Santana has also been cited by Rolling Stone Magazine as #15 on their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” His newest CD, Guitar Heaven…The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time (ARISTA), debuted in September 2010. Celebrating this chart debut, Santana joins the ranks of the Rolling Stones as the only musical act in chart history to score at least one Top 10 album in every decade beginning in the 1960s. The Milagro Foundation is a publicly supported foundation established by Carlos Santana and his family in 1998. Milagro benefits underserved and vulnerable children around the world by making grants to community based, tax-exempt organizations that work with children in the areas of education, health and the arts. With funds generated by concert ticket donations, Santana licensed products and generous philanthropic partners and individual donors, Milagro supports children and youth in the San Francisco Bay area, across the United States and in countries around the world touched by the music of Santana. Between October 1998 and February 2011, the Milagro Foundation has supported children and youth in 36 states and 35 countries by granting more than $4.7 million to 350 agencies working with children and youth. For his powerful legacy on the world music stage and his dedication to the Milagro Foundation, Major League Baseball is bestowing upon him the MLB Beacon of Change, given to an individual who impacts society through words and actions.
Baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks is arguably the most popular player in the 135-year history of the Chicago Cubs, and was the best power-hitting shortstop in baseball in the 1950s and early 1960s. Throughout his illustrious career, he compiled more than 2,500 hits and hit more than 500 home runs—his 47 home runs in 1958 are the most ever for a shortstop in National League history. Banks began his playing career with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues before emerging as a superstar and becoming affectionately known as “Mr. Cub.” Banks played his entire 19-year Hall of Famer career with the organization and amassed an impressive amount of accolades along the way: National League Most Valuable Player (1958, 1959), 14-time MLB All-Star, Lou Gehrig Memorial Award (1967), member of the Major League Baseball All-Century Team and in 2009 named by the Library of Congress Folklife Center's "Baseball Americana" Symposium as one of the greatest players of all time. Banks holds the Cubs record for most games played (2,528) and owns the distinction of being the first player in Cubs history to have his number (#14) retired. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday on January 31 and was honored with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaiming it “Ernie Banks Day.” In addition to staying active with the Chicago Cubs organization for more than 55 years, most recently serving as special advisor, he operates the Ernie Banks Live Above and Beyond Foundation with his wife Liz and continues to participate in charitable events and causes. Banks and his foundation work to promote social welfare and improve the capabilities of underprivileged children and seniors with donations to programs that enhance neighborhoods, eliminate prejudice and relieve discrimination among various age groups and races. Major League Baseball is honoring him with the MLB Beacon of Life, an award recognizing an individual who embodies the soul of the civil rights movement through his life’s pursuits.
American Civil Rights Movement Leader and Co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Reverend Joseph Lowery will deliver the keynote speech at the Banquet. Proceeds from the affair will benefit the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.
In addition to the MLB Beacon Awards Banquet and the Civil Rights Game, 2011 Civil Rights Game Week will feature the inaugural Selig Business Conference; a Red Carpet tribute to Hank Aaron and special screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Chasing the Dream”; the Baseball & the Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion; and the Civil Rights Game Youth Summit/”Wanna Play?” Event.
The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies will celebrate the Negro Leagues during the game on Saturday, May 14. The Braves will wear replica uniforms worn by the Atlanta Black Crackers and the Phillies will wear those worn by the Philadelphia Stars. Additionally, there will be a pregame ceremony honoring former Negro Leagues players, and fans will receive Atlanta Black Crackers caps.