MEMPHIS, TN--To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Civil Rights Museum, the 2011 Freedom Awards will be given to select individuals for their contributions to civil and human rights, education, the arts, sports community, justice and for their dedication to creating opportunity for the disenfranchised.
Honorees this year include Danny Glover, Cicely Tyson, Bill Russell, Alonzo Mourning, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, among others. The Freedom Awards is a global civil rights event, part of the mission of the National Civil Rights Museum, which is the home of the Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The award ceremony will be held on Saturday November 12, 2011 at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts in Memphis, TN.
Former Freedom Award recipients include Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder, President William Clinton, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Earvin Magic Johnson, Colin Powell, Dorothy Height, Jackie Robinson (posthumously), Ruby Dee/Ossie Davis (posthumously), Sidney Poitier, Eva Longoria, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Mikhail Gorbachav, and Myrlie Evers-Williams. Award sponsors are FEDEX, Hyde Family Foundation, NIKE, International Paper, ExxonMobil and the First Tennessee Foundation.
The following Freedom Awards categories will be recognized:
Marva Collins, Pioneer Award creating the Westside Preparatory School, Chicago, in 1975 with $5,000 of her teachers’ pension fund. Her school took in students who were labeled as borderline learning disabled and problem children. At the end of first school year each student scored at least 5 grades higher. Her curriculum and method is based on classical literature, abstract concepts and lofty thoughts.
Bill Russell, Pioneer Award for his participation in the Civil Rights Movement, recipient of the NBA’s first Civil Rights Award and was the first African American to coach a major sport at the professional level in the US. Member of the NBA Hall of Fame who fought racism off and on the courts, Russell holds the record for the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league.
Playing in the wake of pioneers like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Sweetwater Clifton, Russell was the first African American player to achieve superstar status in the NBA.
For his accomplishments in the Civil Rights Movement on and off the court, Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2011.
Alonzo Mourning, Legacy Award for his charities which aid the development of children and families living in at risk situations. He is founder of the Overtown Youth Center in Miami, Florida for the enrichment of children. Former NBA standout, he launched Zo’s Fund for Life to raise funds for glomerulosclerosis, which he was diagnosed with during his NBA career. He founded Athletes for Hope, a charitable organization, which helps professional athletes get involved in charitable causes and inspires millions of non-athletes to volunteer and support the community.
Dr. Bill Frist, Pioneer Award for his work with African hospitals and schools with the group Samaritan’s Purse. As a former US Senator from Tennessee, he made annual visits to Africa for medical assistance and counsel and was instrumental in getting the U.S. to define the actions in Darfur as genocide. Chair of Hope Through Healing Hands, a nonprofit that works for child survival/maternal health, clean water, extreme poverty, and global disease such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. He serves on the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, First Lady Michelle Obama's Partnership for a Healthier America and the Let's Move Campaign, Kaiser Family Foundation, Millennium Challenge Corporation and Africare and is the recipient of the 2010 Refugees International Humanitarian Award.
Cicely Tyson, Pioneer Award for her stand against universal stereotypes in film and for her activism in using the world stage to raise the consciousness of our common humanity. She is considered a driving force in creating the National Museum of African American History and Culture and is a World Ambassador for UNICEF. The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts, a magnet school in East Orange, New Jersey, was renamed in her honor. She plays an active part in supporting the school, which serves one of New Jersey's most underprivileged African-American communities.
Danny Glover, Pioneer Award for his support of various humanitarian and civil rights causes including the United Farm Workers. In the 1960s as a student at San Francisco State University, Glover was a member of the Black Students Union which, along with the American Federation of Teachers, collaborated in a five-month student-led strike to establish a Department of Black Studies. The strike was the longest student walkout in U.S. history. It helped create the first Department of Black Studies and the first School of Ethnic Studies in the U.S.
Susan L. Taylor, Legacy Award former editor-in-chief and editorial director for Essence Magazine for 27 years, was the first and only African American woman to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. She founded the National Cares Mentoring Movement, in 2006, to recruit one million able adults to help secure children who are in peril and losing ground. Susan is a cofounder of Future PAC, the first national political action committee to provide a network of support and sources of funding for progressive African American women seeking federal and state-level political offices.
NAACP, Pioneer Award. The NAACP is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights organization. Since being founded in founded in 1909, the NAACP has continued to live it to its mission: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society. One of the NAACP's greatest legal victories was in 1954, when Thurgood Marshall and a team of NAACP attorneys won Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court held that segregation in public education violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Southern Poverty Law Center, Legacy Award Internationally known for its tolerance education programs, legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups, militias and extremist organizations. The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, they employ a three-pronged strategy to battle racial and social injustice:
Track the activities of hate groups and domestic terrorists across America, and launch innovative lawsuits that seek to destroy networks of radical extremists.
Provide educators with free resources that teach school children to reject hate, embrace diversity and respect differences.
SPLC has won many notable civil cases for plaintiffs. The SPLC does not accept government funds, or charge its clients legal fees, or share in the court-awarded judgments to them.
Icons of the American Civil Rights Movement
Rev. C. T. Vivian, helped organize the Nashville Sit-Ins, Freedom Riders movements and the March on Washington. Later he founded the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference, organizing the first sit-ins there in 1960 and the first civil rights march in 1961. Rev. Vivian was a rider on the first "Freedom Bus" into Jackson, Mississippi, and went on to work along-side Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his executive staff. During the summer following the Selma Movement, Rev. Vivian conceived and directed an educational program, Vision, and put 702 Alabama students in college with scholarships. The program later became Upward Bound.
John Seigenthaler, served as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy during the 1961 Freedom Riders movement, chief negotiator for the government and in 1991 founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. After rushing to help a Freedom Rider he was knocked unconscious by an angry mob. He is known as a prominent defender of First Amendment rights. On April 21, 1961, Seigenthaler was the only other Justice Department figure to witness a meeting between Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dolores Huerta, co-founder and First Vice President Emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. She was with Senator Robert Kennedy moments before his assassination in Los Angeles, in 1968. She has been highly politically active, lobbying in favor of (and against) numerous California and federal laws. The laws that she supported included: A 1960 bill to permit people to take the California driver's examination in Spanish; 1963 legislation to extend Aid to Families with Dependent Children to California farmworkers; the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act
Rev. Ed. King, worked closely with the Mississippi Movement leader Medgar Evers; was a key leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party with Fannie Lou Hamer. Ed King developed a passion for racial justice in Methodist youth groups. His outspoken and unwavering support of racial equality led to threats, violence, incarceration and often repudiation for his efforts.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of Rainbow Push organization, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was with King on April 4, 1968. He is known for organizing across racial, gender and social lines for justice. During the 1980s, he achieved wide fame as an African American leader and as a politician, as well as becoming a well-known spokesman for civil rights issues. His influence extended to international matters in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1983, Jackson traveled to Syria to secure the release of a captured American pilot, Navy Lt. Robert Goodman who was being held by the Syrian government. In 1984, Jackson became the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for President of the United States, running as a Democrat. In the primaries, he came in third place.
Rev. James Lawson, studied nonviolence principles of Gandhi, which became Dr. King’s mantra; trained and worked with Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) for Freedom Riders and Sit In Movements. Lawson's students played a leading role in the Open Theater Movement, the Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the 1963 Birmingham Children's Crusade, the 1965 Selma Voting Rights Movement, and the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement over the next few years. He was instrumental in the Memphis Movement which brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, TN.
Rev. Samuel Kyles’, worked closely with the Memphis Movement. Served on the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom, was with Dr. King in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Kyles has maintained his involvement with civil rights work since the 1960s. He is a member of several civic and professional organizations. Featured in the Academy Award nominated documentary, "The Witness," about the last days of Dr. King, Rev. Kyles serves as an ambassador to the National Civil Rights Museum with thousands of visitors who tour the Museum as a special speaker.