MEMPHIS, TN--(Marketwired - October 11, 2016) - The National Civil Rights Museum will present the Freedom Award, the museum's highest honor to outstanding individuals who have contributed greatly to civil and human rights. Since 1991, the Freedom award has honored distinguished individuals who have made great global and national impact. These men and women are lauded for their work in the struggle for civil and human rights. Themed "And Justice for All," The Freedom Award will be presented October 20, 2016 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, followed by the Celebration Gala at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.
This year's honorees are: Swin Cash, WNBA champion and activist; Benjamin Crump, civil rights attorney; Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; The Honorable Damon Jerome Keith, longest serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court; Soledad O'Brien, journalist and executive producer; Bryan Stevenson, attorney and social justice activist; and William F. Winters, former Mississippi governor and education advocate.
"For our 25th Freedom Award, we felt it important to highlight individuals who have dedicated their lives to ensuring 'Justice for All' in disenfranchised communities," said Terri Lee Freeman, president of the National Civil Rights Museum. "They've emphasized the human right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We honor them for their commitment to making this a more just society."
Swin Cash is considered a giant in the game of basketball, one of the most decorated players in history. She's had success at virtually every level she's played, from her championships at UConn and titles in the WNBA to her Olympic gold medals. Retiring after this season, Cash plays for the New York Liberty. She is also a fighter for civil rights, empowering women across the league to voice opinions on important issues including a uniform protest where teammates wore shirts to bring attention to massive gun violence in the shooting deaths of black men by the police. She supported college athletes unionizing from coaches fighting against intimidation, suppression, and helping them to graduate. Off court, Cash has worked as a community ambassador for youth with her Cash for Kids Foundation which uses sports and cultural activities to motivate, educate and elevate kids. Nike is the award sponsor.
Benjamin Crump is civil rights attorney whose legal acumen as both a litigator and advocate has ensured that those most frequently marginalized are protected by their nation's contract with its constituency. Crump is known for taking on high visibility pro bono cases with widespread media attention and civil rights implications. Those cases include representation for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Terrence Crutcher. Ford Motor Company is the sponsor.
Tawakkol Karman is a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist. When the Arab Spring exploded in 2011, her human rights efforts became known globally. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that year in recognition of her work in nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace building work in Yemen. Upon being awarded the prize, Tawakkol became the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date, at the age of 32. She has been called the "Iron Woman" and "Mother of the Revolution" by Yemenis. The Hyde Family Foundation is the sponsor.
The Honorable Damon Jerome Keith is the longest serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court (1977 - present). Judge Keith has presided over seminal civil rights cases. His guiding principles shaped what would become historic rulings on wire-tapping, segregation, workers' rights, access to education, public housing and urban renewal, and issues of privacy. At 93-years old he is living, judicial history. Ford Motor Company is sponsor.
Soledad O'Brien is a broadcast journalist, executive producer and chairman of Starfish Media Group. O'Brien produced the multi-part CNN special, Black in America, documenting the successes, struggles, and complex issues faced by black men, women and families 40 years after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. In The Black Woman & Family, O'Brien explored the varied experiences of black women and families and investigated the disturbing statistics of single parenthood, racial disparities between students, and the devastating toll of HIV/AIDS. O'Brien expanded her series with the documentary Latino in America. FedEx is sponsor.
Bryan Stevenson is an attorney, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, clinical professor at New York University School of Law and author of the best-selling book Just Mercy. Stevenson has gained national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system. Stevenson has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. International Paper is sponsor.
The Honorable William F. Winter is referred to by President Clinton as a "great champion of civil rights." His governance in Mississippi echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the most privileged. The most public example of his commitment to equity was his fight for publicly funded primary education. Governor Winter served on the board of President Bill Clinton's "One America," an unprecedented national conversation on race launched in 1997, and brought the only deep-South public forum to the University of Mississippi. The success of One America at Mississippi's flagship university spawned the internationally recognized institute that carries his legacy today, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. FedEx is the sponsor.
Special tribute to The Memphis 13, African American first graders who took courageous steps to enter four formerly all-white elementary schools to desegregate the Memphis City Schools. Attending Gordon, Bruce, Rozelle and Springdale Elementary Schools, they were some of the civil rights movement's smallest pioneers. As students trying to have a normal schooling experience amidst an extraordinary moment, they endured the isolation of children at the forefront of social change. The Memphis 13 are Jacqueline Moore Christion (Springdale); Sheila Malone Conway (Gordon); Pamela Mayes Evans (Gordon); E.C. Freeman Fentress (Rozelle) (deceased); Menelik Fombi (Bruce); Alvin Freeman (Gordon); Deborah Ann Holt (Springdale); Dwania Kyles (Bruce); Sharon Malone (Gordon); Joyce Bell White (Rozelle); Leandrew Wiggins (Rozelle); Clarence Williams (Rozelle); and Harry Williams (Bruce).
Michael Eric Dyson returns as the host with an entertainment lineup including gospel artists Anthony Brown and Deborah Manning Thomas, violinist Damien Escobar and hip-hop human beat box Doug E. Fresh.
Over the past 25 years, the National Civil Rights has presented The Freedom Award to many of the most lauded civil and human rights leaders and history makers including Coretta Scott King, President Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rosa Parks, Bono, Secretary of State Colin Powell, President Lech Walesa, President Oscar Arias, President Mary Robinson, Paul Rusesabagina, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Tom Brokaw, Frank Robinson, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Bernard Lafayette, Marlo Thomas, Hill Harper, Marva Collins, Usher Raymond, Bill Frist, Dolores Huerta, Rev. James Lawson, Cicely Tyson, Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles, Kirk Whalum, Southern Poverty Law Center, Susan Taylor, Rev. C.T. Vivian, John Seigenthaler, NAACP, Alonzo Mourning, Danny Glover, Julius "Dr. J" Ervin, Eva Longoria Parker, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Wangari Maathai, Al Gore, Diane Nash, B.B. King, John Hope Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Congressman John Lewis, Maxine Smith, Rev. Benjamin Hooks, Julian Bond, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Andrew Young, Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson, Elie Wiesel, Oprah Winfrey, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Geoffrey Canada, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Ruby Bridges-Hall, and Ava DuVernay.
The Freedom Award premiere sponsors are International Paper, Ford Motor Company, FedEx Corporation, Nike Inc., the Hyde Family Foundation and First Tennessee Foundation.
Freedom Award activities on Thursday, October 20, 2016 include the following:
10:00 a.m. - Student Forum - Mississippi Blvd Christian Church
5:00 p.m. - Red Carpet - Cannon Center for the Performing Arts
6:00 p.m. - Award Ceremony - Cannon Center for the Performing Arts
following Ceremony - Gala Dinner - Memphis Cook Convention Center
The Student Forum is a free event for students and educators. For more information about the Freedom Award events, visit civilrightsmuseum.org.
About the National Civil Rights Museum
The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, is the only Museum of its kind in the country that gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from 1619 to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 80,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement, examine today's global civil and human rights issues, provoke thoughtful debate and serve as a catalyst for positive social change.
An internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum was recognized as TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Top 25 U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal.
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