Photo via Flyfishtography/Flickr
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump
The National Civil Rights Museum has chosen five civil and human rights crusaders to receive its distinguished Freedom Award at the 25th annual ceremony on October 20th.
Civil Rights Museum Executive Director Terri Freeman announced this year’s recipients in a press conference at the museum on Wednesday morning. They include civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman, U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith, broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien, and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson.
The event will also include a tribute to the Memphis 13, the first 13 elementary school students to integrate four formerly all-white Memphis schools — Bruce, Gordon, Rozelle, and Springdale Elementary — in 1961.
“Each year, we honor distinguished individuals who have made a global and/or national impact in the areas of civil or human rights,” Freeman said. “Using the theme ‘And Justice for All,’ the 25th Freedom Award will recognize individuals that have dedicated their lives to ensuring justice for all … Our honorees have emphasized the human right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and have made our society more just.”
Crump is a civil rights attorney known for taking on high-visibility, pro bono cases. He has represented cases for the families of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown — all young unarmed, black men who were killed by authority figures.
Karman, a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist, who was awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights in Yemen. She was the first Yemeni, the first Arab woman, and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was also the youngest to receive the award at age 32.
Keith is the longest-serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He’s served since 1977. He presided over civil rights cases that resulted in historic rulings on wire-tapping, segregation, worker’s rights, access to education, public housing, urban renewal, and privacy issues.
O’Brian is the executive producer and chairman of Starfish Media Group. She’s best known for her multi-part CNN special “Black in America,” which documented the struggles and issues faced by black men, women, and families 40 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She also expanded the series with the documentary “Latino in America.”
Stevenson, an attorney and social justice activist, founded the Equal Justice Initiative. He’s also a professor at New York University School of Law and author of the novel, Just Mercy. His work has focused on challenging bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system.
The Freedom Awards begins with a free, open-to-the-public forum with the honorees at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 20th. The black-tie ceremony will take place that night at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. The red carpet portion of the event takes place at 5 p.m., followed by the ceremony at 6 p.m. Afterward, there’s a gala dinner at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.