National Civil Rights Museum celebrates Freedom Awards honorees

The National Civil Rights museum rolled out the red carpet for its annual Freedom Awards celebration Saturday.
The National Civil Rights museum rolled out the red carpet for its annual Freedom Awards celebration Saturday.

(WMC-TV) - The National Civil Rights museum rolled out the red carpet for its annual Freedom Awards celebration Saturday.

"I can't even describe the amount of energy and the amount of time it takes to plan a production as big as this," said National Civil Rights Museum President Beverly Robinson.

This year marked the 20th anniversary for the Freedom Awards.  Each year, the world's most notable leaders in civil and human rights descend upon Memphis.

"For my name to be included amongst all the previous honorees and luminaries, it's just a humbling honor and just encourages me to want to do more," said Hill Harper, a Freedom Award honoree in education.

Honorees include Memphis native and Grammy nominated musician Kirk Whalum and Essence Magazine editor Susan L. Taylor.

Winner of seven Grammys, six American Music Awards and 22 Billboard Music Awards, R&B sensation Usher Raymond said those awards do not compare to being honored for leadership.

"You have the opportunity to be recognized for what you do in music, but when you're being recognized for what you do 100 percent from your heart, that really makes a difference," said Raymond.

Honored for her roles as an African American actress and civil rights trailblazer, Cicely Tyson graciously accepted her Pioneer Award.

Diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning was honored for his work with his Zo's Fund for Life campaign and said coming to the Bluff City for this award compares to a sort of homecoming.

"This town has such an amazing spirit and it always pleases me to come back to enjoy the atmosphere," said Mourning.  "I always feel at home when I come here."

Other honorees celebrated Saturday included educator Marva Collins, NBA legend Bill Russell, Senator and humanitarian Bill Frist, and actor and political activist Danny Glover.

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