By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
PHOENIX (NNPA) – Recognizing the historic role National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., played in the civil rights movement and his continued fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all people of color, the NAACP Arizona State Conference, the Greater Phoenix Urban League, the Arizona Informant, and African American Clergy of Arizona, have announced plans to honor him on Sunday, November 21, during halftime of the Phoenix Suns game against the Denver Nuggets.
The 6 p.m. MST event at Footprint Center in Phoenix marks the 30th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which Dr. Chavis supported.
The legislation centered on labor, and lawmakers passed it in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited the rights of employees who sued their employers for discrimination.
“I can’t think of any other individual who is more deserving of this recognition than Dr. Chavis,” said Charles Fanniel, President of the NAACP Arizona State Conference.
“He is an icon in his own right, from a child who was responsible for integrating the library in his home state, to being wrongfully convicted, to now being the selfless leader who continues to fight for this cause,” Fanniel continued. “It’s in his DNA to help others, and we’re honored to be a part of this amazing ceremony.”
George Dean, the President, and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Urban League, said the honor is well deserved and should have come long ago.
“This is an award that is long overdue,” Dean insisted. “Dr. Chavis has been an icon in the civil rights and social justice space for decades, and today we honor that.”
In his role with the NNPA, Dr. Chavis oversees operations of the Black Press of America, which reaches more than 47 million subscribers and readers across the country.
The current chairman of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Dr. Chavis served as the national director and organizer for the Million Man March.
He also served as executive director and CEO of the NAACP, and in that same capacity with the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice.
Dr. Chavis got his start in civil rights as a teenage assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and later gained acclaim as the leader of the Wilmington Ten when authorities wrongly charged and prosecuted the group on charges of arson.
He served nearly a decade in prison before winning an appeal in 1980.
The Wilmington Ten received a full pardon in 2012 by North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue.
“These convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina’s criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer,” Gov. Perdue stated in 2012. “Justice demands that this stain finally be removed,” the governor asserted.
Over the past several years, Dr. Chavis has been engaged in the Arizona community to help foster meaningful conversations about the current civil rights movement.
He has moderated six Bridge Forums, which are panels with community leaders, law enforcement, and government officials that tackle current events, including a sports-focused forum in Sept. 2020. At the sports forum, representatives from all local teams, including the Phoenix Suns, came together to discuss how sports can bridge the gap in social equity.
Dr. Chavis also led a diversity, equity, and inclusion workshop for staff members of the Suns Legacy Partners in 2020 and invited team President & CEO Jason Rowley on the NNPA’s daily morning breaking news program, “Let It Be Known.”
Before receiving his honor, Dr. Chavis will deliver sermons at 7:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the First Institutional Baptist Church.
“Civil rights are fundamental human rights for all in America and worldwide,” Dr. Chavis remarked. “I’m honored to be receiving this recognition from Arizona’s leading Civil Rights Organizations fighting to make sure equity and equality are accessible for all citizens.”
Chavis emphasized, “The Phoenix Suns, in particular, represent the best of the NBA on the issues of equity and inclusion on the basketball court and off the court in communities of color and all communities who affirm the transformative values of freedom, justice and equality for all. I will humbly accept this award on behalf of the Black Press of America and the ongoing Freedom Movement in America and throughout the world.”