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National Civil Rights Museum announces 33rd Freedom Award honorees


The 33rd Freedom Award Honorees: Xernona Clayton, Sherrilyn Ifill and Spike Lee.

The National Civil Rights Museum has officially announced their honorees for the 33rd Freedom Award.

The 33rd Freedom Award will pay tribute to Civil Rights warrior Xernona Clayton, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and legendary filmmaker Spike Lee, each renowned for their unwavering commitment to equity and justice. The ceremony will be hosted by trailblazing rap star MC Lyte, with special music from award winning entertainer Deborah Cox.

The Freedom Award is presented to individuals for their work, impact, and accomplishments in the name of freedom and civil rights, and this year’s recipients have made contributions to civil and human rights that will leave an unforgettable mark on society.

“We are excited about these recipients. It’s important that we continue to lift up special people who have deep and meaningful connections to the movement,” said Russ Wigginton, President of the National Civil Rights Museum. “Someone like Ms. Clayton, who had a special relationship with Dr. King and Ms. King, was a pioneer in her own right.”

Xernona Clayton, a civil and human rights activist and producer, has been a trailblazer in civil rights and broadcasting for 60 years. Clayton, the founder and president of the Trumpet Awards Foundation, began her career working closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Clayton then entered her television career where she broke barriers and became the first black person in the south to host her own show. Today, Clayton continues to inspire generations with her pioneering spirit.

The National Civil Rights Museum continues to honor those that made tremendous change in the past like Xernona Clayton, but they also acknowledge the fact that they must also honor those who are a part of modern day activism.

“The Freedom Award is inspired by the work of Dr. King and the historical and contemporary Civil Rights Movement. You’ll notice that we always try to include those who were close confidants of Dr. King, like Ms. Clayton,” said Faith Morris, Senior Advisor at the NCRM. “Over the years, our honorees have become younger, reflecting both the traditional movement and those who are actively involved today, like Spike Lee and Sherrilyn Ifill.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, has significantly impacted civil rights advocacy. Under her leadership, the LDF increased its engagement in combating voter suppression and racial discrimination. In 2022, Time named Ifill as one of Times Magazine Women of the Year, and in 2021, Times Magazine named Ifill as one of the 100 Most Influential People In The World.

Spike Lee, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker, has reshaped the landscape of filmmaking and cinema, sparking national conversations around race, representation, and culture. Lee, who has mastered the art of storytelling, has now become dedicated to nurturing the next generation of filmmakers.

“Spike Lee has influenced many people, contributing significantly to civil and human rights and understanding African American culture for a broad audience through his films. We are honored to have all three of these special people,” Morris said.

The Freedom Award ceremony will be held on October 17, 2024, at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. The evening’s festivities will commence with a Pre-Award Gala and Red Carpet at 5:30 pm at the adjacent Halloran Centre.

In addition to the evening celebration, the Museum will host a hybrid Student Forum on October 17 at 10:30 am Central at FedEx Forum.

“Looking across generations is critical. As we get closer to the Freedom Award, we also host the Freedom Award Student Forum, gathering middle and high school students across the country at the FedEx Forum, as well as engaging college students and young professionals. It’s really exciting and crucial,” said Tiffany L. Graham, Chief Marketing & Developing Officer for the museum.

Tickets for the Freedom Award ceremony are available via Ticketmaster, and event sponsorships can be secured by visiting freedomaward.org for more information and updates. unforgettable evening celebrating those who champion the cause of freedom and justice.

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