Matt Kemp, Julian Bond And Paxton Baxter To Present MLB Beacon Awards

  Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp, civil rights leader Julian Bond and television executive Paxton Baker will present and introduce the recipients of the 2012 MLB Beacon Awards at the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon presented by Belk. Dodgers Legend Don Newcombe, Congressman John Lewis, representative of Georgia’s 5th congressional district and a leader of the civil rights movement, and three founding members of award-winning recording group Earth, Wind & Fire, (Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson), will receive their respective MLB Beacon Awards at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Saturday, August 18th at 1:00 p.m. ET. Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig will deliver the keynote speech at the event, which recognizes individuals whose lives have been emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement. The MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon presented by Belk is one of the Delta Civil Rights Game weekend events, which were developed to pay tribute to all of those who fought on and off the field for equal rights for all Americans. For tickets and more information on the Delta Civil Rights Game and ancillary events, fans can visit MLB.com/civilrightsgame or Braves.com/civilrightsgame.

Kemp is a two-time National League All-Star and was the 2011 N.L. recipient of Major League Baseball’s Hank Aaron Award as the league’s top overall offensive performer.  Bond is a social activist and one of the leaders of the civil rights movement. He also was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with Representative Lewis. Baker is a founding partner of the Washington Nationals, the President of BET Productions and Executive Vice President & General Manager of Centric TV. 

The MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon presented by Belk will also feature a performance by Grammy and Tony Award-winning artist Jennifer Holliday. Monica Pearson, who was one of the first African-American female anchors in the Southeast region and served as lead anchorwoman for WSB-TV in Atlanta for more than 30 years, will serve as the luncheon’s mistress of ceremonies.

       Kemp will present the MLB Beacon of Hope to Dodgers Legend Don Newcombe, whose illustrious career includes being one of only two players in baseball history to win the Rookie of Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards. The four-time All-Star played with Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Larry Doby and Jackie Robinson in becoming the first African-American pitcher in a Major League All-Star Game in 1949.  Newcombe, who joined the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues in 1944, was signed by Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey in 1946 along with Robinson and Campanella to join the Club’s farm system as a member of the Nashua Dodgers of the New England League.  Newcombe was called up to the Majors in May 1949, and from that year through 1956, the Dodgers played in five World Series, winning the Fall Classic in 1955.  During his 10-year career, Newcombe registered a record of 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA, 136 complete games and 24 shutouts. In addition to his pitching, he once hit seven home runs in a season, and for his career, batted .271 with 15 home runs, 108 RBI, 238 hits, 94 runs scored and eight stolen bases. Despite his on-field success, Newcombe, along with other African-American players around the league, was subjected to challenges off the field, including death threats, isolation, degradation and insults. Following his retirement in 1960, Newcombe rejoined the Dodgers organization in 1970 and founded baseball’s first community relations department.  In a continuing role in the organization, he has helped numerous people with their battles against substance abuse. As the last surviving member of the original Dodgers trio of African-American players, he is a witness to the seemingly insurmountable barriers facing African-Americans in the United States.

       Civil rights movement leader Julian Bond will present the MLB Beacon of Life to his fellow Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) member Congressman John Lewis, a representative in Georgia’s 5th congressional district who has dedicated his life to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress. As a student at Fisk University, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. During the height of the civil rights movement, from 1963 to 1966, Lewis was named Chairman of the SNCC, which he helped form, and was largely responsible for organizing student activism in the movement, including sit-ins and other activities. At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. Lewis helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the civil rights movement, leading more than 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965 to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state.  The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday," and media coverage of the incident helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council, becoming a staunch advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since that time.

       Baker will present the MLB Beacon of Change to three of the founding members of award-winning recording group and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson. The group’s popular and groundbreaking R&B-influenced music conveyed messages of universal love and harmony following the societal strife of the 1960s. The band is one of the most important, innovative, and commercially invincible contemporary Pop/R&B music forces of the 20th century. The group has had a remarkable and celebrated career spanning over four decades.  Earth, Wind & Fire has received 20 Grammy Awards nominations and has won six as a group. Two of its founding members, Maurice White and Philip Bailey, have each won two Grammy Awards. Successfully breaking all musical genre boundaries through 23 albums, the band has recorded eight #1 R&B singles and eight Double Platinum Top 10 Pop albums over their career. The group has earned more than 50 gold and platinum albums, and has sold more than 90 million albums worldwide, earning them a place on the list of best selling music artists. Earth, Wind & Fire’s career achievements have been acknowledged and earned them their place in musical history, including induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.  

       Past recipients of MLB Beacon Awards include: Baseball Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks; Buck O’Neil, Muhammad Ali, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Ruby Dee, Morgan Freeman, John H. Johnson, Billie Jean King, Spike Lee, Carlos Santana and Vera Clemente, MLB Goodwill Ambassador and wife of the late Baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.

  The Luncheon is part of Civil Rights Game weekend, which culminates with the 2012 Delta Civil Rights Game between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Turner Field in Atlanta on Saturday, August 18th at 7:05 p.m. ET.  The game will air live, nationally on MLB Network and locally on Peachtree TV. In addition to the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon and the Delta Civil Rights Game, weekend events include the Baseball & the Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion on Friday, August 17th at the Carter Center; and the Braves Youth Clinic on Saturday, August 18th at Turner Field.

The 2012 Delta Civil Rights Game and ancillary activities are part of the sixth installation of an annual event that began as an exhibition game in Memphis in 2007 and again in 2008. The event then moved to the Regular Season in Cincinnati (2009 and 2010) and Atlanta (2011 and 2012). As home to many key leaders and organizations of the civil rights movement, and as a location for many of the movement’s grassroots activities, Atlanta played a critical role in the civil rights movement.

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CONTACT:   Matt Bourne or Steve Arocho, Major League Baseball, (212) 931-7878, twitter.com/mlb_pr.