Human rights activist Harry Belafonte received the 2009 Alston/Jones International Civil and Human Rights Award from the Sit-In Movement, Inc. at their anniversary gala. Proceeds from the gala benefit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum (ICRCM). Courtesy Photo
Sit-In Movement, Inc. hosted the 49th Anniversary Gala to benefit The International Civil Rights Center and Museum (ICRCM). Special guests for the evening were actor and civil rights activist Henry Belafonte and gospel great, Pastor Shirley Caesar. It was here that Earl Jones, co-founder of Sit-In Movement, Inc., proudly announced that $24 million had been raised for the completion of The International Civil Rights Center and Museum. Plans are being made for the doors of the ICRCM to open on Feb. 1, 2010 â€” just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins.
The event was held on Jan. 31 in the Guilford Ballroom of the Sheraton Four Seasons at the Koury Convention Center. Jones also shared the struggles that were endured in efforts to collect funding for the project. He said many thought the state of North Carolina wouldnâ€™t provide funding for the ICRCM, as it was a local project.
Last modified on Monday, 16 February 2009 20:44
â€œWe had to proceed with funding from the city of Greensboro and Guilford County,â€ Jones shared. He also said that completing the ICRCM was important because it was â€œâ€¦to honor and remember those who died and protested and fought for America to be where she should be.â€
The three remaining members of the North Carolina A&T Four: Jibreel Khazan, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil were in attendance, along with the family of the late David Richmond.
â€œThrough persistence and leadership, [this project] has prevailed and now weâ€™re at the home stretch. When I think back on all of the pain and suffering that it took for our community to be inclusiveâ€¦all that pain and suffering needs to be memorialized and a museum does that very well,â€ McNeil said.
McNeil also gave three reasons the museum is important: the memorial nature of museum, the importance of remembering the role that Greensboro had in the fight for human rights and the good that the museum will do for the community so that the past is never forgotten.
Harry Belafonte was presented with the 2009 Alston/Jones International Civil and Human Rights Award. He helped to finance the Freedom Rides and SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee), and bailed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. out of the Birmingham City Jail along with other civil rights protestors who were also in jail. Today, Belafonte still speaks out against racial injustices in the fight for equality.
â€œI was already a mature teenager just at the time [the A&T Four] were born. I saw courage [in them] that I did not have and it caused me to look deeply into my resourcesâ€”my artistic resources and my financial resources and say â€˜If I can but just touch, in some quiet or maybe not so quiet way, the power of their courage, I would have found a way to use my life effectively.â€™â€
Gospel great, Pastor Shirley Caesar, was also in attendance and she received the 2009 Trailblazer Award. Other award recipients included 91-year-old Philip Koritz who received the 2009 Unsung Hero Award, presented by his son, Richard Koritz, for his work with the Food Tobacco and Agricultural Workers Union Local 22 in Winston-Salem.
The Sit-In Participants Award went to Bennett graduates Shirley Graham and Joyce Garrett. Garrettâ€™s husband, James, who graduated from N.C. A&T State University, also received the award and accepted it on behalf of his wife and himself. The 2009 Community Leadership Award was presented to Bank of America and Ralph Shelton of Southeast Fuels for their support of the ICRCM.