"The MLB Beacon Awards offer a positive reminder that there are individuals who use their celebrity and fame to make a positive difference in our society," said Frank Robinson, MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Development. "Major League Baseball is honored to bestow this special recognition on Bo Jackson and Aretha Franklin and to have them be a part of our weekend activities surrounding the Civil Rights Game."
Aretha Franklin, whose chart-topping version of the hit song "Respect" became a mantra for not only the civil rights movement but also gender equality in the 1960s, will receive the MLB Beacon of Change for inspiring multiple generations of people through her music. Franklin, who performed during the civil rights movement in support of family friend and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and who would become the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is known around the world as the "Queen of Soul" and one of the most influential and important voices in the history of American music. With a repertoire that spans pop, soul, jazz, rock, blues and gospel, she was named the #1 Vocalist of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. With her ever-distinctive, soulful, vocal style, she has graced music charts for nearly five decades and her 'live' performances have been seen by millions of fans since she began her musical career in Detroit as a singing child prodigy. Franklin has earned countless international and national awards as well as accolades and global recognition on an unprecedented scale. She is a 2005 recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, presented by President George W. Bush, and in 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Bill Clinton. She has performed at two Presidential inaugurations, including the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009 and at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. She also performed at the inaugural gala for President Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 1968, she sang at the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She is the recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor; 18 Grammy Awards, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for eight consecutive years, a Grammy Legend Award, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award; five American Music Awards; and four NAACP Image Awards. In 1979, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2007, Franklin was honored at the Annual United Negro College Fund Evening of Stars and was presented with UNCF's Award of Excellence. She was named 2008 MusiCares Person of the Year by the Recording Academy, and she was presented with the prestigious NAACP Vanguard Award. In 2010, she was inducted into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame at the Apollo Theater. In April 2012, Franklin received the TV Land Music Icon Award. In August 2012, Franklin was inducted into the Gospel Music Associations' Hall of Fame. To date, she has received 12 Honorary Doctorate Degrees.
Former MLB All-Star Bo Jackson, whose legendary on-field displays made him one of the most popular athletes in the 1980s and a cultural icon who transcended the sports world, will receive the MLB Beacon of Life. Jackson played eight seasons in the Major Leagues as an outfielder with the Kansas City Royals (1986-90), Chicago White Sox (1991, 93) and California Angels (1994). The Alabama native was selected by the Royals in the fourth round of the 1986 Draft out of Auburn University. The 1989 All-Star collected at least 20 home runs in each of his first four full Major League seasons from 1987-90, including a career-best 32 homers and 105 RBI in 1989, when he finished 10th in MVP voting. The two-sport star, who was the 1985 Heisman Trophy Award winner and played four seasons as a running back in the NFL, was elected a starter during the 1989 Midsummer Classic and was named MVP after robbing a home run in the top of the first inning to save two runs and going 2-for-4 with a home run, stolen base and two RBI. Jackson, who is the only player in history to be named an All-Star in two professional sports, tied a Major League record in 1990, becoming the 19th player in history to hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats, accomplishing the feat on July 17th and August 26th (on DL in between games). Jackson, who missed the 1992 season due to hip replacement surgery, was named the 1993 A.L. Comeback Player of the Year with the White Sox after hitting 16 home runs with 45 RBI in 85 games played. An exciting blend of power and speed, Jackson retired with 141 home runs, 415 RBI and 82 stolen bases in 694 Major League games. In 2011, Jackson created the "Bo Bikes Bama" annual charity bike ride to address unmet recovery needs faced by Alabamians following the deadly tornadoes that year. The inaugural event, which consisted of Jackson, former All-Star Ken Griffey, Jr. and hundreds of cyclists from around the country and Canada biking 300 miles in five days ending in Tuscaloosa, raised more than $600,000. Every "Bo Bikes Bama" event going forward will be scheduled on the anniversary of the tornadoes and will take place in a different small town in Alabama that was affected. The money Jackson raises has not only gone toward rebuilding efforts, but also toward building community storm shelters to protect against future storms.
Past recipients of MLB Beacon Awards include: Baseball Hall of Famers Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Ernie Banks; and also Don Newcombe, Buck O'Neil, Muhammad Ali, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Ruby Dee, Morgan Freeman, John H. Johnson, Billie Jean King, Spike Lee, Congressman John Lewis, Carlos Santana, three of the founding members of Earth, Wind & Fire, and Vera Clemente, MLB Goodwill Ambassador and wife of the late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. Keynote speakers at previous MLB Beacon Award events have included Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, President Bill Clinton, Ambassador Andrew Young, Reverend Joseph Lowery and Julian Bond.
Proceeds from the MLB Beacon Awards Luncheon will go toward benefiting the Chicago Urban League and La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago. Founded in 1916, Chicago Urban League is committed to empowering African-Americans with the skills and resources needed to enter the economic and social mainstream, including helping Chicagoans find jobs, affordable housing, educational opportunities, and grow businesses. La Rabida is a private, non-profit hospital that serves approximately 7,500 children annually who require primary and specialty care to address complex and challenging medical conditions. Services and programs include treatment for chronic illnesses such asthma, diabetes, and sickle cell disease, and developmental disabilities. In addition, La Rabida specializes in the treatment of children who have been abused, neglected or experienced trauma. As a specialty hospital for extended acute care, it serves patients who need hospitalization for weeks, months, and in some cases even longer. La Rabida is a grant recipient of the White Sox Community Fund.
The 2013 Civil Rights Game is the seventh installation of an annual event that began in Memphis in 2007, centering on an exhibition game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians. After another exhibition game in Memphis in 2008, the Civil Rights Game moved to Cincinnati (2009-2010) and then Atlanta (2011-2012) as Regular Season contests. As the site of the Chicago Freedom Movement, which some consider to be the most ambitious civil rights activity in the North, the city of Chicago played a crucial role in the civil rights movement. Additional ancillary activities surrounding the Civil Rights Game will include the Baseball & the Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion on Friday, August 23rd and a youth baseball and softball clinic on Saturday, August 24th.