Civil Rights luncheon honors American icons

By Rontina McCann - bio|email

CINCINNATI (Fox 19) -- Three champions of human and civil rights receive praise Saturday at Major League baseball's Beacon Awards as part of the Gillette Civil Rights game.

The luncheon honored the Beacon winners at Duke Energy Center.

The three winners are people who have the courage to stand for what they believe in, stand together: Beacon of Life winner, baseball legend Willie Mays; Beacon of Change winner, tennis great Billie Jean King; Beacon of Hope winner, entertainer Harry Belafonte.

"I have a heart, I know what it means to young kids to have someone like me to fight for them all over the world," Mays said.

King lead the charge in the 70's to get Congress to pass legislation that would give equal funding to boys and girls sports at public schools.

"Social change is really about doing the right thing, even if it isn't popular," King said.

Belefonte was the first performer to sell a million records, he marched side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"How wonderful it is to know that we will continue to use this platform to honor those who've committed themselves to the work of human rights and civil rights," Belafonte said.

The 'Say Hey Kid" Willie Mays got worked his way into the heart and history of America's past-time, but not with struggles.

"The walls seem to be coming into me, and you have no idea what I had to go through," Mays says.

What he and others went through so we don't have to.

"You have no idea what people would call me. But the names they called me, the further the ball went," Mays recalls.

"When you hear your name called it reminds you of something that well boy, did I go through all of this, was it worth while, yes. yes."

The Civil Rights weekend reminds us all of a dream, a dream that we need to open our eyes to see come true.

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