Civil Rights Icon Honored by Community Groups, Phoenix Suns During Game

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Recognized for Lifetime Achievements on Nov. 21

The NAACP Arizona State Conference and the Greater Phoenix Urban League are excited to announce they will be honoring civil rights icon Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. during the Phoenix Suns game against the Denver Nuggets at Footprint Center on Sunday, November 21, which is also the 30th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Dr. Chavis is the current president & CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association: The Black Press of America, which reaches 47 million readers across the country, the current chairman of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, the former national director and organizer of the Million Man March, former executive director and CEO of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and former executive director and CEO of the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice. He is known for being a former assistant to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and first received international recognition in 1971 as the leader of the Wilmington Ten, when he was wrongfully convicted of committing arson and received the longest sentence before winning his appeal in 1980. Collectively, The Wilmington Ten were sentenced to 282 years.

“Civil rights are fundamental human rights for all in America and throughout the world,” said Dr. Chavis. “I’m honored to be receiving this recognition from Arizona’s leading Civil Rights Organizations fighting to make sure equity and equality is accessible for all citizens.”

“I can’t think of any other individual who is more deserving to this recognition other than Dr. Chavis,” said Charles Fanniel, President of the NAACP Arizona State Conference. “He is an icon in his own right, from a child who was responsible of integrating the library in his home state, to being wrongfully convicted, to now being the selfless leader who continues to fight for this cause. It’s in his DNA to help others, and we’re honored to be a part of this amazing ceremony.”

“This is an award that is long overdue,” said George Dean. “Dr. Chavis has been an icon in the civil rights and social justice space for decades and today we honor that.”

In his role as executive director and CEO of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, which has 1.7 million members, Dr. Chavis supported the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The act is a United States labor law, passed in response to United States Supreme Court decisions that limited the rights of employees who had sued their employers for discrimination.

Over the past several years, Dr. Chavis has been engaged in the Arizona community to help foster important conversations about the current civil rights movement. He has moderated six Bridge Forums, which are panels with community leaders, law enforcement and government officials that tackle current events, including a sports-focused forum in Sept. 2020. At the event, representatives from all local teams including the Phoenix Suns came together to discuss ways how sports can bridge the gap in social equity. He also led a diversity, equity and inclusion workshop for staff members of the Suns Legacy Partners last year and had team President & CEO Jason Rowley on NNPA’s daily morning breaking news program, “Let it Be Known”.

The morning of the event, Dr. Chavis will also preach two sermons at both 7 and 11 a.m. to the congregation at First Institutional Baptist Church, both of which will be streamed live at

About the NAACP Arizona State Conference
Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization.

About the Greater Phoenix Urban League
Established in 1945, the Greater Phoenix Urban League, Inc. is one of the 90 affiliates of the National Urban League. GPUL supports minority families and underserved populations by providing connections to employment, housing, job training, health care, and education. Since our founding, we have served more than 100,000 individuals and continue to develop and expand our programs as we further the Urban League Movement in the greater Phoenix area, changing lives, and empowering communities. At the Greater Phoenix Urban League we help disenfranchised and underserved groups to meet their immediate basic needs such as job placements and access to health care. The role of the Greater Phoenix Urban League is to provide these communities with the tools to empower themselves, providing opportunities to those caught in the cycle of poverty to change their lives.

About Suns Legacy Partners, LLC
Suns Legacy Partners, LLC operates the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, and Footprint Center. The Suns are Arizona’s original professional sports franchise anchored by 2021 Coach of the Year Monty Williams, 2021 Executive of the Year general manager James Jones and a roster featuring future Hall of Famer Chris Paul and All-Star Devin Booker. The three-time WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury are celebrating its 25th season led by Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Footprint Center in the heart of downtown Phoenix, recently underwent a $245 million transformation, making it the preeminent destination for sports and entertainment in the southwest and a living laboratory for sustainability.

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Ivana Morales