Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Awards
August 18 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pmFree
Join the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Atlanta Braves and Delta Air Lines as we celebrate 4 community agents of change: Alexis Herman, Cito Gaston, Hank Thomas and Roland Martin. The honorees will receive the Hank Aaron Champion for Justice Award and lead a discussion moderated by Doug Shipman about Atlanta’s strong history during the American Civil Rights Movement while also discussing the roles they play in the protection of civil and human rights.
All attendees will receive 2 free Braves tickets to a future game.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, she began her career working for Catholic Charities helping young out-of-school men and women find work in the Pascagoula, Mississippi shipyard. At the age of twenty-nine, President Jimmy Carter’s appointment made her the youngest director of the Women’s Bureau in the history of the Labor Department. In 1992, she became the 1st African American woman to serve as an Assistant to the president as the Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. On May 1, 1997, Alexis M. Herman was sworn in as America’s 23rd Secretary of Labor and the first African American ever to lead the United States Department of Labor. During her tenure as a member of the President’s Cabinet she also served as a valued member of the National Economic Council.
As Secretary, she focused on a prepared workforce, a secure workforce, and quality workplaces. With that mandate in mind, she consolidated the Department’s wide array of skills development programs into a simpler, more efficient system. She led the effort to institute a global child labor standard; moved people from welfare to work with dignity; and launched the most aggressive unemployed youth initiative since the 1970’s. Under her tenure, unemployment in the country reached a thirty-year low and remains so today. The nation witnessed the safest workplace record in the history of the Department of Labor. Alexis Herman’s actions as Secretary were a reflection of her understanding of the needs of America’s workers and the challenges they faced as this nation approached the 21st Century.
Currently, Ms. Herman serves as chair and chief executive officer of New Ventures, LLC. She has continued to lend her expertise and talent to a vast array of corporate enterprises and nonprofit organizations. A recipient of more than twenty five honorary doctorate degrees from major colleges and universities around the country, Herman is a former trustee of her alma mater, Xavier University of Louisiana. She Co-Chaired the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund and was a member of the board of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Presently, she chairs the Toyota Diversity Advisory Board. Herman is the Lead Director of Cummins Inc, and a member of the boards of directors of Entergy, MGM Resorts International, and the Coca-Cola Company. Her nonprofit work today includes: serving as a Trustee for the National Urban League, a member of the Executive Board of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the president of the Dorothy I. Height Educational Foundation.
Clarence Edwin “Cito” Gaston is a former Major League Baseball outfielder and manager. Gaston became the first ever African-American manager to win a World Series. He led the Blue Jays to two World Series Championships, two American League Championships, four American League East titles and a franchise record in games managed with 1764 and wins with 913 over 12 seasons. Gatson had an 11-year playing career with three separate clubs including the Atlanta Braves. As a player with the Atlanta Braves, he was the roommate of Hank Aaron. Gaston credits Aaron with teaching him “how to be a man; how to stand on my own.”
Over the course of a journalistic career that has seen him interview newsmakers ranging from multiple U.S. presidents to the top athletes and entertainers in Hollywood, Roland S. Martin is a journalist who has always maintained a clear sense of his calling in this world.
Martin is the host and managing editor of TV One’s News One Now, the first daily morning news program in history to focus on news and analysis of politics, entertainment, sports, and culture from an explicitly African American perspective. News One Now airs weekdays on TV One at 7AM/ET.
Martin is also the creator and host of “The Roland Martin Show”, a daily syndicated radio broadcast in 20 markets across the country; a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate and the Daily Beast; as well as senior analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show, where his daily segment is heard on more than 100 stations by 8 million people.
Honored with the 2013 National Association of Black Journalists’ (NABJ) Journalist of the Year Award, Martin is a two-time winner of the NAACP Image Award and has received more than 40 professional media awards, as well as honors by numerous organizations for his contributions to the media. Martin spent six years as a CNN Contributor, and as a member of the network’s “Best Political Team on Television” he earned the esteemed Peabody Award (2009) for his 2008 Presidential Election coverage. Roland has been named three times to Ebony Magazine’s 150 Most Influential African Americans list and was also named one of the Top 50 Political Pundits by the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom.
Martin is the author of three books: Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith; Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America; and The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.
Roland is married to the Rev. Jacque Hood Martin, author of Fulfilled! The Art and Joy of Balanced Living. They reside in Washington, D.C.
Henry “Hank” Thomas is best known as an American civil rights activist and one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders, men and women who bravely boarded the first Greyhound bus that traveled the South in 1961 to protest segregation.
During his now-legendary first Freedom Ride through Anniston, Alabama, Mr. Thomas and his fellow activists encountered an angry mob that torched their bus and beat passengers with baseball bats, only to be turned away at a local hospital when taken there for medical help. Shaken, but more determined, Mr. Thomas participated in a second Freedom Ride just ten days later and was incarcerated and sent to Parchman State Prison Farm, reputed to be one of the most dangerous prisons systems in the nation.
During his activism in the early 1960s, Mr. Thomas encountered and survived lynch mobs, beatings and 22 arrests by law enforcement officials in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi, often finding rescue and refuge from local African Americans and sympathetic college students and faculty. When asked about his 22 arrests, Mr. Thomas says he wears them like a badge of honor.
In 1961, in Winnsboro, SC, Mr. Thomas was arrested for using a “White-only” restroom. Later that night police took him from jail and delivered him to a waiting Klansmen mob determined to lynch him. Once again, Hank Thomas found himself threatened with death as he was ordered out of the car at gunpoint. Once he emerged from the car, he took off running, eluding his captors and eventually being picked up by a Black man who had been watching the police.
In 1966, Mr. Thomas served his country in Vietnam, during which time he was wounded and left for dead before spending six months recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He is the recipient of the Purple Heart, and in 1993 was one of three soldiers to return to Vietnam for a reconciliation meeting with North Vietnamese veterans, during which he came face to face with his former enemies.
Mr. Thomas is a retired successful business owner. He became a franchisee in fast food restaurants and the hospitality industry. He has owned Wish Bone Fried Chicken, Dairy Queen, Burger King and McDonalds and four Marriott Hotels.
Today, Hank and Yvonne Thomas have sold their 9 McDonald’s restaurants and 3 of their hotels. They currently owns one Marriott Fairfield Inn Hotel, and have been featured in business and trade magazines for their success as an entrepreneur in the lodging industry.
Mr. Thomas is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2017 Black History Makers Award from PNC Bank. Honored by DeKalb County Commissioners with the 2017 Business Leader and Icon of the Year, 100 Black Men of America 2016 Trailblazer in Economic Empowerment Award, 2016 NAACP Freedom Rider National Here Award, Concerned Black Clergy Bishop Cornelius Henderson Presidential Award, The Atlanta Tribune: 2016 Civil Rights Icon Award, The Gospel Choice Award: 2016 Business Leader of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award, Key to the City of Anniston, International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, the Trumpet Awards, the Atlanta Business League Men of Influence Hall of Fame, McDonald’s 365 Black Award, McDonalds Chairman’s Award and many others. He is a life member of the NCAACP, and an active fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund. He also serves on several boards including The National Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta Metropolitan College Foundation Board Talladega College, Tougaloo College, and the Atlanta Youth Academy; and he has established scholarships at the Piney Woods Boarding School in Jackson, Mississippi, Howard University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Talladega College.
Often featured in civil rights documentaries, Mr. Thomas has also made guest appearances on the “In 24 Hours CNN,” The Oprah Winfrey Show; the CNN Special, “The Sixties;” and served as the voice in Lee Daniels’ film, “The Butler.”
Mr. Thomas is married to the love of his life and business partner of over 30 years, Mrs. Yvonne Thomas, and they reside in Stone Mountain, Georgia. He is the father of two adult daughters, four grandchildren and one great granddaughter.