Music industry giant Quincy Jones received the Alston-Jones International Civil & Human Rights Award. Jones is pictured here with ICRCM co-founders Earl Jones and Melvin "Skip" Alston.(Photos courtesy of Howard Gaither)
International Civil Rights Center & Museum Gala Honors Music Industry Giants
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The International Civil Rights Center and Museum (ICRCM) celebrated the 54th anniversary of the February 1 Sit-ins with its annual banquet and awards ceremony on Saturday, February 1 at the Koury Convention Center.
The ICRCM honored two music industry giants, Clarence Avant and Quincy D. Jones, for their contributions to the music industry by breaking racial barriers and supporting humanitarian efforts worldwide.
Known as the “Godfather of Black Music,” music pioneer Clarence Avant was presented with the museum’s Trailblazer 2014 Award. A native of Climax, N.C., Avant attended James B. Dudley High School before moving to New Jersey at the age of 16, where his career in music began. He established his own label in 1976, Tabu Productions, and helped promote Michael Jackson’s first solo tour in 1987.
“I am honored,” said Avant of the award. “I couldn’t imagine a world without music. To be acknowledged for following a career path where I had doors shut in my face and had some great accomplishments, is an amazing feeling.”
Legendary music producer, songwriter and children’s activist, Quincy D. Jones was presented with The Alston-Jones International Civil and Human Rights Award. Not only is Jones an award-winning composer, producer and magazine publisher, but he also has a background in philanthropy where he has raised millions of dollars through his Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation, which has sought to improve lives affected by famine in Ethiopia, built homes in South Africa and encouraged youth to see the interconnection between technology, education, music and culture.
“I am so proud and humbled to be here,” said Jones. “We live in extraordinary times today. You have to remember to love, live and laugh. I thank all the legends before me who put me on their shoulders so that I could accomplish. That is why I will continue to carry the young people on my back. I let music be my mother and it never let me down.
This year’s gala was dedicated to the late Franklin McCain of the historic A&T Four, who passed away last month. The A&T Four consisted of McCain, the late David Richmond, Joseph McNeil and Jibreel Khazan (formerly Ezell Blair, Jr.) who led a series of sit-in protests at the segregated F.W. Woolworth lunch counter and changed the face of history.
Museum co-founder Melvin “Skip” Alston called McCain his friend, mentor and confidant. “Because of what Franklin McCain did 54 years ago today, generations unborn will be able to rise up. We will miss him but we will never forget him,” said Alston who is featured in the AT&T 2014 Heritage Calendar: Celebrating the N.C. African American Experience for the month of January. The Heritage Calendar honors men and women of all races who have contributed significantly to the lives and experiences of African Americans in North Carolina.
Museum co-founder Earl Jones pointed out the national and global impact of the A&T Four’s actions. “Not only was Greensboro blessed, but the world was blessed by what the A&T Four did. It had a profound impact on international affairs.”
Franklin McCain Jr. , the son of the late McCain, addressed banquet attendees and thanked everyone for their support during this difficult time for the McCain family. “Our family is so thankful for all the prayers and support from everyone. We could not have made it without you. Where do we go from here? Dad taught us everything we needed to know and he provided us with the background to be self-sufficient. We all have a responsibility to one another. He wanted us to be aware of the things around us and the larger world. He always told us, ‘It’s your responsibility, so don’t complain about it, do something about it.’”
Surviving A&T Four members Joseph McNeil and Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair, Jr.) were also in attendance each sharing kind words about their fallen comrade, McCain.
George Clopton, ICRCM board chairman, said, “One of the things we have to do in this community is come together more often to address economic development, education and civil rights- because that job is not over.” Clopton also applauded the city’s commitment to helping the museum continue to thrive in future years.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan noted, “As a resident, I’m deeply touched to share the impact of this evening. Four courageous men sat down so that others could stand up. Tonight we recognize the actions of those four A&T freshman. We honor their grace, dignity and legacy. Their actions are a bright spot on our rich history.”
The museum named Corene Lee Williams Blair, mother of Jibreel Khazan (Ezell Blair, Jr.) as the Matriarch of the Greensboro Sit-in Movement. Blair and her husband Ezell Blair Sr. offered their support to the A&T Four and helped rally the local NAACP as the students embarked on a life-changing event. The Blair family also provided lodging and meal accommodations to out-of-town movement supporters.
The Corporate Leadership Award was given to Food Lion grocery and accepted by Garland Scarborough. The Business Member Award was given to Wells Fargo and United Guaranty.
The museum raised $6,000 at Saturday’s gala, which will go towards paying a series of loans the organization received from the city. The loan will be forgiven with each dollar the museum raises.