A Bolton, MS, native, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson is the longest-serving African-American elected official of his state. His history of grassroots political organizing began during his time at Tougaloo College -- a private historically Black college in Jackson, MS. From there, he went on to serve as alderman from 1969 to 1972 before being elected to mayor in 1973, when he made major and lasting improvements to the city's infrastructure. After moving up to congress, he continued to fight for his communities, creating the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities and serving as the first Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. When he's not working to better the world, Thompson is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys gardening, reading, and listening to the blues.
SOCIAL JUSTICE IMPACT AWARD
Listed amongst the Most Influential People of 2021 by TIME100, Ebony Magazine's Power 100 Most Influential African Americans, The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Lawyers, and the 2014 NNPA Newsmaker of the Year, Attorney Benjamin Crump is referred to as "Black America's Attorney General." Through a steadfast dedication to justice and service, renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Benjamin Crump has established himself as one of the nation's foremost lawyers and advocates for social justice, winning a number of record settlements and verdicts for victims and families that have faced injustice. He has worked on some of the most high-profile cases in the U.S., representing the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, the residents of Flint, Michigan, who were affected by the poisoned water of the Flint River, as well as the family of Henrietta Lacks in a landmark reparations case. In 2021, St. Thomas University College of Law announced the Benjamin L. Crump Center for Social Justice in his honor, which will open doors for minority students pursuing law degrees. His book, published in October 2019, "Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People", reflects on the landmark cases he has battled, and how discrimination in the courthouse devastates real families and communities. He is the founder and principal owner of Ben Crump Law.
Dwyane Wade is a three-time NBA champion, Olympic gold medalist and business mogul. Through his historic athletic success and global brand recognition, Wade has also built a platform to promote positive change as a philanthropist. Through his nonprofit organizations, Wade supports Black-owned businesses, LGBTQ+ rights, gun reform and other worthy causes. Gabrielle Union is an award-winning actress, producer, best-selling author, philanthropist and entrepreneur. Her notable film and television highlights include "Bring It On," "Bad Boys II" and "Being Mary Jane." In 2018, Union formed her production company I'll Have Another, with the goal of telling authentic stories that feature the point of views of marginalized communities. Together, Wade and Union have written the children's books "Shady Baby" and "Shady Baby Feels." They also partnered to create PROUDLY, a baby care brand specifically dedicated to the health of Black and Brown babies. The 54th NAACP Image Awards are proud to honor this impactful couple with the President's Award.
With a career spanning over five decades, Bethann Hardison has gone from working in New York City's Garment District to becoming one of the first Black models favored by European and New York designers to founding her namesake agency, where she guided the careers of some of the most prominent models. In 1988, she founded the Black Girls Coalition, and in 2013, she spearheaded the launch of the Diversity Coalition, sparking an industry-wide movement for diversity and inclusion. In recognition of her decades of advocacy work, Bethann received the CFDA's Founder's Award in 2014. In 2018, with the support of the CFDA, she founded The Designer's Hub to guide and empower Black designers, and in 2019, she became an inaugural member of Gucci's Changemakers Council. Bethann currently serves on the CFDA's Board of Directors and as Gucci's Executive Advisor for Global Equity and Cultural Engagement.
JACKIE ROBINSON SPORTS AWARD
Serena Williams has overcome insurmountable odds to win 23 Grand Slams in her career. Her tennis achievements, combined with her successes off the court in business, philanthropy and fashion, make her one of the most recognizable figures in the world. Williams served as an executive producer on the Academy Award-nominated film "King Richard," a biopic based on her family. In March 2022, Serena Ventures launched its venture capital fund and currently maintains a portfolio of over 60 companies with a focus on diverse leadership. Williams's fashion brand, S by Serena, celebrates body positivity and female empowerment. Williams is also a published author with the release of her children's book "The Adventures of Qai Qai." In December 2022, Williams announced she had teamed up with two CPG veterans to launch Will Perform, a line of clean, cruelty-free topical pain relief and daily muscle care solutions designed to reimagine recovery.
ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR
Derrick Lee Foward is the president of the Dayton Unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and is currently serving his ninth two-year term. He is also in his seventh two-year term as a vice president of the NAACP for the state of Ohio. Additionally, Foward serves as a member of the NAACP National Life Membership Committee and chairman of the NAACP National Credentials Committee. Foward implemented a proactive civil rights agenda through monthly educational community-based workshops and seminars to educate citizens on the front end of civil rights issues. Professionally, Foward retired from Speedway LLC (now 7-Eleven, Inc.) with more than 28 years of loyal and dedicated service. He established the business relationship between Speedway and both Central State University and Wilberforce University, which has resulted in many job and scholarship opportunities for students, as well as sponsorship opportunities for both universities. Foward implemented a mentoring program and an externship program for college students at Central State University, Wright State University, University of Dayton and Wilberforce University to educate them on various civil rights issues and how to address them in a profound, professional and productive manner.
YOUTH ACTIVIST OF THE YEAR
In 2022, Bradley Ross Jackson made history as the youngest president of the Illinois NAACP Youth and College Division, where he received the NAACP Mr. Medgar Evers Award and the NAACP's Organizer of the Year Award. His nonprofit, B.E. KIND, has received service recognition from former President Barack Obama and former President Donald Trump, earning him a gold medal for community service. As a high school student, Jackson is a member of the National Honor Society, as well as the proud vice president of the Black Student Union and High School Student Union. He also serves as a mentor to incoming high school freshmen. When he's not focused on making his world a better place, Jackson enjoys stage performance and writing poetry and speeches. He has worked with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr.'s Operation PUSH Excel Oratorical Society, earning him over 50 first place awards and medals for his dynamic and compelling speaking abilities and skill set.