National Civil Rights Museum’s 30th Freedom Award Brings A-List Talent to the Virtual Stage

Entertainment includes acclaimed artists Andra Day, Leon Bridges, and Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman

Memphis, Tennessee, UNITED STATES

Memphis, TN, Sept. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On October 14, the National Civil Rights Museum will host its 30th Freedom Award to pay tribute to their 2021 honorees, former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Poor People’s Campaign.  While virtual attendees will experience an inspiring night with tributes to outstanding honorees, they will also be entertained by Andra Day, Amanda Gorman, Leon Bridges, and Collage Dance Collective performing, and enlightened by Michael Eric Dyson and Ed Mabrey dropping a word.  

Andra Day is a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, activist, and actress whose 2016 single “Rise Up” amassed one billion streams. She has performed alongside Stevie Wonder, Nick Jonas and Alicia Keys.  It was her standout, debut starring role in The United State vs. Billie Holiday that earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the Oscars and a Golden Globe for Actress in a Drama Motion Picture with the soundtrack song “Tigress & Tweed” winning Golden Globes and the Critic’s Choice Awards. In 2020, she released “Make Your Troubles Go Away” to help raise money to help fight COVID. Her upcoming album includes the single “Phone Dies” to share joy and tenderness to a world that needs it now.

Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history whose performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration received critical acclaim and international attention. She is a committed advocate for the environment, racial equality, and gender justice. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she graduated cum laude from Harvard University.  Gorman was appointed the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate by Urban Word – a program that supports Youth Poets Laureate in more than 60 cities, regions, and states nationally. The special edition of her inaugural poem was published in March 2021 and debuted at #1 on the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers list.  Her debut picture book, Change Sings, published in September 2021, and her poetry collection, Call Us What We Carry, will release in December 2021.

Singer, songwriter and producer, Leon Bridges’ soulful, 1960s throw-back R&B style gives context to contemporary social issues today with a vision of what could be. Born Todd Michael “Leon” Bridges, his 2015 debut album Coming Home was nominated for a Grammy as Best R&B Album.  In June 2020, he collaborated with Terrence Martin to release the single “Sweeter” in response to the George Floyd murder.

The Freedom Award will also pay tribute to Darnella Frazier whose viral video of George Floyd’s violent death put the world on alert about police brutality to spark global protest and a national racial reckoning.

“Last year was pivotal, life changing and set a new course for this nation that we will reflect through word, music and song. This Freedom Award is an evening of celebration, tribute, inspiration, reflection and cultural consciousness.” said Faith Morris, the museum’s Chief Marketing Officer & External Affairs Officer and Freedom Award Managing Director/Producer. “Our audience will join us via digital seats with everyone getting front-row access to our virtual Freedom Award.”

To render social justice and poetic commentary are Michael Eric Dyson and Ed Mabrey. Dyson is a renowned writer, preacher, lecturer, media personality and professor who has taught at distinguished universities including Brown, Columbia, and Georgetown. He has written over 20 books including bestselling volumes on Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, 2Pac, Marvin Gaye, Barack Obama, and Bill Cosby.  Mabrey is the only four-time World Poetry Slam Champion and an Emmy winner. He has performed on international stages and on television series such as Verses & Flow.  

Freedom Award host is OWN Network’s Greenleaf star and entertainer, Lamman Rucker.  Best known as the handsome star of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married film sequel and hit sitcom Meet The Browns, Rucker has maintained a powerful screen presence as well as an award-winning acting range off-Broadway. He is also a spokesperson for several charitable efforts and community action initiatives. 

Creative expressions from some of the most talented artists are also part of the award celebration. Collage Dance Collective, the Memphis-based company at the national forefront of inspiring growth and diversity in ballet, will present an evocative performance in salute of the occasion. 

The Freedom Award House Band led by award-winning composer/musician Garry Goin is consistently a highlight.

Since 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum has presented The Freedom Award to some of the most lauded civil and human rights leaders and history makers in the world, including Coretta Scott King, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Rosa Parks, Bono, Colin Powell, Oscar Arias, Mary Robinson, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Yitzhak Rabin, Tom Brokaw, Frank Robinson, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bernard Lafayette, Marlo Thomas, Usher Raymond, Bill Frist, Dolores Huerta, Rev. James Lawson, Cicely Tyson, Kirk Whalum, Susan Taylor, Rev. Bernice A. King, Hugh Masekela, President Joe Biden, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Pitt Hyde, John Legend, Hafsat Abiola, Gloria Steinem and others. 

The Freedom Award presenting sponsors are International Paper, FedEx Corporation, Nike, Hyde Family Foundations, Ford Motor Company, and First Horizon Foundation.

Tickets are available at

About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 students annually. Serving as the new public square, the Museum is steadfast in its mission to honor and preserve the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.  It chronicles the American civil rights movement and tells the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights, serving as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

About Smithsonian Affiliations

Established in 1996, Smithsonian Affiliations is a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums and educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources. The long-term goal of Smithsonian Affiliations is to facilitate a two-way relationship among the Affiliate organizations and the Smithsonian Institution to increase discovery and inspire lifelong learning in communities across America. More information about the Smithsonian Affiliations program and Affiliate activity is available at


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