Phoenix Suns honor civil rights icon Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


These words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from nearly 60 years ago still ring true today. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. has dedicated over 50 years of his life toward fighting the battle for equality. His dedication to this fight led to his recognition by the Phoenix Suns, the NAACP Arizona State Conference and the Greater Phoenix Urban League for his lifetime achievements.


“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.”


A former assistant to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Chavis first gained recognition in 1971 when he was wrongfully convicted of arson as the leader of the Wilmington Ten. Dr. Chavis received the longest sentence of the group before ultimately winning his appeal in 1980.


Currently serving as the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association: The Black Press of America (NNPA), Dr. Chavis’ impact on civil rights stretches far and wide. While serving as the executive director and CEO of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, he supported the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 – a labor law that was passed following decisions of the United States Supreme Court that limited employees’ rights who had sued their organization for discrimination.


Dr. Chavis previously served as the national director and organizer of the Million Man March. He was also the 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.


“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.”


Dr. Chavis has spent the past several years focusing his efforts on furthering the civil rights movement in the Arizona community. He served as a moderator for six Bridge Forums for a panel consisting of community leaders, law enforcement and government officials to discuss current events. The Phoenix Suns and other local teams took part in one of these panels in September 2020 to discuss how they can improve social equity in the sports world.


He also helped lead a diversity, equity and inclusion workshop for employees of Suns Legacy Partners in 2020 and invited team President and CEO Jason Rowley to take part in NNPA’s daily news program, “Let it Be Known.”


“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.”


The fight for civil rights and social equity is an ongoing battle. But the work of Dr. Chavis should serve as an example to everyone as we move forward and strive to make our world a better place.


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