Ford Freedom Award gala honors 'Quiet Heroes' of African-American history

Gala proceeds benefit Charles H. Wright Museum

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Passion, courage, commitment--just a few of the words used to describe Friday night's honorees at the 15th Annual Ford Freedom Award gala.

Rather than seeking spotlight during their struggles for justice, award organizers say the ones honored are the unsung heroes of African-American history.

"First thing she'd say is, ‘Oh, no. I don't need that." said Arlam Carr, Jr, accepting an award on behalf of his late mother, civil rights activist Johnny Carr.

A son's reflection echoes the voice of humility, as the Ford Freedom Honoree Award posthumously recognizes Johnnie Carr, who, along with Rosa Parks, orchestrated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Johnny Carr was one of three "Quiet Heroes" honored at this year's Ford Freedom Award Gala, hosted by Channel 7's own Glenda Lewis.

"They're fearless, diligent trailblazers," said Lewis, "Whose actions impact our communities and our world."

"So for more than 50 years, I've been getting in trouble," said Congressman John Lewis while accepting the Ford Freedom Scholar Award. "I'm gonna get in some more trouble, so thank you! Good trouble! Necessary trouble!"

Congressman Lewis spent his moment at the podium thanking icons like Johnnie Carr, as well as Michigan's own Viola Liuzzo, who was honored with the Ford Freedom Humanitarian Award. Liuzzo was killed in 1965 by the Ku Klux Klan while helping African American's register to vote.

"Mom would be amazed." said Luizzo's daughter Sally Luizzo-Prado. Accepting on behalf of her mother, Luiuzzo-Prado expressed a kind of gratitude several in the audience could relate to.

"I've had a life that has been so rich and so full that I would have never lived had Viola Liuzzo not been my mother." said Luizzo-Prado, "And I am so grateful." Luizzo-Prado's words prompted a wave of applause.

Congressman Lewis concluded his speech by saying, "We have a lot of work to do." And judging by the reaction, the crowd at Fisher seems poised and ready to so the work in their own special, quiet way.

Proceeds from the Ford Freedom Awards gala will benefit the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History.

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