Russell Wendell Simmons

Russell Wendell Simmons

Apr 27, 2016 by Administrator

Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957) is an American business magnate. The Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications cofounded the hip-hop music label Def Jam[2] and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons most recently launched All Def Digital,... continue reading

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Russell Wendell Simmons
Russell Wendell Simmons

Russell Wendell Simmons (born October 4, 1957) is an American business magnate. The Chairman...

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr

Dr. Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. (born January 22, 1948) is an African American civil rights leader, born in Oxford, North Carolina. In his youth, Chavis was an assistant to Martin Luther King, Jr., who inspired him to work in the civil rights movement.

At the age of 24, Chavis rose to international prominence as the leader of the Wilmington Ten, civil rights activists who were charged with committing arson. After the conviction of the entire group Chavis received a sentence of 34 years in prison. Along with the other members of the Wilmington Ten, Chavis walked to his freedom in 1980 after the federal appeals court overturned the convictions and cited "prosecutorial misconduct." Upon his release from prison, Dr. Chavis returned to the field of civil rights, and he became a Vice President of the National Council of Churches.

The board of the NAACP elected Chavis as the Executive Director of America's oldest civil rights organization. Chavis later served as the National Director of the Million Man March, and the Founder and CEO of the National African American Leadership Summit (NAALS). Since 2001, Chavis has been CEO and Co-Chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network,[1][2] in New York City which he co-founded with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. In 2009, Chavis joined with Ezell Brown and established Education Online Services Corporation headquartered in Coral Springs, Florida. In 2011, Chavis collaborated with multi-platinum music producer and author Sahpreem A. King on "Surviving the Game: How to Succeed in the Music Business" where Chavis is credited as author of the foreword and technical advisor.

On June 24, 2014, Chavis became the interim president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, an African-American organization which focuses on supporting and advocating for publishers of the nation's more than 200 black newspapers. In 2015, he helped organize the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March: Justice or Else.

Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr. was born and grew up in Oxford, North Carolina. As a twelve-year-old, Chavis effectively desegregated his hometown's whites-only public library, becoming the first African American to be issued a library card in the town's history.[3][4] Chavis graduated from Mary Potter High School in 1965 and entered St. Augustine College in Raleigh as a freshman.[3] He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1969).

After working in the civil rights movement and serving time in North Carolina's prison system as the leader of the Wilmington Ten, Chavis received his Master of Divinity (magna cum laude) from Duke University (1980) and a Doctor of Ministry from Howard University (1981). Chavis was admitted into the PhD program in Systematic Theology as a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and completed all of the academic course requirements.

In 1965, while a college freshman, Chavis became a statewide youth coordinator in North Carolina for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He also joined CORE, SNCC and AFSCME.[5]

In 1968, Chavis also worked for the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. After his graduation from UNCC in 1969, Chavis returned to Oxford and taught at the Mary Potter High School, still all black even though the courts ordered school desegregation. In 1970 following the murder of 23-year-old Henry Marrow and the acquittal by an all-white jury of the two men who killed him, Chavis organized a protest march from Oxford to North Carolina's State Capitol Building in Raleigh. Following the Oxford to Raleigh march, Chavis organized a black boycott of white businesses in Oxford that lasted for 18 months until the town agreed to integrate its public facilities, including schools.

Chavis was appointed Field Officer in the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice in 1968. (The commission had been established in 1963 to coordinate justice strategies, community organization, and the like.[4])

In 1969, he was appointed Southern Regional Program Director of the 1.7-million-member United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice (UCC-CRJ). In 1985, he was named the Executive Director and CEO of the UCC-CRJ.[7]

Chavis received his ordination in the United Church of Christ in 1980.

In 1971 the Commission for Racial Justice assigned Field Officer Chavis to Wilmington, North Carolina to help desegregate the public school system. Since the city abruptly closed the black high school, laid off its principal and most of its teachers, and distributed the students to other schools, there had been conflicts with white students. The administration did not hear their grievances, and the students organized a boycott to protest for their civil rights.

Chavis and nine others were arrested in February 1972 charged with conspiracy and arson. Following a controversial trial, the entire group were convicted in 1972. The oldest man at age 24, Chavis drew the longest sentence, 34 years. The ten were incarcerated while supporters pursued appeals. The case of the Wilmington Ten received massive international condemnation as a political prosecution. In December 1980, the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new trial and overturned the original conviction because of "prosecutorial misconduct."[7][9]

In 1978 Amnesty International described Benjamin Chavis and eight others of the Wilmington Ten still in prison as “American political prisoners” under the definition of the Universal Rights of Man and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They were prisoners of conscience. From this experience Benjamin Chavis wrote two books: An American Political Prisoner Appeals for Human Rights (while still in prison) and Psalms from Prison. In 1978, Chavis was named as one of the first winners of the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award.

On December 31, 2012, Chavis and the surviving members of the Wilmington Ten were granted Pardons of Innocence by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue.[10] The New York Times editorialized for the pardons of innocence for the Wilmington 10 as the case had become an international cause celebre as a case of virulent racist political prosecution.


In 1993, Dr. Chavis became the youngest Executive Director and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dr. Chavis is a lifetime member of the NAACP, and first joined at the age of twelve as a youth leader of the Granville County, North Carolina Chapter.

Chavis traveled to a housing project to “get to the heart of the issue,” stating that in economically deprived areas, youth often go from childhood to adulthood with no adolescence because of the economic demands.[citation needed] On August 28, 1993, NAACP Chairman William Gibson, Executive Director Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., Coretta Scott King, William Fauntroy, and AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland joined together to organize the 30th Anniversary March on Washington for Economic Democracy. In 1993, President Clinton named Dr. Chavis to the twenty-five-member President’s Council on Sustainable Development to help develop U.S. policies that would encourage economic growth, job creation, and environmental protection.

The NAACP in 1993 received a $2 million commitment from the estate of the late Reginald F. Lewis to establish the NAACP Reginald F. Lewis Memorial Endowment.

Dr. Chavis spoke on the PBS series Earthkeeping. He said that “environmental racism” was a life-and-death issue and noted the work of the NAACP to end it. Dr. Chavis said that often people of color were excluded from decisions on public policy.[citation needed] The NAACP organized Branches to speak out on the issue and advocated for reform of the Superfund legislation.

In 1994, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. set the NAACP’s focus on economic empowerment to ensure a strong economic infrastructure for the African-American and other communities of color. The NAACP created a Telecommunications Task Force of Board members and industry leaders to ensure that African Americans took part in the ownership, management, and total employment package of President Clinton’s proposed “National Information Superhighway.”

The NAACP conducted a voter education teleconference in seventeen cities across the U.S. to prepare South African citizens residing in the U.S. and NAACP volunteers for participation in the special South African elections on April 26.

Through the NAACP Community Development Resource Centers (CDRC), the Association established the Youth Entrepreneurial Institute to sharpen business acumen and launch enterprises for students ages fourteen to eighteen. In May 1994, Chavis led the NAACP and other organizations in sponsoring a youth summit to seek solutions to the drugs and violence in their communities. [12]

In 1994, Chavis was fired after signing an out-of-court settlement committing the NAACP to pay a former female employee to stop a potential employment discrimination lawsuit against the NAACP. Chavis in his position as CEO signed the settlement. Later that year, Chavis retired from his post as Executive Director of the NAACP.

In 1994, Dr. Chavis convened summit conferences of civil rights leaders in Baltimore in August and in Chicago in December. In June 1995, they founded the National African American Leadership Summit (NAALS). A constitution and by-laws were adopted that month. Dr. Chavis served as Executive Director and CEO of NAALS from 1995 to 1997. During his tenure, Dr. Chavis directed the organization, planning and implementation of the Million Man March in Washington, DC.

In 1995, NAALS appointed Dr. Chavis to serve as the National Director of the Million Man March Organizing Committee that conceived, designed, arranged and promoted the Million Man March.[7] Dr. Chavis drew upon years of experience as an advocate for African-American equality to help this political march reach its goals of increased political activity and awareness of issues by African Americans.

Chavis joined the Nation of Islam in 1997 and temporarily adopted the religious surname Muhammad. Dr. Chavis received the appointment to serve as East Coast Regional Minister of the Nation of Islam and Minister of the historic Mosque Number Seven in Harlem, New York where Malcolm X had served. While serving the Nation of Islam, Chavis worked to establish better relations between Christians, Jews and Muslims.