HOUSTON - As baseball greats Henry Aaron and Frank Robinson stepped onto the stage, Major League Baseball's Beacon Award luncheon took on an elevated level of significance.
They were two of the several Hall of Famers in attendance to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to the cause of civil rights.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the Civil Rights game is a chance to pause and pay tribute to people like Aaron, Robinson and Jackie Robinson.
"We're here to remember, to reflect and to shine a light on a chapter in our history that put our game on the road to equality," he said.
The Beacon Award does not focus on those who have accomplished much in baseball.
Football great and civil rights activist Jim Brown received the Beacon of Hope award, not for his Hall of Fame accomplishments on the football field but for his civil rights leadership off it.
Berry Gordy Jr. received the Beacon of Change award for the role he played in changing our music culture with the founding of Motown records, providing springboards for the careers of artists like the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and other greats.
The most poignant moment came with the presentation of the Beacon of Hope award to poet, historian, author Dr. Maya Angelou, who died earlier this week. Just last Thursday she taped an acceptance speech that was played for the audience and finished this way.
"I stand for those who choose not to capitulate to adversity but who opted instead to dance in the rain and to hold hands with their brothers and sisters and to look upon the future with hope, with delight, and with great love. I am Maya Angelou and I thank you."
More ceremonies were scheduled for the Civil Rights game Friday evening between the Astros and Baltimore Orioles.
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