HOUSTON -- The spirit of Dr. Maya Angelou will hover over Houston on Friday, when Major League Baseball presents the Beacon Awards luncheon as part of the Civil Rights Game festivities.
Angelou, the noted Noble laureate and cherished American poet, passed away Wednesday, just two days before she was scheduled to be feted at the Beacon Awards. Angelou was slated to be given the Beacon of Life award, but had said last week that she would be unable to attend.
The two other award winners -- football star, actor and activist Jim Brown and Berry Gordy, the music impresario who founded the Motown record label -- will be honored in person Friday. Gordy will receive the Beacon of Change, while Brown will be awarded the Beacon of Hope.
Robin Roberts, former ESPN anchor and the current co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America," will be the luncheon's keynote speaker and will accept the Beacon award on Angelou's behalf, and the day will wrap up with the Civil Rights Game between Houston and Baltimore at Minute Maid Park.
The Beacon Awards are in their eighth season of existence, and they're given to individuals whose lives and actions have been emblematic of the spirit of the civil rights movement. Few fit that motif better than Angelou, author of works like "Still I Rise" and "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings."
Brown, best known for his bruising career as an NFL Hall of Famer with the Cleveland Browns, went on to a career as an actor after retiring. But he's also impacted inner-city society through his work with the Negro Industrial Economic Union and the Amer-I-Can Life Management Skills program.
Gordy helped launch the career of countless artists -- such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five -- and has been feted with the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award and the Rainbow Coalition's Man of the Millennium Award.
The Civil Rights Game began in 2007 and '08 as an exhibition game, but it has grown into a regular-season event that alternates cities. The first two games were in Memphis. Since then, Cincinnati (2009 and 2010), Atlanta (2011 and 2012) and Chicago (2013) have served as the hosts of the game.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com.