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Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awardees Announced: Cindy Hensley McCain, Louis Gossett Jr., Jon Secada, Sheryl Lee Ralph to Top Awardee List

John Rosenberg from Prestonburg to Receive Kentucky Humanitarian Award

Craig Melvin of NBC News and MSNBC to Emcee the Event on September 17thin Louisville

FUSION to Serve as Exclusive Media Partner

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (August 23, 2016) — Philanthropist and businesswoman Cindy Hensley McCain will receive the prestigious Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement and Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Louis Gossett Jr. will be honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education at the Fourth Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards on September 17th in Louisville, Kentucky. Tony Award-winning actress, singer and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph will receive the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship. Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and humanitarian Jon Secada will be honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award. John Rosenberg from Prestonburg, an attorney and founding director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, will be presented the Muhammad Ali Kentucky Humanitarian Award. NBC News’ and MSNBC’s Craig Melvin will be the emcee and host for the evening.

MSNBC Anchors -- Pictured: Craig Melvin, MSNBC Anchor -- Photo by: Andrew Eccles/NBC

Pictured: Craig Melvin, MSNBC Anchor. Photo by: Andrew Eccles/NBC

The Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards celebrate the greatness of people from around the world who are making differences in their communities and beyond. This year’s awards will also serve as a tribute to the late, great Muhammad Ali, who passed away on June 3, 2016. Ali, who co-founded the Muhammad Ali Center with his wife Lonnie in November 2005, attended each of the previous year’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards. Lonnie, will carry on the tradition of speaking and presenting some of this year’s awards.

FUSION will serve as the exclusive media partner for the 2016 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards. FUSION will produce a six-part digital series about Muhammad Ali’s life and legacy leading up to the 2016 Humanitarian Awards, profiles about all the honorees and their contributions, and a primetime television special. This series of reports will run across FUSION’s TV, digital, social, and OTT platforms as well, the number one news and culture site for African Americans. This global exposure helps raise awareness of the Awards and also shines a spotlight on individual award recipients and the humanitarian work they do.

More information about each of the 2016 Awardees—including the previously announced “Six Core Principle” recipients, all 30 years or under—is provided below.

Cindy Hensley McCain, Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement:

Cindy McCainCindy Hensley McCain has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those less fortunate both in the United States and around the world.

Cindy serves as co-chair of the Arizona Governor’s Council on human trafficking and on the McCain Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. She is dedicated to efforts to reduce human trafficking in Arizona, throughout the United States and around the world, as well as working to improve the lives of victims. Through her work with the McCain Institute, several partnerships have been formed with anti-trafficking organizations working on solving various aspects of the problem.

Cindy also served on the Board of Directors for Operation Smile, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children around the world.  She was a member of the HALO Trust Board, as well as a founding Member of the Eastern Congo Initiative.  She is committed to raising awareness of the travesties facing women and children in The Congo.

She also sits on the Advisory Boards of Too Small To Fail and Warriors and Quiet Waters. Cindy holds an undergraduate degree in Education and a Master’s in Special Education from USC and is a member of the USC Rossier School of Education Board of Councilors.

Cindy is the Chairman of her family’s business, Hensley Beverage Company, which is one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation. She is on the board of Project CURE. Cindy resides in Phoenix with her husband, U.S. Senator John McCain. They have four children.

Jon Secada, Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award

Jon SecadaMulti-Grammy Award-winner Jon Secada’s career spans over two decades and includes 20 million albums sold and a Broadway starring role in 1995 for “Grease.” His numerous hits, including “Just Another Day,” in English and Spanish established him as one of the first bilingual artists to have international crossover success. Jon also became a popular songwriter for other artists, including Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Mandy Moore, and Gloria Estefan, including her number one hit “Coming Out of the Dark.”

Born in Cuba, Jon arrived in Miami, Florida at age nine. He is a graduate of the University of Miami, where he also established the Jon Secada Music Scholarship. In addition to his time in the recording studio and on stage, Jon served as a celebrity judge for four years on the international hit show, “Latin American Idol” and participated as a contestant on Univision’s hit dance show “Mira Quien Balia”, the Latin “Dancing with the Stars.”

Under his organization, Jon Secada Charities, Jon has devoted himself to assisting charitable groups all over the world, focusing on children, education, AIDS research, and child abuse. Specifically, he has supported the Pediatric AIDS Unit at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Lifebeat Concert to benefit AIDS research, Amigos Together for Kids, Make-A-Wish Foundation, as well as many other initiatives. His tribute song, “The Last Goodbye,” was dedicated to the families of 9/11 victims. He included an all-star version in Spanish, which was released as a single, with all proceeds going to the victims’ families.

Jon was appointed by former President George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, aimed at closing the educational achievement gap between Hispanic students and their peers. Jon’s commitment to education remains steadfast, as he is currently a visiting professor at Miami Dade College, the University of Miami, and Riverside Community College. He also serves as a celebrity mentor for The Inspire and Develop Artists Program (IDA). In June, Jon hosted an earthquake relief concert for Ecuador. The funds raised provided permanent shelter and relief to a group of orphaned children.

Louis Gossett, Jr., Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education

Louis Gossett JrLouis Gossett, Jr. is one of stage, film and television’s most recognized and lauded talents.  With over three hundred titles to his credit, Gossett has earned some of the industry’s highest honors—including Emmy’s, Golden Globes, NAACP Image Awards, and an Academy Award for his portrayal of Sgt. Emil Foley in “An Officer and a Gentleman”—and now adds author, director, and humanitarian to his accomplishments.

Louis Gossett, Jr. was born in 1936, in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 17, Gossett caught his first break as the lead for Broadway’s “Take a Giant Step” (1953). His next Broadway role would come in 1959, in the watershed play “A Raisin in the Sun”—a portrayal of African American life written by Lorraine Hansberry.

This led to numerous roles in the 1960s and 70s leading to 1977, when he earned an Emmy for his performance in the groundbreaking mini-series “Roots.” His menacing work in “The Deep” (1977) and portrayal of a tough but fair drill sergeant in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) brought him rave reviews, with the latter role earning him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

A Los Angeles Times best-selling author (An Actor and a Gentleman), Gossett is still working steadily in films and on TV.

With a career spanning six decades, the elder statesman has dedicated this last quadrant of his life to communicate with younger generations and transmit the values of community, self-love, and purpose that have characterized our progress as a people. He established Louis Gossett Jr.’s Eracism Foundation which is dedicated to providing young adults with the tools they need for living a racially diverse and culturally inclusive life. Through his Foundation, Gossett will establish Shamba Centers (Swahili for “farm”) throughout the United States, that offer instruction in cultural diversity, historical enrichment and antiviolence initiatives for young adults, teens and pre-teens to help them understand and eliminate racism by creating a living environment where racism and injustice have a hard time existing.

Sheryl Lee Ralph, Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship

Sheryl Lee RalphSheryl Lee Ralph has had success on Broadway, on screen and television, with music, and with her philanthropic endeavors. A triple-threat dreamgirl, Sheryl’s award-winning work includes creating the role of Deena Jones in the legendary Broadway musical, “Dreamgirls” and earning Best Actress nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards.

Sheryl’s past TV credits include “It’s a Living,” “Designing Women,” “The District,” “Moesha,” and others. On the big screen, Sheryl has appeared in “The Mighty Quinn,” “Mistress,” “To Sleep with Anger” and “The Distinguished Gentlemen.”

She has been named one of the top 10 College Women in America by Glamour magazine and has been recognized around the country for her artistic endeavors, but she finds the most fulfillment in giving back to the global community.

Sheryl has spent the last three decades advocating for those infected by HIV/AIDS and educating others around the world about the importance of knowing their status. She is the founding Director of The Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware (DIVA) Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, created as a living memorial to the many friends she lost to HIV/AIDS while a member of Dreamgirls.

In 1990, Sheryl also founded DIVAS Simply Singing!, the longest consecutive running musical HIV/AIDS benefit in the country and has been honored for her one-woman show “Sometimes I Cry,” about the lives, loves and losses of  HIV/AIDS-infected women.

Named one of the most FIERCE & FABULOUS Women in America by ESSENCE magazine, Sheryl received her Doctorate in Humane Letters from Tougaloo College and Huston‐Tillotson University for her AIDS activism. Sheryl also holds the distinction of being the youngest female graduate of Rutgers College (RU) at the age of 19. She was awarded the first Red Ribbon Award at the UN for her unique use of the arts in HIV/AIDS activism. Sheryl has also served as AIDS Ambassador for Jamaica’s Ministry of Health. She is on the Board of Trustees of Los Angeles Project Angel Food.

In 2008, she and her husband, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes, started Test Together, a campaign that encourages couples to know their status as an essential first step.

Mother of Etienne and Ivy with a blended family of four, Sheryl resides in Los Angeles and Philadelphia with her husband.

John Rosenberg, 2016 Kentucky Humanitarian Award

John RosenbergJohn Rosenberg is best known as the founding director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, which has long been a refuge and advocate for the poor and disadvantaged in the Appalachian counties of the state, but his life and career go well beyond that.

After receiving a scholarship to Duke, where he earned a chemistry degree, John served in the Air Force. He earned his law degree at North Carolina, and then became a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, where he handled cases involving discrimination in voting, school integration and public accommodations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.

In 1970, John and his wife Jean moved to Prestonsburg, KY, where he was deputy director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund (AppalReD) for Kentucky, which fights such ills as abusive land-use practices and black-lung disease. AppalReD serves 37 counties and has a network of 21 lawyers and 16 support staff.  From 1973 to 2001, John served as the director. Since 2001, John has been AppalReD’s director emeritus, helping support its mission and clientele in many ways while maintaining a private, not-for-profit legal practice that focuses on assistance to non-profit corporations serving low-income persons, and pro bono representation of individuals.

But John is much more than a lawyer. He is a leading citizen of Eastern Kentucky, who has tried in many ways to address the region’s poverty, isolation, lack of education, corrupt politics, and domination by the coal industry. John helped draft the Kentucky constitutional amendment negating “broad form” deeds that allowed strip mining.  John and his wife Jean are also longtime leaders in the effort to improve education in Eastern Kentucky, especially in Floyd County. Through their efforts, many young people have benefited from the creation of the East Kentucky’s Science Center, now part of the Big Sandy Community and Technical College.  John was also very involved in forming the non-profit organization Low Income Housing of Eastern Kentucky, which builds affordable housing for low-income people. Seventy-five homes have been built to date.

Among other accolades, in 2015 he was honored by the ACLU of Kentucky for his lifetime work of leading AppalReD.

Six Core Principle Awardees

Each year, six young people, 30 years and younger, are honored with an award for each of the Six Core Principles that Muhammad Ali embraced throughout his life: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect and Spirituality.

The 2016 recipients of the Core Principle Awards are:

Josh Nesbit, Waterford, Virginia will receive the Confidence award. Josh is the co-founder and CEO of Medic Mobile, a nonprofit organization that builds mobile and web tools for community health workers, clinic staff, and families in the hardest-to-reach communities.

Shawana Shah, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan will receive the Conviction award. Shawana works to end gender-based violence in her native Pakistan and to provide women a platform to fight for their rights.

Curt Bowen, Boise, Idaho will receive the Dedication award. Curt is the executive director and co-founder of Semilla Nueva, a nonprofit that develops locally-led farmer education programs that increase the income, rebuild the soils, and improve the food security of Guatemala’s rural poor.

Jakob Schillinger, Tuebingen, Germany will receive the Giving award. Jakob is the co-founder of OneDollarGlasses, which produces high-quality prescription eyeglasses for a cost of less than one dollar per pair.

Tina Hovsepian, Los Angeles, California will receive the Respect award. Tina is the founder and executive director of Cardborigami, a nonprofit that supports those who lost their homes due to poverty, natural disasters, or other crises.

Navonel Voni Glick, Tel Aviv, Israel will receive the Spirituality award. Voni is the chief operating officer of IsraAID and previously served as its programs director, leading disaster-response missions across the world.

For more information about the Six Core Principle Awardees, please click here.


This year’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards are supported by: YUM! Brands Foundation, Brown-Forman Corporation, LG&E and KU Energy, Horseshoe Southern Indiana, Harold C. Schott Foundation, Tandem PR & Marketing, Ashbourne Farms and River Bend Farm.

Tickets and Table Sponsorships

Tickets to the awards can be purchased through the Ali Center’s website or by contacting Kelly Watson at or 502.992.5338. For more information, visit

About the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards

The fourth annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian awards will take place on September 17th, 2016 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown in Louisville, Kentucky USA. This charitable event of celebration and recognition will honor individuals around the world who have made significant contributions toward the attainment of peace, social justice, or other positive actions pertaining to human or social capital. In addition to awards presented to seasoned humanitarians, six young people, 30 years or younger, are honored with an award for each of Muhammad’s Six Core Principles: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality. This event is the premiere annual fundraiser for the Muhammad Ali Center.

Through impactful journalism and smart commentary, FUSION covers the stories that matter to the new, rising American mainstream. FUSION content is available to audiences across a broad range of platforms including cable television (channel listings),, various OTT providers and social media platforms. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. FUSION will be a part of the recently announced Fusion Media Group, a division of Univision Communications Inc.

Editor’s Note:

Photos of the awardees and host Craig Melvin will be sent upon request.

For online credential requests, visit


The Muhammad Ali Center, a 501(c)3 corporation, was co-founded by Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The international cultural center promotes the six core principles of Muhammad Ali (Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality) in ways that inspire personal and global greatness and provides programming and events around the focus areas of education, gender equity, and global citizenship. Its newest initiative, Generation Ali, fosters a new generation of leaders to contribute positively to their communities and to change the world for the better. The Center’s headquarters also contains an award-winning museum experience. For more information, please visit