Breaking Chains, Building Bridges and Championing Change

A Life Devoted To Peace

At the age of 24, Reverend Benjamin F. Chavis Jr rose to international prominence in 1972 as the leader of the Wilmington Ten in NC, civil rights activists who were “political prisoners” as designated by Amnesty International, and who were unjustly convicted of committing arson and sentenced to a combined total of 282 years in prison. The Wilmington Ten convictions and sentences were appealed and eventually overturned in 1980 by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals due to unconstitutional systemic racism and "prosecutorial misconduct." During Chavis’ frontline foot-soldier civil rights career in the 1960s, 1970s, and in the1980s, he has been unjustly charged, arrested and jailed over 67 times, and in each case subsequently found not guilty or dismissed as unjustly charged.

Chavis returned to graduate schools in NC, DC and NY in the field of civil rights as a minister and a program director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice under the leadership of another mentor, the Reverend Dr, Charles E. Cobb, Sr, Chavis received the Master of Divinity (magna cum laude) from Duke University (1980) and a Doctor of Ministry from Howard University (1981). Chavis was admitted in 1982 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 1984. Chavis was elected National Vice President of the National Council of Churches in 1988.

In 1993, the national board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) elected Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr as the youngest Executive Director and CEO of America's oldest national civil rights organization. In July of 1993, Chavis was proud to introduce The Honorable Nelson Mandela to speak in person at the NAACP national convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Benjamin Chavis actually began his journalistic career at the age of 11 while in the sixth grade at Angier B. Duke Elementary School in Oxford, NC. Chavis wrote weekly news stories about Black youth activism for The Carolina Times, published by, Louis E. Austin, in Durham, NC. From 1985 to 1993, Chavis authored and produced a weekly national commentary “Civil Rights Journal” for Jet Magazine, National Black Radio Network, and for the American Urban Radio Network. Chavis has continued to write award-winning Op Eds, news features, and columns from 2003 to 2023.

In 1982, Dr. Chavis was the first person to coined the term environmental racism during environmental justice protests in Warren County, NC. Over the past four decades, Dr. Chavis has emerged as the "Godfather of the Environmental Justice Movement” that today has evolved into an effective worldwide movement for environmental and climate justice and equity.

Dr. Chavis defined environmental racism as “racial discrimination in the deliberated targeting of ethnic and minority communities for exposure to toxic and hazardous waste sites and facilities, coupled with the systematic exclusion of minorities in environmental policy making, enforcement, and remediation.”

In 1986 Dr. Chavis conducted, co-authored and published the landmark national study: Toxic Waste and Race in the United States of America, that statistically revealed and substantiated the national correlation and causation between race and the location of toxic waste throughout the United States. In 1991, as Executive Director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, Dr. Chavis Co-Chaired, funded and organized the First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC that codified the Principles of Environmental Justice

In 1992-1993, Dr. Chavis served as a member of the Clinton-Gore Transition Team and later became an active member of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development. Dr. Chavis was the National Director of the successful Million Man March on October 16, 1995, in Washington, DC., the largest African American event mobilization in the history of America.

In 2001, Dr. Chavis and Russell Simmons co-founded and organized the first National Hip-Hop Summit in New York City that led to establishment for the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN), the world’s largest international coalition of recording artists, producers, and entertainment industry leaders. From 2001 to 2012, over 75 Hip-Hop Summits were held in NY, TX, CA, Il, MI, MD, PA, NJ, NC, GA, MO, IN, WI, VA, AL, Toronto, and Johannesburg.

Currently, Dr. Chavis also serves as the Co-Chair of No Labels; Chairman of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO); Chairman of the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust; and Co-Founder Chair Emeritus of Diamonds Do Good.

1989 TransAfrica Press Conference on Peace in Africa

1995 Million Man March, National Director

First National People of Color Environmental Justice Leadership Summit 1991

Numbers Speak For Themselves!

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