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Ford Motor Company and Tom Joyner Foundation Announce Winner of National Ford Freedom Unsung Award

  • Ford Motor Company joins forces with Tom Joyner Foundation to honor unsung heroes as part of the national Ford Freedom Unsung program
  • Grand prize winner to receive a trip for two aboard the 2016 Fantastic Voyage presented by Ford
  • Contest is part of Ford Fund’s commitment to go further in our community

DEARBORN, Mich., April 12, 2016 – Ford Motor Company announced today the winner of the Ford Freedom Unsung award – a national campaign honoring the outstanding achievements of ordinary people performing extraordinary work in the African American community.

The 2016 winner is Sylvester Lee of Belleville, Illinois. Approximately five years ago, Lee purchased an old school building in East St. Louis, Illinois, and started rehabbing it as the Sunshine Cultural Arts Center. There, he promotes teaching and inspires youth in the community through arts, cultural and educational programs.

Lee continues to enhance the holistic cultural arts curriculum that provides the tools necessary for youth to succeed in life and bring positive change to their communities. As a result of his commitment to community, Lee will receive a trip for two aboard the 2016 Fantastic Voyage, where he will be formally recognized as the 2016 national Ford Freedom Unsung Hero.

“Ford has a legacy of honoring African American achievement,” said Pamela Alexander, director, community development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We commend Sylvester for his decades of work and commitment to inspiring and empowering youth, and the East St. Louis community.”

Individuals were invited to nominate their favorite living unsung hero. After a national call for nominations resulted in 200 nominees, judges selected 10 finalists. The public then had the opportunity to vote for the grand prize winner.

“I am truly humbled and honored to receive such a prestigious award,” said Lee. “This is a wonderful opportunity. Regardless of recognition or notoriety, I will continue to teach and inspire the youth in my community.”

Prior to the program’s national kickoff, Ford Freedom Unsung celebrations have taken place in Atlanta; Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area; Anchorage, Alaska; Indianapolis; and Kansas City, Missouri, over the last four years.

Ford Motor Company is presenting sponsor of the 2016 Fantastic Voyage later this month. The company also sponsors Ford Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Challenge in collaboration with Tom Joyner Foundation. The challenge has awarded $300,000 over the past three years in scholarships and community grants to students and teams to implement community projects.

Ford’s support of the African American community dates back to the early 20th century when the automaker was the largest employer of African Americans in the industry. Ford is building on that century-long commitment with other signature initiatives that include:

  • Honoring African Americans famous and unsung for their contributions and achievements
  • More than $15 million invested in African American cultural institutions such as the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis
  • Educational investment of more than $11 million in scholarships for African American students including support to United Negro College Fund, Jackie Robinson Foundation and Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

Follow the online conversation using #FordFreedomUnsung, #BlackAmericaWeb and #TomJoynerFantasticVoyage.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 203,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit

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