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By Carol Cain
CBS Detroit

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The time to talk about race relations in our region and country has never been more needed according to Rev. Wendell Anthony as the Detroit branch of the NAACP prepares for its 59th annual weekend of festivities which concludes Sunday with the Freedom Fund Annual Dinner at Cobo Center.

Rev. Anthony, president of the local chapter, appeared on “Michigan Matters,” and talked how the civil rights organization has been gearing up for this weekend’s festivities.

Charles Ogletree Jr. will be the keynote speaker for the Freedom Fund Dinner where nearly 10,000 people are expected. Ogletree is a well-known lawyer, civil rights educator, author, constitutional expert and people motivator who teaches at Harvard Law School.

Other guests include Shaun Robinson Co-Host Access Hollywood and Bryan Smiley, former Detroit Branch NAACP ACT-SO contestant and currently manager of Home Entertainment and New Business Development for New Regency Productions at 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers.

Smiley was involved in the Oscar-winning movie, “12 Years a Slave.”

(credit: Tony Chiudioni/CBS 62)

(credit: Tony Chiudioni/CBS 62)

On other issues, Rev. Anthony talked about the fallout of racially charged comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling on an audiotape released by his girlfriend that drew the anger of the country and also NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

As a result, the commissioner banned Sterling from the league for life, fined him $2.5 million, and is encouraging other NBA owners to force him to sell the team.

Clippers sponsors including Mercedes yanked ads and sponsorship from the team and Clippers players reportedly threatened to boycott their playoff games after Sterling’s comments until the commissioner took decisive action .

“This shows what happens when people pull together,” Rev. Anthony said of the amazingly quick response to the tape’s release which was less than a week ago.

Also appearing on “Michigan Matters” was business woman Denise Ilitch, whose family owns the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers, Michigan syndicated radio show host Michael Patrick Shiels, and Michigan Business Network Founder and entrepreneur Chris Holman.

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Ilitch, who has attended owners meeting in the NHL and MLB on behalf of her family, said she was confident the NBA owners would ultimately decide to force Sterling to sell the team.

Shiels, who often takes his weekday morning radio show which is carried in 13 markets across the state on the road, is likewise convinced Sterling will be forced to sell the team.

Shiels will be taping his radio show from Maine in late June. A long-time friend of the powerhouse Bush family, Shiels is on the committee for the George H.W. Bush Celebrity Golf Tournament which will be held in Kennebunkport on June 24.

George P. Bush, eldest son of Jeb Bush, is carrying on the family tradition of getting involved in politics. George P. Bush is the honary chairman of this year’s event.

No doubt there will be much talk of presidential politics at that golfing event.

Holman added that based on what he knows of Sterling, he expected him to fight any effort and wage a lengthy and expensive legal battle to retain his ownership.

Holman, who has been a champion for small business for years, is busy putting final touches on his annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards ceremony.

The event — marking its 10th anniversary this year– will be held Tuesday night at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University, with Gov. Rick Snyder scheduled to appear as select Michigan companies are given awards.

Nearly 1,000 people are expected at Tuesday’s event.

For more on this weekend’s NAACP’s festivities and tickets to the Freedom Fund dinner: (313) 871-2087.

For more on Michigan Celebrates Small Business Awards ceremony: (616) 331-7482.

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Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer/Host of CBS 62’s “Michigan Matters”. She writes about business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at clcain@cbs.com.