Recently, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc (LDF) hosted their 32nd National Equal Justice Awards Dinner(NEJAD) at the Ziegfeld Ballroom where they celebrated the achievements of several distinguished civil and human rights leaders and raised over $2 million to help further the mission of the LDF.
In front of an audience of 650, Marian Wright Edelman (Founder/President of the Children’s Defense Fund) and Judge U.W. Clemon (Alabama’s first African-American federal judge) received the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, while the National Equal Justice Award went to Bryan Stevenson (Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative) and philanthropist couple Dr. P. Roy Vagelos (Chairman of the Board, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) and Diana Vagelos (Vice Chairman of Barnard Board of Trustees and Vice President/Treasurer of the Marianthi Foundation, Inc.).
Additional attendees included author Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Insecure” actor Kendrick Sampson, Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour, Miss Haiti 2014 Christie Desir, and writer Jamilah Lemieux. TV and radio personality Jacque Reid served as emcee.
With the mid-term elections just five days away, voting was on everyone’s mind. LDF president and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill presented a short documentary (produced by filmmaker Crystal McCrary McGuire) that chronicled the work of the LDF and the challenges they face in today’s political climate. The video featured commentary from LDF associate director-counsel Janai Nelson among others and underscored the evening’s theme of “Justice. Equality. Democracy.”
In keeping with that theme, Tony and Grammy Award-winning artist Renee Elise Goldsberry performed the inspirational song “People Get Ready,” once sung by Aretha Franklin whose music was highlighted throughout the dinner.
“I’m standing on the shoulders of people who did so much more with so much less,” said Stevenson during his acceptance speech. “My grandfather realized that slavery didn’t end in 1865, it evolved. So he taught his daughter – my grandmother – that she had to fight. We cannot celebrate civil rights if we’re not willing to fight. We’ve got to fight!”
Special thanks to National Equal Justice Awards Dinner honorary chairs Kenneth and Andrea Frazier, co-chairs Angela Vallot and Kim Koopersmith and the entire LDF staff.
For video highlights from #NEJAD18, visit naacpldf.org.
About the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.