Despite a rainy night in the city it was all smiles and laughter inside the New York Hilton in midtown as celebrities, influencers, prominent figures, and supporters came out to show their support for the work the Legal Defense and Education Fund has done for nearly 75 years in their fight for justice and equality for all. From a festive cocktail hour, to an awards dinner replete with heartfelt stories, this was a night to remember.
Geoffrey Canada recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award
Debra L.Lee recipient of the National Equal Justice Award
Bernard J. Tyson recipient of Spirit of Justice Award
Harlem Times had the opportunity to speak with a few of the honorees and guests on the red carpet and here is what they had to say
Ms Debra Lee: Chairman & CEO, BET Networks
This is one of the most special honors I have ever received, it kind of sums up my life. Brown vs. Broad of Education was so important to me growing up, and Legal Defense Fund provided the lawyers for that case. And just watching this organization and the fights that continue are so important to me personally. So to be recognized by this organization… is fabulous.
Deborah Roberts: Correspondent, ABC News 20/20 – This is my fifth time serving as the Mistress of Ceremonies. It really feels very personal to me, because not only do I know, but I am connected to so many of the board members and also the cause. So this is a small contribution that I feel like I can make; given we have these people who are out there in the trenches everyday trying to make an impact on the lives of those who are disenfranchised and poverty stricken in this country.
Mr. Bernard Tyson: Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. It’s an honor to receive this award and be here this evening. It’s special to me and I just adore this organization and they have a history of helping people like me. And I often say the reason why I am here, is because a lot of people helped me get here. So I’m deeply honored to receive this award this evening.
Jeffrey Canada: Former President, Harlem Children’s Zone. This is such as important night. The Legal Defense Fund is one of the key institutions in our community that ensures our progress continues. I am particularly honored to be receiving this award named after Thurgood Marshall. And in my opinion he changed America not just for African Americans but for all Americans, and he’s a really great man so I am truly honored.
Sherrilyn Ifill: President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Tonight is an important night. It’s also the 60th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education so we have devoted this evening to that. It’s not only an opportunity to see where we have come from but to also see how far we have to go. And I always see the celebration of Brown both as a celebration and a challenge. It’s a challenge to us to marshal ourselves to be as impactful as the early lawyers at the legal defense fund were.
About the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund – The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 70 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments (Source: NAACP LDF http://www.naacpldf.org)