On Thursday, November 6, 2014, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) hosted its 28th annual National Equal Justice Award Dinner (NEJAD) at the Hilton Midtown Hotel, 1335 Avenue of the Americas at 53rd Street. This year’s dinner culminated a year-long series of events commemorating the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.  See event highlights, our honoreesvideophoto gallery, and press coverage below.

Also, see our video tributes to Bernard J. Tyson,
and David Lindau and Dr. Kenneth Edelin

This year, LDF honored three extraordinary business leaders:

Geoffrey Canada, President, Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) will receive the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award 

Debra Lee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BET Networks will receive a National Equal Justice Award

Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Kaiser Permanente will also receive a National Equal Justice Award

Geoffrey Canada

President, Harlem Children’s Zone

Having worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone® for more than 30 years, Geoffrey Canada is renowned around the world for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem, and as a thought leader and passionate advocate for education reform.

In 1990, Mr. Canada became the President and Chief Executive Officer for Harlem Children’s Zone, which The New York Times Magazine called “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time.” In July 2014th, Mr. Canada passed the position of CEO to Anne Williams-Isom, but continues as President.

Under Mr. Canada’s visionary leadership, HCZ has become a national model and the subject of significant media attention.  Mr. Canada and HCZ have been featured in the documentary Waiting for “Superman,” as well as on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Anderson Cooper 360°, Black in America 2, The Charlie Rose Show, This American Life, and in articles in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and The Associated Press. In 2008, Houghton Mifflin published Whatever It Takes, by Paul Tough, a detailed look at the work of Mr. Canada and HCZ.

Mr. Canada grew up in the South Bronx in a poor, sometimes violent neighborhood.  Despite his troubled surroundings, he achieved great academic success, receiving a bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After graduating, Mr. Canada began his life’s work helping children who, like himself, grew up in poor, distressed neighborhoods.

Mr. Canada has written two books: Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America (1995; reissued as a graphic novel in 2010) and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America (1998). A strong voice in public debates on education, he also has written for a number of publications, including op-eds for The New York Times and Daily News; gave a TED Talk on our failing schools and the need for innovation that was broadcast on PBS; and has spoken to audiences around the world about what it takes to help children succeed, from evaluation to early childhood education and beyond.

In 2006, Mr. Canada was selected by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to serve as co-chair of the Commission on Economic Opportunity, responsible for formulating a plan to significantly reduce poverty.  In 2011, he was appointed to the New York State Governor’s Council of Economic and Fiscal Advisors. He is also an advisor to and board member of several nonprofit organizations.


Debra Lee

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
BET Networks

Debra Lee is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET Networks, a unit of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB) and the leading provider of entertainment for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture globally.

Ms. Lee oversees one of the most influential multiplatform media companies in the world, including several cable television networks, digital offerings, and a home entertainment business. BET Networks is committed to providing its audience with quality entertainment that speaks to where they are in their lives and where they want to go.   Under her leadership, Ms. Lee has led the company’s successful reinvigorated brand and successful programming vision that has created hits such as Let’s Stay Together, The Game on BET, Black Girls Rock!, The Mo’Nique Show, BET Honors, Sunday Best and many more, resulting in consistent increases in viewership and revenue.  In addition, Ms. Lee has helped guide BET’s reinvigorated approach, which is built on supporting families, embracing and encouraging their dreams, focusing on the issues that are important to them and presenting the freshest talent and entertainment.  In September 2009, Ms. Lee managed the launch of CENTRIC, the 24-hour entertainment network featuring the artists, music, series, movies and reality programming that reflects the lifestyle and sophistication of today’s African-American and multi-cultural adult.  She also oversees the company’s current growth initiatives, including international distribution of the brand in Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.

Prior to her being named Chairman and CEO, Ms. Lee was President and Chief Operating Officer of BET Networks for almost 10 years, during which she guided the company to consistent increases in viewership, revenue and earnings.   She first joined BET as Vice President and General Counsel in 1986 after serving more than five years as an attorney with Washington, D.C.-based Steptoe & Johnson, a corporate law firm.  Prior to that, she served as a law clerk to the late Honorable Barrington Parker of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Named one of The Hollywood Reporter’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment, Debra Lee’s achievements in a 25-plus year career at BET Networks have earned her numerous accolades from across the cable industry, as well as recognition as one of this country’s most respected business executives. Ms. Lee was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, the Washington Business Hall of Fame, and was honored with the Distinguished Leadership Vanguard Award by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. She serves on the corporate board of directors of Revlon, Marriott, Washington Gas & Light, the Ad Council and previously served on the corporate board of Eastman Kodak. Her business acumen and strategic approach to management make Ms. Lee a popular speaker and lecturer on a range of business topics.

Affiliated with a number of professional, civic, and cultural organizations, Ms. Lee is also a member of the national board of directors for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Economic Club of Washington and the Kennedy Center’s Community & Friends Board.  She is also a member of the Board of Trustees for Brown University and also serves on the boards of the Paley Center for Media, the Ad Council, the Grammy Foundation, and was appointed by the White House to the President’s Management Advisory Board and is a member emeritus of the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age.

Ms. Lee earned her juris doctorate at Harvard Law School, while simultaneously earning a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government.  She graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in Asian politics.

Ms. Lee resides in Washington, D.C., with her two children.


Bernard J. Tyson

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Kaiser Permanente

Bernard J. Tyson is the chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s leading integrated health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. With annual operating revenue of more than $50 billion, Kaiser Permanente serves more than 9.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia.

Tyson assumed the role of chairman in January 2014 and has served as CEO since July 1, 2013. His career at Kaiser Permanente has spanned nearly 30 years, and he has successfully managed all major aspects of the organization. He had previously served as president and chief operating officer of the Oakland, California-based health care organization since 2010.

Under Tyson’s leadership, Kaiser Permanente has delivered on its “Thrive” promise by bringing an innovative and fully integrated approach to health care and health care coverage that is helping members achieve their aspirations of total health. Tyson believes Kaiser Permanente’s demonstrated ability to deliver high-quality and affordable health care through a combination of prevention, innovation, and integration can serve as the model for the future of health care in America. In fact, the strength of Kaiser Permanente’s approach is evident today in the significant increase in partnerships between health plans, hospitals, and medical practices across the health care industry.

As Chairman and CEO, Tyson is dedicated to highlighting Kaiser Permanente’s role as an industry leader in preventive care and in treating serious health conditions. For example, Kaiser Permanente’s 175,000 employees and 17,000 physicians consistently deliver some of the best cancer care, cardiovascular care, and neuroscience outcomes in the nation while also leading the country in infection prevention, cancer screenings, patient safety, and quality. Tyson has been a strong advocate for the elimination of health care disparities among individuals by promoting the use of aggregated data from members’ electronic health records to determine the most effective treatments for optimal clinical outcomes. He is also dedicated to upholding Kaiser Permanente’s mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services for the organization’s members and to improve the health of its members and the communities it serves.

Tyson has served in roles from hospital administrator to division president, leading Kaiser Permanente’s business in California and in its other regions. During his tenure as executive vice president for Health Plan and Hospital Operations, Tyson was responsible for both the care and health care coverage for members within one of the nation’s largest health plans and hospital systems — now 38 Kaiser Permanente-owned hospitals and more than 600 medical offices across America.

A San Francisco Bay Area native, Tyson earned a Bachelor of Science in health service management and a Master of Business in health service administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He earned a leadership certificate from Harvard University. He serves on the board of directors of the American Heart Association. He recently completed service as chair of the Executive Leadership Council in 2012-2014.