34th National Equal Justice

Awards Dinner

The National Equal Justice Awards Dinner, LDF’s signature event, is an opportunity to recognize and honor leaders in law, the arts, business, and philanthropy who have demonstrated a commitment to the promotion of racial justice and equality. The evening also serves as an opportunity to celebrate the tremendous civil rights work that has been accomplished by LDF over the past year. NEJAD was held on May 10 2022.

The Honorees

LDF’s inaugural Icon Award was awarded to Stevie Wonder, in recognition of his steadfast work throughout his illustrious career, spanning over half a century, which embodies LDF’s values and demonstrates his commitment to confronting the barriers that face Black Americans and other marginalized communities. 

Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist, professor, and author of The 1619 Project, was recognized with the Spirit of Justice Award, in honor of her unflagging courage and fierce dedication to using truth as power throughout her prolific career. 

The evening also honored Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s outgoing President and Director-Counsel, as she will be awarded the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of her tremendous contributions to LDF and her tireless commitment to advancing racial justice. 

The evening also featured a special video message from former First Lady Michelle Obama, remarks by screen legend Rita Moreno, and performances by the Dance Theater of Harlem.

“Our honorees have unapologetically used truth as power. They have refused to back down when others tried to silence them. And they have held their convictions fiercely and been unyielding to false narratives. Most importantly, they have used truth to shape outlooks, inform mindsets, and touch souls. I hold deep admirations for each of them.”

- Janai Nelson, LDF President and Director Counsel

2022 NEJAD honorees Nikole Hannah-Jones, Stevie Wonder, and Sherrilyn Ifill

LDF Legacy

Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became the first Black Supreme Court Justice, LDF was launched at a time when the nation’s aspirations for equality and due process of law were stifled by widespread, state-sponsored racial inequality. From our early beginnings to the present, LDF’s mission has always been transformative to achieve racial justice, equality, and a more inclusive society. 

Although great strides have been made as a country as a result of LDF’s historic work and more, there are still significant hurdles to overcome to achieve the status of a true multi-racial, multi-ethnic democracy. The numerous affronts to equality and democracy since spring 2020 have brought our nation close to the brink of unraveling. LDF’s work to challenge threats like voter suppression, housing and employment discrimination, unconstitutional policing practices, and educational and economic disparities, could not be more urgent. At every turn, LDF has been there, fighting in the courts, in the halls of Congress and state houses, and in communities around the country.

NEJAD 2022: Truth Is Power

The 34th National Equal Justice Awards Dinner was opened with the spoken word performance Truth Is Power, performed and written by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact at the Kennedy Center.

Performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Tony Award-nominated stage and screen actress Hailey Kilgore, featuring cellist Aaron Stokes.