Over 750 supporters joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) at the New York Hilton at its 75th Anniversary National Equal Justice Award Dinner honoring former Attorney General Eric H. Holder and two international foundations on November 4, 2015. The occasion served as a celebration of LDF’s work, as well as a call to action to rally around the broad racial justice agenda that the organization has advanced. Dinner guests were treated to a performance by members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, dynamic speakers, and an inspiring film screening depicting LDF’s seventy-five year history.
The evening’s distinguished guests included civil rights leaders, law firms and corporations, entertainers, public officials and other notables. The enthusiastic support for LDF by guests, funding institutions, and individual donors reflects a deep and unwavering commitment to racial justice work. “Our country is in an unprecedented moment in its recognition of the need to confront our nation’s history of racial bias,” said President and CEO of Atlantic Philanthropies Chris Oechsli, whose organization received one of two National Equal Justice Awards. “LDF brings a combination of vision, prescience and strategy to fill the void.”
President Darren Walker, who accepted the National Equal Justice Award on behalf of the Ford Foundation, called racial discrimination and the persistence of poverty the “twin scourges” of inequality. However, he said, the work of LDF, its leadership, and Ford’s long relationship with the organization, motivated him to be optimistic about the future.
Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF thanked LDF’s longstanding generous patrons, including the late philanthropist William Scheide and the board of directors of LDF, for making it possible for LDF to defend the rights of its clients and pursue transformative justice. She also spoke of growing support by funders – including Atlantic Philanthropies and the Ford Foundation – for the LDF’s groundbreaking, interdisciplinary policy reform, research, and strategic communications work, facilitated through its Thurgood Marshall Institute. Ifill also announced the establishment of an Eric Holder Fellowship that will enable a new generation of lawyers to join LDF’s ranks. “Last night, our guests felt that they were part of something transformative, exciting, and essential for our country,” said Sherrilyn Ifill.
The evening’s crowning moment was Eric Holder’s acceptance of the Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. Serving as a legal intern with LDF in his early career brought him in the company of lawyers who followed in Thurgood Marshall’s footsteps, said Holder in accepting the award, and reinforced his sense of humility and commitment to civil rights work. Holder cited discrimination and criminal justice reform as the unfinished legacy of the civil rights movement and credited LDF as a key catalyst for fostering a “beloved community” in full support of equal rights and justice. “In the history of this organization, every generation is tested and called upon to make real the promise of our democracy,” said Holder. “We must honor those who sacrificed so much so that we might enjoy that which they were cruelly denied. I accept this honor and pledge my desire to work with all of you and this essential and beloved organization in the effort to guarantee for our fellow citizens a nation that lives up to its founding doctrines.”
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.