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Raymond McGuire, Global Head, Corporate and Investment Banking, Citigroup, congratulates 2012 National Equal Justice Award Dinner recipient Kenneth Frazier, Chairman, CEO & President of Merck & Co., Inc. (Photo by Stephanie Badini)

*On Thursday, November 1, 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) celebrated its twenty-sixth annual National Equal Justice Award Dinner (NEJAD) LDF at New York Hilton & Towers Hotel, 1335 Avenue of the Americas (at 53rd Street) in New York City.  The festivities began with a reception at 6:30 pm, followed by dinner and a stellar program at 7:30 pm.  ABC News 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts served as Mistress of Ceremonies.  Nearly $2.1 million was raised for LDF’s mission and programs.

This year, LDF honored Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president, Merck & Co., Inc.  Merck was recognized as a global leader in medicine, scientific research and development.  The company’s core values are driven by a desire to improve human life, achieve scientific excellence, expand access to their life-changing products and employ a diverse workforce that values collaboration.

For these achievements, LDF was proud to present the National Equal Justice Award to Ken and to Merck.  Theodore V. Wells, Jr., partner & co-chair of litigation, Paul Weiss, Rifkind & Wharton & Garrison LLP & LDF board of directors was the presenter.

LDF also honored Ellen J. Kullman, chair of the board and chief executive officer of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) with the National Equal Justice Award.  DuPont was recognized for their leadership in developing and fostering diversity and inclusion in their workforce, their customer and supplier network and in the legal community.  Stacey J. Mobley, senior counsel, Dickstein Shapiro LLP, former senior vice president, chief administrative officer & general counsel, E. I. du Pont de Nemours & company was the presenter.

The Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to the late John A. Payton, LDF’s sixth president and director-counsel who died unexpectedly in March after a brief illness.  The beloved Payton was an outstanding leader, visionary and civil rights advocate who left an indelible mark on LDF.  He was honored together with his widow Gay McDougall, an international human rights lawyer and former United Nations Expert on Minorities.  The award was presented by Debo P. Adegbile, acting president & director-counsel, LDF board of directors.

Angela Vallot, partner, VallotKarp Consulting, LDF board of directors, served as dinner chair.  Lydia G. Mallett, Ph.D., director of Respect for People, diversity & inclusion and employee engagement, E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; and LDF board of directors member Gabriella E. Morris served as dinner vice-chairs.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) is the country’s first and foremost civil and human rights law firm.  Founded in 1940 under the leadership of Thurgood Marshall, who subsequently became the first African American U.S. 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 that era to the present, LDF’s mission has always been transformative: to achieve racial justice, equality, and an inclusive society.

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Officers and Members of the National Urban League Guild gather together at Guild’s 70th Anniversary Vanguard Luncheon (Photo by Gideon Manasseh)

*The National Urban League Guild Vanguard Award honors extraordinary achievements and contributions of individuals who motivate, inspire and encourage others through professional careers and service to the community.  This year was a very special celebration as the Guild officers and members under the exceptional leadership of its president Donald Woods celebrated its 70th anniversary luncheon (1942-2012).

The celebratory event took place on Saturday, October 27, 2012 at The Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem, New York and featured a reception, lunch, program and soulful dance music by DJ Frank Nitty.  Emmy award-winning reporter Tracie Strahan, WNBC4 New York, served as Mistress of Ceremonies.  Following a hearty invocation from The Reverend Dr. Thomas D. Johnson, Sr., senior pastor, Canaan Baptist Church, guests started the lovely luncheon by singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

While an insightful video tribute to the work of the Guild played on a large screen guests enjoyed a soulicious lunch.  Then, it was award time and president Woods was joined by Marc H. Morial, president & CEO, National Urban League, in presenting the coveted Vanguard Awards to four phenomenal women organizations.

The 2012 Vanguard Awards were presented to: Greater New York Chapter, Links, Inc. (accepted by Rhonda Joy McLean, vice president, who brought greetings from her president, Gerri Warren-Merrick); The New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women (accepted by Avalyn Simon, president); The New York Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. (accepted by Vickie Powell, president); and the Staten Island Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (accepted by Beth Coleman-Oliver, chapter president).

The iconic work of the Guild did not go unnoticed by two powerful political organizations.  Geoff Eaton representing Congressman Charles B. Rangel presented the Guild with a congressional proclamation; and Leslie Wyche representing City Council member Inez Dickens presented the Guild with a proclamation for their outstanding work.

This was a milestone anniversary for the Guild and hats off to its officers and members for years of exemplary service with special mention to the 70th anniversary luncheon committee chaired by Jean Dixon West and co-chaired by Mary Draffen and John Holmes with special assistance from Eladia Riggs Bing, John Cardwell, Geri Woods Coles, Edith Matthews and Maxine McCrey Montano.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard