The Legal Defense Fund's 35th National Equal Justice Awards Dinner

May 2023. New York City, The Glasshouse

Empire was honored to work for the first time with The Legal Defense Fund to produce their 35th National Equal Justice Awards Dinner (NEJAD), at The Glasshouse in New York City.

Founded by Justice Thurgood Marshall, LDF has a significant legacy in promoting civil rights progress and remains committed to actively advancing civil rights today. With a history spanning over eight decades, LDF, alongside its partners, has made substantial strides in enhancing the dignity and citizenship of Black individuals in America.

NEJAD serves as a platform to honor past achievements, recognize ongoing efforts, and inspire continued action. This year's Gala, themed "The Future Is Ours," paid tribute to LDF's core values and foundational narrative.

Upon arrival at the Glasshouse, attendees embarked on an immersive experience on the sixth floor. They were warmly welcomed with a red carpet moment, providing an opportunity to capture their photographs against a branded backdrop. As guests proceeded through an exhibit highlighting impactful LDF work, they were guided to the main cocktail lounge, where they were greeted by an atmosphere adorned with emotive photography, mood-enhancing music, and signature cocktails. This carefully curated ambiance fostered a celebratory and futuristic atmosphere, setting the tone for the evening.

As attendees mingled and celebrated the power of their community, a moving performance by the young faces of Brooklyn United Drumline signified the end of the cocktail reception and led the audience of over 600 guests into the dining room to take their seats for dinner.

Angela Vallot, co-chair of LDF's Board of Directors, took the stage to address the audience and introduced the evening's esteemed host, Sade Baderinwa of ABC News. Baderinwa welcomed guests and then invited Janai Nelson, LDF's President, to share her perspective on the profound meaning of "The Future Is Ours."

Subsequently, honorees were recognized, with attorney Fred Grey receiving the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award, followed by the acknowledgment of the National Equal Justice Award recipients: the Emerson Collective (presented by Geoffrey Canada), Nike, Jordan, and Converse brands (presented by Carmelo Anthony), as well as Vista Equity Partners' CEO, Robert F. Smith (presented by Spike Lee.)

The award ceremony culminated in a performance by the acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning singer Ledisi, who performed her music as well as that of Nina Simone.

After a brief close to the evening, the festivities continued as attendees adjourned to the lounge/bar area for an unforgettable future-themed after-party with DJ Trauma.

Empire was proud to serve as overall producer for the event, handling multiple aspects including run of show and creative narrative (with Paul Oakley Stovall), technical design & production (with Studio Productions), decor (with Red Maple Leaf), content and video production (with Januari1 Films), catering (by Olivier Cheng), venue liaison, guest experience, and registration (led by Advance NY).

Together the evening created a memorable and impactful experience, furthering LDF’s mission of advancing equal justice and civil rights for all.

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