John Jay College of Criminal Justice presented the John Jay Medal for Justice to Marian Wright Edelman, an African American social activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) in the Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

Singer Harry Belafonte, honoree Marian Wright Edelman and Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College, at the 2011 John Jay Justice Awards in New York, NY.

The national leader for justice award was given to Marian Wright Edelman and the CDF for their commitment to improving the lives of all children. As founder and president of the CDF, Ms. Wright Edelman has dedicated her career to helping poor, minority and disabled children.

In particular, John Jay College honored the CDF and Ms. Edelman for their work highlighting the “Cradle to Prison” pipeline. The phrase highlights the ways that our schools and juvenile and criminal justice agencies have become overly punitive and are tracking a high percentage of minority youth into the nation’s criminal justice system.  The CDF has focused on school discipline policies, juvenile detention and police-youth relations. Ms. Edelman has become a passionate national advocate for juvenile justice reform.

“When John Jay College extended the invitation for me to participate in the program, there was no thought, no hesitation – mention Marian Wright Edelman and I’m where you want me to be,” said Harry Belafonte, legendary singer, actor, producer and humanitarian as he presented this award. “I’m honored to have been given this task to celebrate her life, leadership and justice.”

“This has been a wonderful evening,” said Marian. “I’m moved to be honored and it makes me want to fight even harder. We have got to stand up, fight back and reclaim our children. We can make changes – its movement night.”

• About Children’s Defense Fund:

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) is a national nonprofit child advocacy organization that has worked tirelessly for 35 years to champion policies and programs that lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care, quality education and a moral and spiritual foundation. The CDF pays particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children, and those with special needs.

• About John Jay College of Criminal Justice:

An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law.

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