Marian Wright Edelman, an African-American social activist and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), received a national award for her advocacy for children and social change on April 5 as part of the annual John Jay Justice Awards.

Celebrated film icon and activist Harry Belafonte presented Edelman with the national leader for justice award during the ceremony, which was held in the Harold M. Proshansky Auditorium at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

“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,” Belafonte said as he presented the award. “I’m honored to have been given this task to celebrate her life, leadership and justice.”

Across the nation, Edelman’s name and the Children’s Defense Fund have become synonymous with a dedication to bettering the lives of children, especially the poor, minority or physically disabled. Edelman said it’s a fight that is needed more than ever before.

“This has been a wonderful evening,” said Edelman. “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—it’s movement night.”

Edelman founded the non-profit organization in 1973 and it has been supported for over 38 years with foundation and corporate grants and individual donations. Acting as a voice for children, this organization heads various campaigns that are devoted to protecting, uplifting and educating children throughout America.