Access Justice Brooklyn celebrates annual gala: An evening of justice, dedication and community outreach

October 24, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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On Oct. 11, the revered halls of the Brooklyn Museum resonated with the fervor of justice and community spirit as Access Justice Brooklyn held its annual gala. This notable event spotlighted the organization’s unyielding mission since its inception in 1990 — to foster a more accessible legal framework and equitable living conditions in Brooklyn through pro bono legal aid and educational outreach.

Access Justice Brooklyn’s model has been a beacon of hope and support, bridging the justice gap for countless individuals. A review of the year showcased an impressive footprint: 204 volunteers trained; more than 12,000 New Yorkers benefiting; 5,524 volunteer hours donated; and a staggering $3 million saved in settlements and fees, underscoring the profound impact of community-driven legal aid.

The evening commenced with a warm welcome and opening remarks by Melissa Russo, government affairs reporter at NBC 4 New York; and Heidi Lee Henderson, the president and CEO of Access Justice Brooklyn, laying a solid foundation of the night’s ethos.

The call to action was earnestly delivered by Adam K. Shepherd, a board member of the Macquarie Group, reverberating the pressing need for continued support and engagement in the justice domain.

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A spotlight of the gala was the award ceremony, recognizing individuals and entities whose endeavors echo the core values of Access Justice Brooklyn. The illustrious Champion of Justice Award was bestowed upon AXA XL, a global commercial insurance and reinsurance firm; with Anne O’Grady, pro bono director at Access Justice Brooklyn, presenting the accolade. 

AXA XL team Champion of Justice.

AXA XL’s remarkable pro bono model and its substantial contributions during their Annual Global Day of Giving were lauded, marking a meaningful collaboration with Access Justice Brooklyn.

Nicki Livanos, director of real estate Investments for Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company, was honored with the Tradition of Excellence Award, acknowledging her investment acumen and her substantial community involvement as the chair of the Times Square Alliance.

AJB 2023 Gala Honoree and Tradition of Excellence awardee Nicki Livanos (center) with board member and gala chair Adam Gilbert, and MC government affairs and investigative reporter New York Melissa Russo of NBC Channel 4.

The Dedication to Justice Award recognized Faith Gay, a founding partner at Selendy Gay Elsberg, for her distinguished legal career and relentless public interest litigation. Her substantial pro bono efforts, especially in civil rights and immigration matters, were celebrated.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred upon Gbenga Oyebode, a luminary in the legal field as well as the co-founder and former chairman of Aluko & Oyebode. His exceptional legal career, coupled with his unwavering dedication to education and the arts, showcased a lifetime of multifaceted contributions.

AJB 2023 Gala honoree and Lifetime Achievement awardee Gbenga Oyebode with board member and host committee member Sam Maduegbuna.

The gala not only celebrated the indomitable spirit of justice but also highlighted the collaborative synergy between Access Justice Brooklyn, pro bono attorneys, and compassionate entities.

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