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WYLLISA BENNETT, publicist du jour

Upton Sinclair Awards Honor Hollywood Insiders and Celebrity Activists Who Influence Social Change

LOS ANGELES –Liberty Hill Foundation, L.A.’s social justice foundation, is proud to announce its honorees for the 35th annual Upton Sinclair Awards Dinner to be held on Thursday, April 20, 2017 at the Beverly Hilton, located at 9876 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Festivities will kick off at 6 p.m. with red carpet arrivals followed by the dinner and awards ceremony. Award-winning actress Judith Light (“Transparent” and “Who’s the Boss”) serves as celebrity honorary co-chair, along with several dignitaries and community activists.

The Liberty Hill Foundation will honor actress Ana Ortiz (“Ugly Betty,” “Devious Maids”), award-winning filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (“The Hunting Ground”) and philanthropists Susan Genco and Mitch Kamin for using their celebrity and philanthropy to influence social change and advance social justice. Interestingly, the foundation is named after a spot in San Pedro where author/activist Upton Sinclair was arrested at a 1923 labor rally for reading the Bill of Rights, and members thought it was only fitting to name an awards ceremony after him too.

“I am excited to work with the Liberty Hill Foundation in honoring extraordinary individuals whose activism and philanthropy give a voice to the voiceless and affect social change,” said Light. “In this current political environment, it’s even more important that we raise our voices and continue to advocate for social justice and equality for all.” Along with Light, other honorary co-chairs include Mayor Eric Garcetti and First Lady Amy Elaine Wakeland.

Liberty Hill Foundation celebrated its 40th anniversary last year of supporting L.A. organizations and grassroots leaders working for racial justice, environmental justice, LGBTQ justice and economic justice. In 2014, the foundation received the Impact Award from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. Liberty Hill is a public foundation that raises, pools and distributes philanthropic donations from individuals, giving circles and institutions. It is headed by Shane Murphy Goldsmith, who grew up poor in Santa Monica, and was recently named to the L.A. Police Commission in hopes of bringing new perspective, especially to understanding the dynamics of minority and low-income communities.

“Our gala dinner brings together progressive Angelenos from all walks of life. It will be such an inspiring evening! We’ll hear from progressive leaders from government and business who are standing up for California’s values. We’ll meet grassroots leaders of targeted communities like immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and people of color, who are working together for justice and to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia,” added Goldsmith.

In 1983, the first Upton Sinclair Award was presented to Emmy-winning actress Loretta Swit, known for her portrayal of Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan” on the highly-rated TV series, “M*A*S*H”. The award was presented by actor and activist Mike Farrell best known for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H. Other honorees throughout the years include film legend Harry Belafonte; award-wining directors Oliver Stone and John Singleton; Emmy-winning actor and former Screen Actors Guild (SAG) president Ed Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Lou Grant”); Emmy-winning actress Alfre Woodard (“State of Affairs,” “Desperate Housewives”); Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (“Melvin and Howard”) along with her husband, Emmy winner Ted Dansen (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Cheers”); as well as writers/producers Ed Burns and David Simon (co-creators of “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Street”), plus Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas and Congresswoman Karen Bass – just to name a few.

For a recap of past Upton Sinclair Award honorees, visit this video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgfrO_3Gvrs

Ticket prices range from $200 to $525 for premier seating. For more information about tickets, sponsorship or placing an ad in the souvenir journal, visit https://www.libertyhill.org/2017-upton-sinclair-awards-dinner

For more information about the Liberty Hill Foundation, visit www.LibertyHill.org

2017 UPTON SINCLAIR AWARDS HONOREES | at a glance

• ANA ORTIZ – Creative Vision Award – is an award-winning actress known to audiences as the sassy older sister in ABC’s hit comedy, “Ugly Betty” and Marisol Suarez on Lifetime’s “Devious Maids.” She nabbed both ALMA Awards and Imagen Awards for her work on the small screen. Other TV credits include guest-starring roles on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” ABC’s “Black-ish,” as well as a recurring role on HBO’s “Hung.” As the daughter of the first Puerto-Rican city councilmember in Philadelphia, politics and activism are in Ortiz’s blood. She’s raised her voice on a plethora of social issues, including domestic abuse, citing her own experience as a twentysomething in a romantic relationship that turned abusive; LGBTQ rights, appearing in the “No on 8” ad campaign; and Voto Latino, empowering Latinos to be the agent of change with their vote. She currently serves as the ambassador of the National Women’s History Museum where she is instrumental in raising funds and visibility for this educational institution that educates, inspires, empowers and shapes the future by integrating women’s distinctive history into the culture and history of America.

• KIRBY DICK and AMY ZIERING – Upton Sinclair Award – are a filmmaking duo whose documentary films have shined a light on the subjects of rape culture, LGBTQ issues and sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Their films have strengthened movements for social change and provoked policy changes in large institutions. “The Hunting Ground,” written and directed by Dick and produced by Ziering, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and it’s a doc that explores rape culture on college campuses. “The Hunting Ground” received the Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America (PGA), and a song featured in the film, “Til It Happens to You,” co-written and performed by Lady Gaga, was nominated for a Grammy as well as an Oscar for Best Original Song. The powerful expose’ initiated reform and motivated thousands of colleges and universities around the country to change its sexual assault policies. The issue of rape was also the focus of Dick’s and Ziering’s doc “The Invisible War,” a groundbreaking investigation into the epidemic of rape crimes in the U. S. military, the institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll on families. Within days of viewing the film, the Secretary of Defense changed military policy and spurred Congress to pass 35 reforms. The film won a multitude of awards, including two Emmy Awards, a 2012 Independent Spirit Award, a Peabody Award and an Oscar nomination.

SUSAN GENCO and MITCH KAMIN – Founders Award – are philanthropists and loyal supporters of the Liberty Hill Foundation, contributing to grantmaking funds, founding giving circles and serving on the foundation’s board of directors. The couple met in law school, where they pursued their passion for music and civil rights. Genco is executive vice president of Global Music Rights, which is a performing rights organization, dedicated to protecting the rights of songwriters. Interestingly, she began her career at Arista Records with legendary music executive Clive Davis. Billboard Magazine named Genco as one of the “100 Most Powerful Women Executives in the Music Industry.” Kamin is a partner with Covington & Burling LLP, an international law firm where he represents media, entertainment and other companies in complex commercial litigation. He is also vice chair of the firm’s public service committee, where he coordinates and promotes its extensive pro bono program. Before returning to private practice in 2010, Kamin served as president and CEO of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, one of the leading non-profit legal organizations in the nation. He began his legal career as a public interest attorney with the Neighbor Defender Service of Harlem and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.


ABOUT THE LIBERTY HILL FOUNDATION

Liberty Hill advances movements for social change through a strategic combination of grants, leadership training and alliance building. Organizing and advocacy powered by Liberty Hill has changed national policies, launched movements, transformed neighborhoods, and nurtured hundreds of community leaders who respond to the experience of injustice by fighting for their rights. 

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