23 April 2013

I’m hijacking today’s Chooseday Tuesday. Tonight is Liberty Hill Foundation’s Upton Sinclair Dinner. 

Liberty Hill Foundation is a Los Angeles-based non-profit that provides grant money and training to community organizers and their organizations fighting for social, environmental and LGBT justice in the City of Angels.

It’s fair to say that Liberty Hill has changed my life (and that I would not be writing this blog and giving money away in this fashion if not for Liberty Hill). My friend Gary brought me in by inviting me on a van tour seven years ago. The Liberty Hill board and donors and invited guests, like me, drove around in a van as we heard one of the community organizers that we fund talk about the incredible work they were doing in Venice and Mar Vista, including revamping the entire Los Angeles United School District’s menu because certain schools in low-income areas were serving children rotten meat and spoiled milk and refused to change until this group staged protests and changed the system. 

That organization, POWER, and the others Liberty Hill funds, provide voices for people that corporations and big businesses generally want to silence (I am in no way saying all businesses want to do this). Liberty Hill funds groups that challenge big corporations and tell them that they can’t put toxic dumps in their neighborhoods that cause cancer; that they can't ignore laws that insist they provide low-income housing.

 One of our current campaigns is working its way through the city’s legislative process that would ensure that local businesses receive financial and technical assistance to modernize and reduce toxic impacts in the communities where asthma, heart disease and respiratory distress are spiraling because of these business’s practices. Liberty Hill helped fight for California’s ban on BPA in babies’ bottles and sippy cups. We helped get $20 million in affordable housing from USC as part of the university’s expansion plans.

I’m now a very proud and humbled member of the board of directors for Liberty Hill. No work in my life has helped me see that we are all in this together more than my work with Liberty Hill. Los Angeles is such a segregated town, so much more than New York, you don't even have to try to turn a blind eye to others' suffering. It's much more of a benign neglect, but neglect just the same. It is very possible to spend your days never coming across someone who is disenfranchised and suffering horribly from laws that are not being enforced or policies that target the poor and those least able to defend themselves. 

Tonight at Liberty Hill we’re honoring Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, the creators of “Homeland,” for their commitment to social justice; Charles F. Johnson, producer of “NCIS,” “Jag,” “Red Tails” and more, for his efforts to create equal opportunities for people of color in the entertainment business, and political strategists/fundraisers Alison Morgan and Parke Shelton.

But we’re really honoring the more than 40 Los Angeles organizations that we fund and the fearless leaders and community organizers from these organizations and countless others who are out there every day fighting David Vs. Goliath battles... and winning.

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