Power to the People: These Grassroots Orgs Received Liberty Hill’s Rapid Response Fund Grants

By Joe Rihn


From Ferguson to New York, Baltimore and Los Angeles, police violence is claiming the lives of unarmed Black men at an alarming rate.  As communities cry out for justice, mass movements like #BlackLivesMatter, are forming and the fight for racial equality is gaining momentum.  Though impossible to predict, it is times like these when community organizers on the frontlines of change need resources the most.  That’s why Liberty Hill Foundation established the Rapid Response Fund for Racial Justice.

Twelve organizations from Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Central Valley were chosen to receive year-long grants of up to $10,000 to support the urgent work of pushing back against the criminalization of communities of color, fighting to reform the criminal justice system, and uplifting Black lives.  Liberty Hill’s role included administering the Southern California funding pool, and the fund also received support from The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, the Rosenberg Foundation, and the Sierra Health Foundation.  Liberty Hill began receiving contributions during its annual Uplifting Change event, which supports African American philanthropy in L.A.  The fund has since brought in $150,000 from foundations and $20,000 from individual donors.

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Building Power for Grassroots Organizing through LA County Commissions

By Crystal Shaw

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Laurie Jones Neighbors


On a sunny April morning, I joined more than 62 grassroots leaders, organizers and influencers from across L.A.’s diverse communities on the beautiful grounds of the LA84 Foundation in the Historic Adams District. We were there for Liberty Hill’s Wally Marks Leadership Institute For Change training on L.A. County commissions.  I attended the training session with a level of excitement to learn about an aspect of government I only had limited knowledge of.  I had no idea I would gain information that could impact my own community.

Commissions? Does the word bring to mind a picture of a line of authority-figure types sitting like judges through some boring meeting? What could commissions have to do with Liberty Hill’s focus on supporting leaders in the movement for social justice?

Just this: Power.

If you’ve ever wanted to do something to effect positive change, becoming an advocate-commissioner on one of L.A. County’s almost 200 commissions or boards is one of the most strategic ways available to get your voice heard and bring grassroots community perspective to the table on important issues. The whole point of these commissions is to get the public involved in County-related issues and to advise and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

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Liberty Hill President and CEO Shane Goldsmith


Liberty Hill President and CEO Shane Goldmith, who also sits on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, opened the program by pointing out that “Liberty Hill exists to build power for people who are left out of the power structure every single day.  And we do that by making sure that government is accountable to everyday Angelenos, especially people who are excluded from the decisions that affect low income people, people of color, LGBTQ people, women.”

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Frontlines to Headlines Spring 2015










When Section 8 residents of color in the Antelope Valley faced widespread discrimination and harassment by law enforcement, Liberty Hill made a rapid response grant to The Community Action League to bring community members together to push for justice. Residents took legal action and now the L.A. County Board of Supervisors has agreed on a settlement that will curb discriminatory practices and grant monetary compensation to the victims. See the L.A. Times for recent developments, and hear from the families whose rights were violated in a video “How Liberty Hill changed Antelope Valley” created by a Community Action League leader to thank Liberty Hill for its support.









Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) helped organize a rally in downtown L.A. seeking justice for the hundreds of people killed by Los Angeles police since 2000. Demonstrators carried cardboard coffins decorated with the names of victims of police violence. Check NBC Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Daily News, and Annenberg TV News for the story.

Los Angeles Community Action Network (L.A. CAN) has frequently been cited in news stories on policing. The most significant mention was L.A. CAN founder Pete White’s comments in a far-ranging Harper’s Magazine analysis of “broken windows” policing and how police departments have used technology to become increasingly militarized. Other mentions were in an L.A. Times story after the police-shooting death of Skid Row resident Charley Leundeu Keunang, describing L.A. CAN founder Pete White’s calls for an independent investigation. Becky Dennison was quoted in coverage by the L.A. Times, Raw Story and others, of a new report finding that homelessness in L.A. has increased despite annual expenditure of more than $100 million by the City on homelessness, most of which was spent on policing.

According to NBC News, Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) was among the Asian American groups that signed a national open letter calling for justice for Akai Gurley, an unarmed African American man who was killed by the NYPD in 2014. A KPCC report about Long Beach Cambodian Americans reflecting on the events of the Khmer Rouge quoted KGA executive director, Lien Cheun on how trauma can affect multiple generations.
L.A. Voice, Community Coalition, and All of Us or None were among the groups that sponsored a town hall meeting to discuss implementation of Prop 47, which downgrades certain nonviolent low level felonies to misdemeanors and has resulted in thousands of prison releases and potential changes to individual criminal records. Check Witness L.A. for the story and see coverage from New American Media that also mentions L.A. Voice.










Activists held a May Day rally in West Hollywood that emphasized the intersection between immigration and LGBTQ issues. Frontiers Media covered the story with quotes from Yordy Cancino of GSA Network and Eileen Ma of API-Equality L.A.



On May Day people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles for marches that addressed labor issues as well as immigration and police violence in communities of color. Several news sources covering the demonstrations quoted activists from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA). See The Guardian, CBS Los Angeles, EGP News, the Los Angeles Daily News, Bustle.com, UPI.com, and Gulf Live for more.







A Los Angeles Daily News article about how a minimum wage increase will impact undocumented workers quoted Jacqueline Mejia of CHIRLA, while street vendors held a rally outside the LAPD’s headquarters to protest harassment by law enforcement and call for citywide legalization of their trade. Xiomara Corpeño of CHIRLA spoke out in support, as reported by the Daily News, EGP News and others.

Quoting Joseph Villela of CHIRLA, Fox Latino reported on California lawmakers presenting a series of bills that would increase rights and protections for undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, on the national front, CHIRLA is facilitating a series of meetings between members of Congress and families with mixed immigration statuses, in order to draw attention to the struggles these families face. The Press Enterprise has the story.








The debate continued with CBS Los Angeles noting CHIRLA’s support of California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s statement that undocumented immigrants are not criminals and Daily Kos and Buzz Feed reports of Angelica Salas of CHIRLA’s calls for statements from candidate Hilary Clinton on immigration, and prompt action on the issue.

In a round-up of immigration-issue news: Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) and Pilipino Worker Center (PWC) reach out to Asian American immigrants who qualify for DACA, encouraging them to enroll. Asian Journal has the story. Orange County Weekly reports that Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) helped organize a concert and demonstration outside the Santa Ana City Jail to protest the pending deportation of Omara Gomez-Aviles. And the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin covered a Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (PEOC) event celebrating the success of undocumented immigrants who earned their drivers licenses under the new law AB 60.

A group of women held a fifteen day fast outside City Hall to support a higher minimum wage, including Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) member, Martha Sanchez. Think Progress quoted Sanchez on how hunger is an all too common experience among low wage workers. Check NBC News for more.


The L.A. Times noted CLEAN Carwash Campaign’s opposition in an article about community resistance to a proposed new carwash in Highland Park, across the street from a unionized carwash.

More and more tenants are being evicted from rent-controlled apartments under the Ellis Act, which allows landlords to take their properties off the rental market provided they meet certain qualifications. KPCC’s coverage quotes from Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) executive director, Larry Gross. A Daily Breeze article on activists working to lower parking ticket fines talked to Larry Gross about disparities in how street sweeping tickets affect neighborhoods, and an NBC Los Angeles piece on how Southern California rents continue to climb quoted him as well.

Members of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center (LABWC) demonstrated at a downtown L.A. construction site to call for greater employment opportunities for Black workers. My News L.A. and Westside Today were among outlets covering the story. Meanwhile, according to Press TV, City officials have acknowledged a LABWC study which found widespread discrimination against Black workers in construction site hiring practices. Also see the Los Angeles Daily News for a piece by LABWC founder, Lola Smallwood Cuevas, on the relationship between racial justice and economic justice.

People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) appeared in an L.A. Times article about vacation rental websites such as Airbnb, which POWER and other community groups criticized for removing rentals from the market.

California will now observe Larry Itliong Day on October 25 to honor the Filipino American labor leader. Inquirer.net has the story, and mentions the Pilipino Worker Center (PWC)’s affordable housing development, also named for Larry Itliong.

KPFK’s Uprising Radio and KPCC’s Air Talk both hosted members of Restaurant Opportunities Center Los Angeles (ROC-LA) to discuss the importance of including tipped workers in a minimum wage increase.









The Long Beach Post published an update on efforts by Housing Long Beach (HLB) to establish a Rent Escrow Account Program (REAP) in Long Beach, which would allow the City to hold rent from delinquent landlords until units are brought up to code. HLB executive director, Kerry Gallagher, also penned a piece on the importance of affordable housing for the Grunion Gazette.













Eric Mann, director of the Labor Community Strategy Center (LCSC) took time during his Voices from the Frontlines show on KPFK to deliver a tribute to Michele Prichard, one of 2015’s Upton Sinclair Dinner honorees.

See Good Magazine for ideas on organizing community cleanups from Yvette Lopez-Ledesma of Clean Up Green Up organizing partner, Pacoima Beautiful.

A Streets Blog L.A. article about the contested 710 Freeway extension and other related construction projects quoted Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ).







A Think Progress article about an oil refinery explosion in Torrance last February quoted Julia May of Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), who called for a more detailed investigation into the danger of the ash given off by the blast that coated the surrounding area.

Following the closure of the contaminated Exide plant in Vernon members of EYCEJ, CBE and others celebrated at a community meeting. However, activists from the two organizations are demanding that Exide face repercussions for decades of polluting surrounding communities. EGP News and Streets Blog L.A. have the story.








The L.A. Times covered a recent protest against an oil drilling site in a residential neighborhood near USC, where residents are concerned about noise, noxious odors, and dangerous chemicals. The story includes a quote from Richard Parks of Fund for Environmental Health and Safety grantee, Redeemer Community Partnership.


Relive These Incredible Upton Sinclair Award 2015 Moments

The 33rd Upton Sinclair Dinner was one for the books.  Honorees and program participants alike delivered poignant speeches that were both motivational and moving.  Relive those moments again – or experience them for the first time as you watch Upton Sinclair Award Honoree and Erika Alvarez speak to a room of visionaries, rabble rousers and activists .




A Soundtrack for Social Justice, as Heard at Liberty Hill’s Upton Sinclair Dinner

The All of Me Tour

At the 33rd annual Upton Sinclair Dinner, Liberty Hill Foundation celebrated the new generation taking up the struggle for social justice.  As young leaders backed by Liberty Hill are pushing for restorative justice in schools, fighting for a cleaner environment and stopping families from being split apart by deportation, musicians from all genres are proving that protest music is alive and well.  Here you will find the Upton Sinclair Dinner soundtrack, which includes social justice songs from local artists, national chart-toppers and everyone in between.

While some of these songs reference political music from the ’60s and ’70s, others are rooted firmly in the sounds of today.  There are topical responses to injustices in Ferguson, Los Angeles and elsewhere, as well as songs that meditate on the broader concepts of solidarity and movement building.  In Oscar winner John Legend’s case, the fight for justice goes beyond music.  The singer campaigned to pass Proposition 47 in California, and recently launched a new campaign called “Free America,” which will target mass incarceration nationwide.

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Liberty Hill to Shine a Spotlight on Racial Justice at Upton Sinclair Dinner


If you haven’t yet purchased your ticket or sponsorship for Liberty Hill’s April 21 Upton Sinclair Dinner, please hurry and get a seat at the table. This year, your presence is especially important: We need you now more than ever as we push forward with innovative initiatives to deal with some of today’s burning issues: police violence, crushing conditions for low-wage workers and a broken immigration system.


Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Member, Mark Ridley-Thomas

Liberty Hill has just confirmed some special guests who join our program with thoughts and news about the ongoing struggle for racial justice in America. We’ll hear from longtime Liberty Hill supporter and Civil Rights leader Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who’ll check in from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. He’ll introduce two young Los Angeles organizers, who’ll share stories from L.A.’s sidewalks, schoolyards and homes where over-policing and mass deportation of people of color are tearing families apart.

That’s right— Liberty Hill is doubling down for racial justice at the Upton Sinclair Dinner this year. As a reflection of our 40-year commitment to racial justice in all our campaigns and programs, we are not only honoring Dr. Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., one of the most eloquent intellectual standard-bearers leading the national discussion today, but we also are marking the ongoing work of the Civil Rights movement during this year of significant historic anniversaries.

A lot has changed in 50 years and in 100 years, and in 150 years and more. But there’s much more to be done.

Be with us as a new generation steps forward and we all continue, arm in arm, to dismantle racism and win equality for all.



A Big Week for L.A. Environment!

By Michele Prichard

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Members of Clean Up Green Up coalition before hearing at L.A. City Hall June 2013.

If you care about creating a cleaner, greener L.A. and preparing for the impacts of climate change, you’ll want to take a look at two new initiatives that environmentalists have promoted to have a big impact on the future of our city.

This week, Mayor Eric Garcetti released his groundbreaking “Sustainability pLAn,” a downloadable 105-page document that describes strategies for “protecting the environment as part of a comprehensive framework of sustainability — one that fully embraces a healthy economy and a commitment to social equity.”

Liberty Hill, a leader in L.A.’s environmental justice movement for 20 years, is pleased to note that elements of this plan originated with the Clean Up Green Up policy proposal developed by a coalition of grassroots organizations long supported by Liberty Hill.

Clean Up Green Up’s environmental justice vision has not only local relevance but also the potential to be a national model for toxic hotspot communities affected by concentrated urban pollution sources.

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Liberty Hill to Honor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. with the Upton Sinclair Award

Liberty Hill Foundation‘s annual Upton Sinclair Dinner is less than a month away.  Taking place on April 21, the event honors Angelenos whose work in social justice has left such an indelible mark on those it aims to help that it deserves honoring and recognition.

Liberty Hill presents the Upton Sinclair Award to those who, like the muckraking journalist Sinclair, combine their talents and beliefs to advance social justice.

Dr. Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.

Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.

The Upton Sinclair Award honors those whose efforts illustrate a persistent commitment to social justice and equality. Liberty Hill is proud to present this year’s award to Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, for his work preparing a new generation of leaders to effectively serve and positively impact communities both locally and internationally. His commitment to social justice is evident in his leadership of the school and its programs, positioning UCLA Luskin’s teaching and research to make significant impacts on issues of shared concern with Liberty Hill.

Gilliam was appointed Dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs in September 2008. He is a longtime UCLA professor of public policy and political science. His research focuses on strategic communications, public policy, electoral politics, and racial and ethnic politics.

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Frontlines to Headlines March 2015




As the Skid Row community reacts to the shooting of an unarmed Black man, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) has responded by demonstrating outside the LAPD headquarters, demanding an independent investigation into the killing, and calling for more mental health professionals in the neighborhood. See the L.A. Times, the Huffington Post, LAist, KABC Radio AM 790, Press TV, and Yahoo News for coverage. Neon Tommy’s report mentions Youth Justice Coalition’s (YJC) participation in demonstrations as well. For more background, see the Daily Beast’s recent article on the history of Skid Row. The piece quotes LA CAN organizer Steve Diaz on how the Safer Cities Initiative has led to a “police occupation” of the neighborhood.

YJC is co-sponsoring SB124, a bill that seeks to limit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile detention centers. The Chronicle of Social Change and Witness L.A. have the story.

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Liberty Hill to Honor Michele Prichard with Founders Award

Liberty Hill Foundation‘s annual Upton Sinclair Dinner is just a little over a month away.  Taking place on April 21, the event honors Angelenos whose work in social justice has left such an indelible mark on those it aims to help that it deserves honoring and recognition.

Liberty Hill presents its annual Founders Award to individuals whose philosophy and philanthropy embody the spirit of “Change. Not Charity.”

Michele Prichard

The Founders Award honors those whose philanthropic pursuits exemplify the motto of our mission. We are pleased to present this distinction to our own Michele Prichard. Michele’s role in broadening the scope of the foundation world and key funders to support social justice issues over the last 25 years has resulted in millions of dollars in resources for community organizing and advocacy in Los Angeles.

Michele is the Director of Common Agenda at the Liberty Hill Foundation. Today, Liberty Hill’s reputation as one of the country’s most innovative public foundations can be attributed significantly to her early and ongoing leadership.

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