Liberty Hill Foundation’s annual Upton Sinclair Dinner celebrates and honors community leaders at the frontlines of change in Los Angeles and beyond. This year’s recipients of the namesake Upton Sinclair Award are co-creators and executive producers of Showtime’s award-winning series, “Homeland”, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. Political activist-philanthropists Alison Morgan and Parke Skelton will receive the Founder’s Award and award-winning television and film producer Charles F. Johnson will receive the Creative Vision Award.
The 2013 fundraising gala takes place on April 23 at the Beverly Hilton. Liberty Hill expects more than 600 friends, supporters, and allies to join in celebration of their 2013 honorees. All proceeds will support Liberty Hill’s mission of change, not charity. Through grants, training programs, and campaigns, Liberty Hill advances social justice in Los Angeles.
The Upton Sinclair award is given annually to a person whose lifelong crusade for equality and justice inspires us today. This year Liberty Hill is proud to present the award to two outstanding individuals, Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, executive producers of “Homeland.” Friends and collaborators since their senior year at Princeton, Alex and Howard also worked together on television’s “Spenser for Hire,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The X-Files,” and “24.” Alex’s additional television credits include being executive producer and writer on “Dawson’s Creek,” and “Entourage,” as well as writing for numerous other television shows. Howard Gordon’s twenty-five-year career in television includes work on “Angel,” “Sisters,” “The Inside,” and “Strange World.”
Liberty Hill is honoring Alex and Howard for their achievement as creators, executive producers, and showrunners of “Homeland,” a politically nuanced dramatization of cultural difference and the complexities of war. In addition to winning the 2012 Golden Globe for Best Television Series, “Homeland” also won six 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards. These awards included two given to Alex and Howard for Outstanding Drama Series and for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for their pilot episode of “Homeland.” The show also won two WGA awards in the categories of Best New Series and Episodic Drama, the Peabody Award, Television Critics’ Association Award, Critics’ Choice Television Award, and was named one of AFI’s Top Ten Programs of the Year in both 2011 and 2012.
But Alex and Howard’s talents are not limited to creating smart, sophisticated, exciting television—they are also deeply committed to social justice, equality, and fighting for a healthier planet.
This year the recipients of the Founders Award, given to those whose philosophy and philanthropy embodies the spirit of “Change, Not Charity” are husband and wife Alison Morgan and Parke Skelton. They are a powerful combination, one that truly embodies the spirit of the award. Their reach, independently and together, throughout California’s social justice and political communities is extensive.
Moving to Los Angeles from NY as a performer, Alison soon became engaged in the AIDS activism movement. She then found a niche as a progressive political fundraiser for candidates including Senator Barbara Boxer, Attorney General Billy Lockyer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former State Senator Sheila Kuehl, State Senator Fran Pavley, former Assemblymember Mike Feuer, Congressmember Karen Bass, and former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg. She now serves the broader community through the cultivation of financial resources and board development in the non-profit world. She is the Major Gifts Consultant of the civil rights advocacy organization Advancement Project, having previously been the Development Director of the Western Center on Law and Poverty. Now on Liberty Hill’s Advisory Board after a six-year stint on the Board of Directors, Alison currently serves on the Board of the Sequoyah School in Pasadena.
Parke Skelton is one of California’s preeminent political campaign consultants. His firm, SG&A Campaigns, has run campaigns for scores of progressive Democratic candidates including Controller John Chiang, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Congressmembers Karen Bass, Julia Brownley, Judy Chu, Alan Lowenthal, Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman and Hilda Solis, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and District Attorney Jackie Lacey. Parke has been name one of the 100 Most Influential Californians by Capitol Weekly.
Liberty Hill is proud to present this year’s Creative Vision Award to visionary filmmaker and producer Charles F. Johnson. As producer on such television shows as “NCIS,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “The Rockford Files,” “B.L. Stryker,” “Quantum Leap,” and “JAG,” Charles F. Johnson has built pathways within the entertainment industry to create innovative stories, imbuing characters with depth and vitality through his nuanced understanding of history, the artistic power of his chosen media, and his commitment to racial equality on and off screen.
In 2012 he produced the NAACP Image Award-winning feature film Red Tails. Over 20 years in the making, this is a powerful story of the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American “Top Guns” whose pioneering service as fighter pilots helped end World War II and challenge racial stereotypes at home. With Executive Producer George Lucas and the onscreen talents of Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Nate Parker, and David Oleyowo, this film has become a trailblazer in its storytelling, which is based on historic moments and people.
Charles’s activism began in the late 1960s, when he attended Howard University alongside such classmates as Stokely Carmichael. During the Civil Rights Movement, he was active in protests and marches, and later was involved in John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Charles earned his law degree from Howard University, was drafted during the Vietnam War, worked as a copyright lawyer for several years, and finally decided to “follow his dreams” and in 1971 embarked on a new career in entertainment. He attended the Professional Theater Workshop in Hollywood, then found work at Universal Studios in its mailroom, and soon became a production coordinator. His successful and accomplished career as a producer on television shows at Universal soon followed, and continues to this day. Deeply committed to social justice, education, and the power of community engagement, Charles advances social change through creativity, passion, and philanthropic investment in a broad range of organizations, including his leadership as a Trustee of the Art Center College in Pasadena.
This year’s dinner will feature entertainment from singers Alethea Mills and Chavonne Stewart, Jackson Browne’s backup singers. Mills has also recorded with Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Ruben Stoddard and others.