Liberty Hill Foundation’s annual Upton Sinclair Dinner celebrates and honors community leaders who are working on the frontlines of change for a more equitable city for all Angelenos. This year’s recipient of the namesake Upton Sinclair Award is the executive producer of high grossing comedies, The Hangover series, and juvenile justice reform champion Scott Budnick. Vice President of Local Public Affairs for Southern California Edison Veronica Gutierrez will receive the Founder’s Award and respected independent film producers Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa will receive the Creative Vision Award. Another award at this year’s dinner has just been announced: the Diversity in Philanthropy Award will be given to Kafi Blumenfield, who stepped down as President/CEO of Liberty Hill late last year.
The 2014 fundraising gala takes place on April 22 at the Beverly Hilton. Liberty Hill brings together community organizers, donor activists and allies advancing social justice, and expects more than 700 supporters to join in celebration of their 2014 honorees. All proceeds will support Liberty Hill’s mission of change, not charity. The event will feature a performance of the classic songs “See How We Are” and “Never Enough” by John Doe, a musician revered in Los Angeles for his work as a founder of the bands X and The Knitters and whose commitment to social justice has been integrally weaved into his songs for decades.
The Upton Sinclair award is given annually to a person whose crusade for equality and justice inspires us. This year Javier Stauring, Co-Director, Office of Restorative Justice at the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Director at the Healing Justice Coalition present the award to Scott Budnick, executive producer of The Hangover films, for his inspirational and tireless work to reform the juvenile justice system. Budnick recently left Todd Phillips’ Green Hat Films, home to The Hangover movies, where he worked for 14 years, rising from casting assistant on 1999’s Road Trip to his current phenomenal success. In his post Green Hat Films career he will focus on making socially and politically relevant films as well as continuing the social justice work he thrives on. Budnick founded The Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and has been honored by Governor Jerry Brown as California’s Volunteer of the Year.
Beloved Angeleno, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea will present this year’s Creative Vision Award to film producers Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa for bringing their political values and inspired vision to independent American films. Berger & Yerxa formed Bona Fide Productions in 1993. They have recently been nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award for their 2013 film, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. They have produced numerous other films with Oscars and nominations in various categories including Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Little Children (2006), Cold Mountain (2003), and Election (1999). They also produced Steven Soderbergh’s King of the Hill (1993), The Wood (1999), directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Bee Season (2005), The Ice Harvest (2006) and others. They executive produced I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (2002), directed by Sam Jones. Their award presenter is currently TBA.
This year the recipient of the Founders Award, given to those whose philosophy and philanthropy embodies the spirit of “Change, Not Charity,” is Vice President of Local Public Affairs for Southern California Edison (SCE) Veronica Gutierrez. At SCE she is responsible for community and government relations at the municipal and county levels, and for licensing for SCE’s major transmission projects. Former LA City Councilperson and Californian State Assembly member Jackie Goldberg will present the award.
Diversity in Philanthropy Award recipient Kafi Blumenfield began her service to Liberty Hill as a volunteer member of the Foundation’s Community Funding Board in 2000 and has worked in different capacities including as President and CEO. Kafi has demonstrated outstanding leadership in her time at the helm of Liberty Hill. Her achievements include strengthening the strategic focus of Liberty Hill’s grantmaking, launching the highly regarded Wally Marks Leadership Institute for Change, and establishing several initiatives to diversify Liberty Hill’s donor base and bring new communities into philanthropy and social justice. In addition to her service at Liberty Hill, Kafi serves on numerous boards and commissions including the California Commission on the Status of Women, the board of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project in Los Angeles, the advisory board of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, the City of Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Commission and Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation Advisory Board. Kafi is also a member of the selection committee for the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards and is the Vice Chair of the Southern California Grantmakers Board of Directors. Robert K. Ross, M.D., the president and chief executive officer for The California Endowment will present the award.