These days the news can be overwhelming. Stories of violence, injustice and oppression fill our feeds almost daily. Meanwhile, hateful ideas are being given an increasingly visible platform at the national level. These problems can be daunting, and sometimes it’s hard to even know where to start. But the worst thing we can do in a time of so much need is become overwhelmed. I believe everyone has a role in today’s fights for justice—whether it’s as an organizer, a policymaker or a donor—and right now there is no time to waste.
That is why the theme of this year’s Upton Sinclair Awards Dinner is “justice begins at home.” For most of us who want to have an impact, the turmoil at the highest levels government feels frustratingly out of reach. Yet there are urgent problems in Los Angeles that we do have the power to solve. With Liberty Hill’s Agenda for a Just Future, we have identified three of these issues and proposed solutions that will help to create a more equitable region for L.A.’s most vulnerable residents. First, we are advancing an effort to end youth incarceration as we know it by reforming our costly and ineffective system into one that prioritizes prevention and youth development. At the same time we are working to ensure a roof over every head by supporting emerging tenants’ rights groups who are pushing for policies to improve access to housing, and supporting campaigns to eliminate neighborhood oil drilling by establishing a health and safety buffer zone between oil wells, and homes and schools.
Commitment to focusing on local issues like these is something that this year’s Upton Sinclair Dinner honorees exemplify. Through the Levitt Pavilion, Liz Levitt Hirsch has created the kind of spaces where community is built—where Angelenos from all backgrounds can freely access arts and culture together. Her contributions help Los Angeles stand out as a model for a vibrant and diverse city. For John Lewis, what started as an effort to end segregation in the southern states where he grew up became a historic movement that fundamentally changed the nation.
When L.A. acts, the country watches, and often follows our lead. That’s why in today’s political climate, Los Angeles must be a beacon for social justice. It is our responsibility as Angelenos to set the progressive example. Because we know that big things always start local.
President and CEO