Social Activism

Susan Sarandon remained in New York to attend her daughter's first piano recital, but Tim Robbins was on hand to receive the 19th annual Upton Sinclair Award for the couple's social activism at the Liberty Hill Foundation's 25th anniversary dinner last Sunday at the Century Plaza.

Robbins, who has characterized himself as "a Boy Scout run amok," took the opportunity to relate the perils of his support of presidential candidate Ralph Nader. "Colleagues warned us that our support of the Nader campaign would cost us, but I would rather vote my conscience than to vote strategically," he said.

Other honorees included Stewart Kwoh, executive director and president of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, who received the foundation's Change Maker Award. In accepting the award, Kwoh paid tribute to Liberty Hill for providing the center with its first funding in 1983, "back when there was only one staff member--me," he said. "That grant launched what has become the largest Asian American legal services and civil rights organization in the country."

The Founders Award was presented to Michael Kieschnick, founder of the credit card/phone company Working Assets, who also created Dads and Daughters, a program to give fathers the tools to maximize their daughters' self-esteem and minimize the impact of stereotypes.

Artist Judith Baca, founder of the Social and Public Art Resources Center, received the Creative Vision Award. She has helped make a reality more than 400 mural projects in L.A., including the Great Wall of Los Angeles, a half-mile-long mural in the Tujunga Floor Control Channel in the San Fernando Valley. Guests at the event included Antonio Villaraigosa, Kathleen Brown, Van Gordon Sauter, Meg Ryan and John Densmore. Sean Penn and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were honorary co-chairs.

Liberty Hill Foundation was established in 1976 by Sarah Pillsbury of the cake-flour dynasty and others who wanted to establish seed funding for socially responsible projects. "We still have to make a lot more waves," Pillsbury said at the event. "L.A. is the wealth capital of the U.S. and nearly a quarter-million people are homeless tonight."

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