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Catalyst California Honors Three Generations of Racial Justice Leaders at Champions for Equity Awards: Evolve


On Sunday, October 16, Catalyst California (formerly Advancement Project California) hosted our Champions for Equity Awards at The Terrace at L.A. Live. The event was a tremendous success because of YOU – the dedicated and generous partners, donors, and supporters who make our transformative racial justice work possible. Read on for a recap of the unforgettable afternoon or scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the full recording!!

Our first in-person gathering since 2019, this year’s event welcomed nearly 200 guests to celebrate the achievements and evolution of the racial justice movement – and of our organization, following our recent rebranding. Perched on an airy rooftop venue with majestic views of the historic Downtown Los Angeles architecture, we honored three remarkable leaders who have brought us to this current moment and will continue advancing it into the future: Dolores Huerta, Sheila Kuehl, and Gabby Rivera.

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“There’s momentum for real change...and Catalyst California and our team, along with our community partners, are ready to roll up our sleeves and get s*** done!” – Wendelyn Killian

Deputy Director Wendelyn Killian, our resident rockstar emcee, opened the program by introducing our new name, Catalyst California, and the event’s theme: "Evolve." While the organization's name has changed, our mission of advancing racial justice remains as strong and invigorated as ever. We are advocating for a citywide Office of Racial Equity in Los Angeles; supporting ballot initiatives protecting reproductive rights, affordable housing, and police accountability; and launching a new program area – Reimagine Justice and Safety – focused on reforming the criminal legal system.

“My mom and my grandmother were both New York City school teachers, so I know what real superheroes look like. And let me tell you: Catalyst California, you are up there with the X-Men.” – Gabby Rivera

Next, honoree Gabby Rivera was presented with the Advancing Justice Award by her close friend and fellow poet and activist, Yesika Salgado. Best known for authoring “America” – the comic book series featuring Marvel's first queer Latinx superhero, Gabby is an acclaimed writer and poet who instills power, joy, and belonging within our Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities through the art of storytelling. In accepting her award, Gabby spoke of Catalyst California’s role in serving communities of color across the state, and how the work we do now not only serves us in the present but uplifts future generations. “We do not do this work alone. We evolve together as a community,” she aptly expressed.

“Many people ask, ‘How we can fix racism?’ We can fix it together.” - Sheila Kuehl

Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, presented the Transformative Partner Award to Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl in recognition of her three decades of devoted public service on both the state and county levels. Having served on the California State Assembly, State Senate, and now the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Kuehl recounted her storied career and alluded to the renowned quote by Martin Luther King Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” – adding the crucial caveat that "it doesn’t do it alone; it doesn’t bend by itself.”

“Change is inevitable; we gotta reimagine everything.” – Hollis

Guests then enjoyed an exclusive set by poet, musician, and activist Hollis, featuring songs from her recently released debut solo album. She kicked off the performance with the melodic “Grace Lee”, which pays homage to social activist, philosopher, and feminist Grace Lee – a key figure in the Asian American Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Next, she transitioned into an upbeat track, “Freqs”, which celebrates our strength in numbers and engaged the entire audience in a lively singalong to demonstrate people power.

“Listen: You’re all going to feel better walking out of here if you did something. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, but it’s something. It’s a commitment to really important work.” – Fred Ali

Of course, no fundraising event would be complete without an on-stage pitch. Catalyst California Board Chair Fred Ali and Vice Chair Maria Cabildo took to the stage with an energetic (and let’s be honest – comedic!) appeal: “Block off the exits,” Maria exclaimed, “No one’s leaving ‘til we raise $5,000!” And raise it we did. Our attendees both in person and online stepped up and showed up, donating nearly $20,000 during Fred and Maria’s pitch!

“This fight isn’t about one news cycle or one election. It’s about the next 50 years...the next 100.” – John Kim

Next up was our President and CEO, John Kim, who gave poignant remarks acknowledging that, unfortunately, the ideals of White supremacy are around and within us all: “[The] recordings of Los Angeles ‘leaders’ making racist and bigoted remarks against Black, Indigenous, and too many other communities was like a gut punch… to those communities that were so viciously attacked on those tapes.” He added that for true transformation, we must change our behavior, change hearts and minds, and change the systems that oppress low-income and communities of color.

“People ask me why I don’t retire. There’s too many people that need to be organized. The more people we convince that they can make a difference – then we’ll stop these ills.” – Dolores Huerta

Finally, Anthony Rendon, Speaker of the California State Assembly, presented iconic labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta with the Champion for Equity Award in recognition of her nearly 70 years (and counting) of stalwart advocacy. Huerta reflected on the longtime partnership between our organizations working together to achieve educational equity and a representative democracy. She encouraged attendees to fight racism by holding our elected officials accountable, reminding us that we are all interconnected in community.

Throughout the program, we also heard from Catalyst California staff and board members about what we will achieve in the remaining months of 2022 and beyond with support from folks like YOU. Because of you, we were able to exceed our fundraising goal, raising more than $200,000 through the event to fuel our racial and economic justice initiatives.

We hope those who were able to join us for our first in-person event in years enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed having you. If you missed the live production (or just want to see your favorite moments again), you can find the full recording below! Be sure to check out the tribute journal showcasing our generous sponsors and their tribute ads, honoree and talent biographies, and more.

We look forward to seeing you all at next year’s Champions for Equity Awards!

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