Pillar Awards

We are a coalition of individual whistleblowers, grassroots activists, public interest advocates and policy makers. We provide a sense of community and mutual support for whistleblowers or civil and human rights activists.

The Pillar is awarded to notable civil and human rights champions; previous recipients include Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The Pillar is awarded to politicians, community activists and journalists—including documentary filmmakers.

Alex Lawson
Grace Lee Boggs Award
Alex Lawson is the Executive Director of Social Security Works, the convening member of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition— a coalition made up of over 340 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans. Lawson previously served as the Communications Director for the organization. In his current role, he coordinates the multifaceted education and advocacy operations to protect and improve the economic security of disadvantaged and at-risk populations while maintaining Social Security as a vehicle of social justice. Lawson is also the owner of We Act Radio and its video and livestream production arm NMG Live. We Act is a media corporation that combines broadcast and new media to deliver shows in the formats people use most.
Joaquin Phoenix
“Mary Pickford” Award
As expected, diversity (or the lack thereof) was the hot-button topic at tonight’s BAFTA Awards. Joaquin Phoenix, picking up his Best Actor prize for Joker, made a particularly poignant speech on the topic.“I feel conflicted because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege. I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here,” he said onstage at the Royal Albert Hall. “I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry, and in ways that we benefit from.”
Gaby Contreras (posthumous)
Frank Wills Award
Gabriela Contreras was 31 years old. Shortly after ABC15 aired the videos in a series of investigative reports, Contreras decided to reveal herself and speak out further. The videos leaked by Contreras were indisputable proof of the chaos and dysfunction inside the prison. Multiple officers and inmates have been hurt and killed as a result of the broken locks. The evidence prompted the Governor’s Office to launch an outside investigation and led to unprecedented change. Her decision to leak the videos and publicly speak about the dangers will ultimately save lives.
Jonathan Stremel
Shaw/Marven Award
In 2018, US Navy Petty Officer Jonathan Stremel and his autistic son were being physically attacked and abused. Stremel went to the Navy’s domestic violence shelter and they turned him away because on the basis of gender. He was told that it would be “inappropriate for a man to be in a shelter” and that male victims do not get the same services as women do. As a result, he and his son were abused again. And again. And again. They turned him and his son away 4 times, never called the police, never called Child Protective Services, and refused to make a report of any kind.
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