The Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival hosts a Tribute to Daniel Ellsberg

Michael McCray
August 1, 2023

Coveted Shaw-Marvin and Martha Mitchell Pillar Award Winners Presented and Extended Film Festival Run Announced at National Press Club Event

WASHINGTON — The ten-day Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival closed yesterday. Hosted by ACORN 8, in association with the Justice Integrity Project (JIP), the 11th Annual Whistleblowers Summit & Film Festival (a hybrid event) returned to Capitol Hill and the National Press Club to a rousing success.

The formal dates the Whistleblower Summit ran were July 22 through July 31, 2022. The theme for this year's summit was Seeking the Truth 60 Years After the JFK Assassination, but the capstone event was the National Whistleblower Appreciation Day tribute to Daniel Ellsberg hosted by ACORN 8 at the National Press Club.
Patricia Ellsberg (wife) participated from California (via video). She had to join in because "Daniel felt most at home with whistleblowers and protestors--they were his tribe." Mary Ellsberg (daughter) also attended the event.

Highlights include a posthumous keynote speech from Daniel Ellsberg from his Lifetime Achievement Pillar Award (2021) when Mike Gravel (D-AK) received a posthumous Pillar Award for placing the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record.

A friends and family panel honored the legacy of Daniel Ellsberg, including Medea Benjamin, the co-founder of the women-led peace group CODEPINK and the co-founder of the human rights group Global Exchange, and John Kirisoku (Author), a CIA Officer Turned Whistleblower. The evening concluded with a special summit film screening of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.

In addition to the tribute to Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblowers held a remembrance for other "fallen friends." U.S. Chief Deputy Marshal Matthew Fogg gave remarks for Zena Crenshaw Logal (NJCDLP), Marcel Reid gave a memory for Thomas Raney (WPFW), and Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo provided additional thoughts on Daniel Ellsberg before the Pillar Awards presentation. Other fallen advocates previously acknowledged during the Whistleblower Summit include Arthuretta Martin (C4C), Jonelle Waggoner (USDA), and Marti Oakley (T.S. Networks).

Marcel Reid (ACORN 8) announced the Shaw-Marven Award winners. This award is given to those who are currently serving or veterans who have reported waste, fraud, or abuse. Named in honor and recognition of America's first whistleblower sailors in 1778, we are awarding it posthumously to Philadelphia 15.

The 'Philadelphia 15' was fifteen black Sailors assigned to USS Philadelphia who, in October 1940, authored a letter published in the Pittsburgh Courier describing the racial discrimination, abuse, and inability to advance into other, higher-ranking positions. They urged black mothers not to let their sons join the Navy and were subsequently discharged because of the letter with "bad conduct discharges" or "undesirable" charges. They were each removed from the United States Navy and denied benefits they were eligible to receive. These actions were recognized as fraud and abuse, two of the requirements to be considered a whistleblower.

Michael McCray (ACORN 8) presented the Martha Mitchell Pillar Award to Rebekah Jones for her scientific reporting of COVID deaths in Florida in the face of governmental obstruction and retaliation. Florida scientist and COVID-19 whistleblower Rebekah Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health in May 2020 for refusing to manipulate data and for asking her supervisor how to file a whistleblower complaint. Ms. Jones built the state's highly-praised data dashboard and managed all public data during the first five months of the pandemic.

The Governor of Florida targeted Ms. Jones for her commitment to data transparency and government accountability, defaming her and sending state police to raid her home at gunpoint without a warrant. The politicized case was dismissed two years later. A coordinated online defamation campaign, orchestrated by the Governor's spokesperson, resulted in stalking, harassment and threats on a daily basis. Throughout her journey, evidence of data manipulation from independent sources vindicated Ms. Jones.

McCray also announced the Film Festival Pillar Award Winners (2023)

Best Feature – Just The Truth (Directed by Kevin Caraher)Finalist – Caller ID: Unknown (Directed by Konrad Defang)Semi-Finalist – 'La Lucha: Getting Schooled in America (Directed by Joseph Rand Courtney)

Best Documentary – At Your Cervix (Directed by A'magine)Finalist – The Illusion of Abundance (Directed by Erika Gonzalez Ramirez and Matthieu Lietaert)Semi-Finalist – On a Knife's Edge (Directed by Jen Ayling)

Best Short – The Rescue (Directed by Tess Cacciatore)Finalist – I am Kanaka (Directed by Genevieve Sulway)Semi-Finalist – Listed (Directed by Leila Almawy)

Best Screenplay – No Address (Written by Julia Verdin and James Papa)Finalist – Reptile Logic (Written by Paul Wexler)Semi-Finalist – Proud Girls (Written by Leslie Flannery)

Audience Choice – Silver Dollar Group of the Ku Klux Klan (Directed by Dianne Andrews)

Impact Award – The Poison Garden (Directed by Evellyn Santos and Chris Mancini)The Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival, the world's first and only festival by whistleblowers, for whistleblowers (advocates and journalists), is excited to announce an Extended Festival Run. It is your last chance to watch anything you may have missed during the summit. It's a week-long all-access pass from now through Sunday, August 6. It's not too late to watch what you want--when you want. This is your last chance to catch the award-winning films and unique discussion panels.

Sponsor Recognition:

Finally, this is only possible with our generous sponsors; special thanks to ACORN 8, the Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Commission (, and the Pacifica Radio Network.

Speak Truth to Power

You can help give more power and voice to whistleblowers by supporting the Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival. You will be helping to highlight civil and human rights violations across the globe. Call us at (870) 543-0024 or email us at

Contact us