#MeToo ~ Anita Hill, recipient of this year’s PEN Courage Award

Anita Hill in 2014 speaking at Harvard Law School

“Women who come forward with sexual misconduct allegations are often portrayed as “crazy, vindictive, promiscuous or prudes,” reactions that explain why many don’t come forward sooner.” Anita Hill [MORE]

This week PEN America announced that professor, lawyer, and chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, Anita Hill, is the recipient of this year’s PEN Courage Award, conferred in recognition of her singular role in challenging sexual harassment in the workplace and the attendant abuse of power, and a career spent combating the silencing force of sexism. The award, which honors dauntless exercises of free expression, will be presented May 21 at the 2019 PEN America Literary Gala at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“As a Yale Law School graduate pursuing a promising career as a legal scholar and lawyer, Anita Hill stepped alone into the glare of the public spotlight to call out abuses that others insisted be forgotten or overlooked. She has devoted her life since then to teaching, writing, and speaking out—in the process, helping to catalyze a global movement that is essential to the achievement of equality . . .

“Today, amid a worldwide reckoning over pervasive sexual harassment, Hill is leading a major effort to break the cycle of abuse and silence in Hollywood, rallying the entire entertainment industry to effect cultural change and establish accessible and clear channels of safety and accountability. As an organization that recognizes the pernicious force of inequality in eroding the right to free expression, and one that elevates those who take the greatest risks to speak out, PEN America is proud to honor Anita Hill.” ,” said Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America.

In 1991, Hill served as a witness during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She gave her testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee of fourteen white men and a global television audience. She described numerous instances of sexual harassment while working for the soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other women who had made similar allegations against Thomas were not called to testify.

In her career as a university professor and scholar, Hill has been a steadfast champion of women’ rights. She joined the faculty of Brandeis University in 1998 and in 2015 was named University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies. She is the author of two books (1997’s Speaking Truth to Power and 2011’s Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home) and numerous opinion pieces (including a New York Times piece entitled “How to Get the Kavanaugh Hearings Right,” published during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh). In December 2017, Hill was appointed Chair of The Hollywood Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality, which was established by a coalition of Hollywood studios, television networks, streaming services, music companies, talent agencies, trade associations, and unions. In this role, she is leading an industry-wide effort to identify and establish best practices and solve problems related to harassment, bias, equality, and diversity in the entertainment community.

In addition to Hill, PEN America will honor other women’s rights champions at its May Gala: Saudi writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan, imprisoned for opposing the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and the female driving ban in the region, will receive the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. Additionally, PEN America will recognize peerless investigative journalist Bob Woodward with the Literary Service Awardand Scholastic Chairman and CEO Richard Robinson for his outstanding leadership in publishing. Past Courage Award honorees include student activists against gun violence (2018) and organizers of the Women’s March (2017). The Gala raises essential funds that fuel PEN America’s free expression advocacy efforts. Comedian and political commentator John Oliverwill host this year’s event.

This feature is courtesy of PEN America; photo courtesy of Tim Pierce under CC BY 2.0.

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About the PEN Courage Award

The PEN Courage Award was established in 2015 to honor exceptional acts of courage in the exercise of freedom of expression. The Award is granted after consultations among PEN America staff and Trustees with specific relevant expertise on matters of freedom of expression. In some cases, outside expertise from PEN America’s membership, partner organizations, and network of contacts is enlisted to inform internal analysis and deliberations. All final decisions regarding Award determination and recipients are made by the Executive Committee of the PEN America Board of Trustees.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Funds for Writers and Poets at Risk; Emergency Funds and Grants

Fats was starting to think that if you flipped every bit of received wisdom on its head you would have the truth. He wanted to journey through dark labyrinths and wrestle with the strangeness that lurked within; he wanted to crack open piety and expose hypocrisy; he wanted to break taboos and squeeze wisdom from their bloody hearts; he wanted to achieve a state of amoral grace, and be baptised backwards into ignorance and simplicity.” J.K. Rowling, The Casual Vacancy

ARTISTS AT RISK CONNECTION (ARC) “collates resources—including emergency funding, housing opportunities, residencies, fellowships and grants, and legal, immigration, and resettlement services—in an interactive online catalogue to help threatened artists quickly identify programs for which they’re eligible. This exhaustive database is the first of its kind for artists-at-risk, who have typically had to piece together assistance through a combination of personal contacts, referrals, and web searches, often under dire circumstances.” Details  on ARC HERE.

Susanne Nossel (c PEN America)

“Artists face backlash when they push up against intellectual, social, and ideological boundaries,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN America. “While global campaigns and U.N. resolutions have been mounted to protect journalists and human rights defenders, threats to artists have gotten limited international attention. The Artist at Risk Connection brings together an extraordinary network of global organizations committed to augmenting the assistance available to artists who risk their freedom and their lives in the name of creative expression.”

Clearly some writer-readers are going through tough times.  If you need help, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to admit it and ask for it. It’s guaranteed that the day will come when you can play it forward.

I’ve listed just a few resources here to get you thinking and give you a place to begin. Run your searches by trade or professional association, art or craft, gender, language, national origin, and by your country or region.

Grants take time to get and there’s no guarantee that your application will be awarded.  If you are in immediate need of food, housing, healthcare or mental health counseling, reach out to the appropriate local government and nongovernmental agencies, social workers and social services, community hospitals and/or religious organizations. HERE is Open Counseling, International Listing of Suicide Hotlines. I can’t speak to hospice care outside the U.S., but in the States there are sources that don’t charge and others that will accept what your insurance carrier pays and not charge you further if you can’t afford it. You’ll have to do some digging.

Barbara Deming MEMORIAL FUND, INC. offers small grants to qualified feminist women in the arts and the next one will open for applications for Visual Art, Fiction and Mixed media from January 1-31, 2020. Details HERE.

THE HAVEN FOUNDATION offers direct financial assistance to qualified individuals – “a qualified person is dealing with a health crisis due to a recent chronic illness or chronic condition due to a recent injury or illness and where there is a question about returning to work. The Foundation’s Grant Committee will determine whether a grant offer will be made. Grants are for one year and may be renewed for up to four more years, provided that the recipient submits a supplemental application annually, and that such supplemental application is approved by the Grant Committee. Renewal grants may not be for the same amount as the original grant. The amount of the renewal is to be determined by the Grant Committee.”  Details HERE.

The PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund is an emergency fund for professional—published or produced—writers in acute financial crisis. Depending on the situation and need, the Fund gives average grants of $2,000. It is the Fund’s preference not to give repeated grants within a three-year period.

The Fund for Writers and Editors with HIV/AIDS, administered under the umbrella of the PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund, gives grants of up to $2,000 to professional writers and editors who face serious financial difficulties because of HIV or AIDS-related illness.

The Writers’ Emergency Fund does not exist for research purposes, to enable the completion of writing projects, or to fund publications or organizations. The Writers’ Emergency Fund is for writers whose primary professional occupation is writing. Self-published authors or those published by vanity presses are not eligible. Writers do not have to be Members of PEN America to receive a grant. Applications are considered at meetings of the Fund’s committee, which take place every few months.

In recent years, the PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund and Fund for Writers and Editors with HIV/AIDS has distributed more funds than ever to U.S.-based writers who are facing acute, financial crises, allocating an average of $60,000 to around 40 successful applicants each year. These grants are made possible by the generous support from the Lannan FoundationThe Haven Foundation [as above], PEN America Members, and other supporters. If you would like to support the PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund, click here to make a donation.