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SPLC wins Anthem Award for story about mistreatment of Black men in immigrant detention

When the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Liz Vinson started documenting immigrant justice issues as part of the organization’s editorial team, she knew she had found a subject that drew on her passion to lift up those in need.

This week, her dedication to telling the stories of people unfairly incarcerated for seeking U.S. citizenship was recognized by the judges of The 2nd Annual Anthem Awards.

Vinson received the highest award in the News & Journalism category – gold – for her story last year documenting the cruel treatment several Black men endured after participating in a peaceful protest against living conditions at the privately owned, for-profit Folkston ICE Processing Center, an immigrant prison in Georgia. Vinson won the prize in a category for media work that aims to document or raise awareness for human and civil rights causes. Other winners in that category include The Fuller Project, the Disability Justice Project and Mother Jones.

“Since launching this platform in June of 2021, we have seen that social change has emerged as a dominant force in mainstream culture,” said Anthem Awards Managing Director Jessica Lauretti. “The sheer number, breadth and overall quality of the entries shared with us in the 2nd Annual Awards is a testament to the strength of this growing movement and demonstrates an enduring commitment to the work that is both humbling and inspiring to see. From the war in Ukraine, to protests in Iran and the ongoing battle for equality here at home in the States, the call for change not only perseveres but is a growing global chorus.”

Launched in 2021 by The Webby Awards, which recognize excellence on the internet, the Anthem Awards honor the purpose- and mission-driven work of people, companies and organizations worldwide. The awards celebrate and champion work across seven core causes: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Education, Art and Culture; Health; Human and Civil Rights; Humanitarian Action and Services; Responsible Technology; and Sustainability, Environment and Climate.

This year, the judges considered nearly 2,000 submissions from 43 countries.

“We are so proud of Liz for winning this Anthem Award,” said Brad Bennett, interim editorial director for the SPLC’s Communications Department. “The recognition honors her solid commitment to excellence in telling emotionally riveting stories about racial injustice and the way asylum seekers are mistreated here in this country.”

Over the past five years, the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project has represented thousands of asylum seekers in federal class action litigation. The Immigrant Justice Project also directly represented hundreds more in detention centers across Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi through its Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI), which provides free legal services to immigrants held in detention centers. Last year alone, SIFI conducted more than 900 individual visits with people trapped in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers to provide legal aid. SIFI also provided over 2,500 immigrants with legal orientation across the 10 ICE detention centers in its service region.

In her video speech accepting the award, Vinson said the attention should go to those who have had to endure inhumane treatment in our nation’s detention facilities.

“Thank you so much for this incredible award. But I have to dedicate it to the immigrant community for their strength, for their courage, for their resilience and for trusting me to tell their horror stories of what it’s like living under ICE detention,” Vinson said.

The 2023 Anthem winners represent the breadth of purpose- and mission-driven work across the globe. They include Lil Nas X; Planned Parenthood; Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote; REI; March For Our Lives; Oprah Winfrey Network; Etsy; Human Rights Watch; The Problem With Jon Stewart; Salesforce; Pulitzer Center; Ryan Reynolds; Dove; ACLU; His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Mission: Joy; UNICEF; and Rihanna’s The Clara Lionel Foundation.