The Puffin Spotlight: Issue 16

May 14, 2024

Honoring Change Makers

This May, The Puffin Foundation will sponsor a series of awards to honor remarkable individuals and organizations who have challenged the status quo and made significant, positive social impact through their work. Two of the three award ceremonies will be open to the public, and we encourage you to join us in person if you can. Either way, we hope you enjoy reading more about the awards and their recipients below.

The Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship

The Puffin Foundation, Ltd. and The Type Media Center are the mutual sponsors of The Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship. This annual award in the amount of $100,000 is intended to encourage its recipients to continue their work and to inspire others to challenge the orthodoxies they face in their careers. Past prize winners include Bryan Stevenson, Tony Kushner, Colin Kaepernick, and the National Network of Abortion Funds. On May 8th, 2024 HeadCount will be honored with this award.

HeadCount is a non-partisan organization that uses the power of music to register voters and promote participation in democracy. They reach young people and music fans where they already are — at concerts and online — to inform and empower. HeadCount stages nonpartisan voter registration drives at over 1,000 events each year and collaborates with cultural leaders to promote civic engagement on a national scale. Since 2004, they have signed up over 1,000,000 voters nationwide.

The Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship will be accepted by HeadCount’s Executive Director, Lucille Wenegieme. Lucille Wenegieme is an executive in the civic engagement and democracy spaces with an eclectic background in political advocacy, communications, fashion, and biomedical science. Her central change philosophy is that democracy has to meet people where they are, and she focuses on culture as the vehicle to get there. Her career has also included a stint as vice president of communications at the National Vote at Home Institute, which helped states and municipalities rapidly scale up their capacity to handle mail-in votes during the 2020 election.

The ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism

The ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism is an annual prize of $100,000 presented by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives and the Puffin Foundation. It is dedicated to the activist tradition of the U.S. volunteers who joined the International Brigades to fight in the Spanish Civil War to stem the rise of fascism. The 2024 winner of this prestigious award is 18by Vote, an organization committed to helping young people understand how to vote, when to vote, and why to vote.

18by Vote creates sustainable civic leadership among young people who have been historically excluded from positions of leadership and power. Founded in response to low youth voter turnout in the 2016 general election, 18by Vote has since activated hundreds of thousands of young people across the country to engage civically.

Their class of 25 Civic Engagement Fellows reached over 60,000 young people across the country. Moreover, they catalyzed youth voter turnout by launching one of the first Rapid Response Task Forces geared for the Georgia Senate runoff election.

This year, they are developing and executing a model of effective and momentous youth organizing that is led by young people. By 2025, 18by Vote aims to have a direct network of over 500 youth who have been given the resources and knowledge to be active and conscious participants in their communities.

I am thrilled to accept the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism on behalf of 18by Vote. In alignment with the legacy of the International Brigades, young people are continuing to rise up in support of human rights but they need our support to make their voices heard at the polls this Fall. This award will be transformational in our ability to activate young Americans nationwide during and beyond the 2024 election. 

-Ava Mateo, Executive Director

You can read more about 18by Vote as well as past winners of the ALBA/Puffin Prize on this page of ALBA’s website and on our page linked above. The award ceremony will not be open to the public this year, but highlights of the award ceremony will be available at a later date on the ALBA site.

The Clara Lemlich Awards for Social Activism

The Clara Lemlich Awards for Social Activism celebrate the lives of incredible women whose many decades of brilliant activism have made real and lasting change in the world. The award is given annually to women activists in their 80’s, 90’s, and beyond who have made tremendous contributions through their social, cultural, and political activism. 

The awards are named for a Jewish woman from a formerly Russian, now Ukrainian town who emigrated to New York as a teen and within a few years rose to leadership in the garment workers labor movement. Over the course of her long life, Lemlich was active in many struggles for social and economic justice, including the suffrage movement, consumer rights, and peace efforts, and even helped organize the orderlies in her nursing home. 

The 2024 awards will go to:

Priscilla Bassett, civil rights activist
Muriel Fox, feminist leader and author 
Theodora Lacey, integrating schools and housing
Dorthaan Kirk, champion of jazz
Estela Vazquez, labor organizer extraordinaire 

The 2024 Lemlich Awards were held on Monday, May 13 at 4:00PM at the Museum of the City of New York, Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. Watch the livestream below.

Puffin Cultural Forum

Jazz Town, Teaneck Exhibition

Never before seen photographs of jazz greats who called Teaneck home are currently on display in the gallery at the Puffin Cultural Forum through May 31st. The select photographs are taken from the more than 800,000 negatives that Teaneck native and renowned jazz photographer Chuck Stewart accrued during his storied career and life, scanned and brought to life for the very first time for this special exhibition. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Thursday, 11:00am – 4:00pm. 

When you come to our exhibition, placards guide you to supplemental materials so that you can hear the musicians as well as see them. For those who can’t visit in person, here is an example.

Ben E. King was an American soul and R&B singer famous for his vocals as a member of the Drifters as well as a soloist. His biggest hits were “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment,” and “Save the Last Dance
for Me,” as well as his co-composition and recording of “Stand By Me.”

Interview with Benny King, Jr on Ben E. King

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