(LOS ANGELES)– PEN America, the leading literary and free expression advocacy organization, today announced the appointment of Allison Lee as managing director for Los Angeles. Lee brings deep knowledge of Los Angeles as well as extensive experience in program development, fundraising, community engagement, and communications to the role. Her experience includes leadership roles at TIME’S UP, the nonprofit advocacy group at the forefront of fighting sexual violence in the workplace, and legal services non-profit Bet Tzedek.

As PEN Los Angeles’ leader, Lee will be guiding the next phase of growth in one of the world’s most dynamic creative communities, building on the organization’s current work to shape an even larger, more active hub of activity and a stronger force both to uplift the literary community and defend free expression in the region. PEN America Los Angeles has a decades-long presence in the city, with a wide network of 1,000 writers and supporters and a track record for innovative and pathbreaking events. Lee and her team will work to build the constituency in defense of the written word among screen, television and traditional literary writers and to tackle free speech issues relevant to the entertainment industry, the border, and other unique facets of the Southern California community.

Her first day was Thursday, Sept. 1.

Lee said: “I’ve spent my career with human rights as my north star. My goal is to work closely with LA’s vibrant community of writers, screenwriters, directors, and storytellers who all embrace free expression as the foundation for their creative output. My hope is to lift up the voices here in LA committed to free expression and free speech through words, pictures, and sound to create the outpouring of support we need to defend against the unprecedented attacks we are seeing.”

PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said: “We are impressed by Allison’s passion, creativity, and perseverance and believe she has the drive we need to help expand PEN America’s Los Angeles and Southern California community at this crucial hour of mounting threats to open discourse worldwide. Her experience over two decades as an advocate for social change with mission-driven organizations positions her to build upon the long and proud history of PEN America’s literary programming here in Los Angeles to galvanize and inspire writers, staff, supporters, and the creative community behind a collaborative vision for our Los Angeles community. We are excited to have Allison’s dedication to the task of engaging both devoted and new constituencies with programs that reflect the diversity of writers throughout Los Angeles and the breadth of free expression concerns affecting Southern California.”

At TIME’S UP since 2020, Lee headed major gifts fundraising, including individual and institutional giving and raised over $12 million for the organization centered on issues of gender equity and safety issues amplified by COVID-19 and racial inequity.                   

She previously served for four years as vice president of external affairs at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, which provides free legal services to low-income people in Southern California; there,  she launched programs on family immigration and transgender advocacy. Before that, she was founding executive director of American Jewish World Service for Southern California for eight years. She has worked in the non-profit sector in development in New York and Los Angeles since 1994.

Lee is a native of Cincnnati, Ohio and a graduate of Tufts University.

In 2018, PEN America and PEN Center USA, based in Los Angeles, unified under PEN America with the goal of bringing writers together coast to coast in a national organization. Since then, the Los Angeles team has built support for PEN America’s work in Southern California, built the annual Los Angeles Gala with extraordinary honorees, inaugurated new programs and initiatives, elevated free expression advocacy including on press freedom infringements on the US-Mexico border and Chinese influence on Hollywood, and forged important partnerships with California cultural and media institutions.  PEN America mounts cultural programs year-round, offers fellowships to emerging writers and works in coalition with California literary and free expression groups.

About PEN America

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