(Beverly Hills, CA)—PEN America announced today that groundbreaking director, producer, and activist Ava DuVernay will receive the Voice of Influence Award at the organization’s 2019 LitFest Gala in Beverly Hills. She will join previously announced LitFest Gala honoree Diane Warren (Artistic Expression Award) at the 2019 LitFest Gala on November 1, 2019 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. 

“We are honored to recognize the unparalleled work that Ava DuVernay has done throughout her career, which constantly reminds us of the true purpose and power of storytelling,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “We admire the rigor with which her work has explored the lesser-heard, all-too-often suppressed voices of history. PEN America is proud to stand with leaders like Ava, who challenge and inspire us, and whose contributions further our mission to protect and celebrate creative expression and who use their words to transform the world.” 

Now in its 29th year, PEN America’s LitFest Gala is a celebration of free expression and literature. Funds raised at the LitFest Gala fuel advocacy for writers, journalists, and artists threatened or imprisoned worldwide; landmark research addressing critical free speech issues; and the advancement of literary excellence and cross-cultural exchanges. PEN America’s efforts include the LA-based Emerging Voices Fellowship, the Prison and Justice Writing Program, the Literary Awards that confer over $370 thousand annually, the World Voices Festival of International Literature, among other programs and events. Recently honored luminaries and participants include Ai Weiwei, Barry Jenkins, Roxane Gay, Isabel Allende, Jose Antonio Vargas, Margaret Atwood, Janet Mock, Norman Lear, Aisha Tyler, Amy Poehler, Cecile Richards, and many more. 

Winner of the Emmy, BAFTA and Peabody Awards, Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay is a director, writer, producer and film distributor. Her directorial work includes the historical feature film SELMA, the criminal justice documentary 13TH, and Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME which made her the highest grossing black woman director in American box office history. Based on the infamous case of The Central Park Five, her current project WHEN THEY SEE US recently garnered 16 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Limited Series and Outstanding Director and Writer for a Limited Series nominations for DuVernay. Currently, she oversees production on the fourth season of her critically-acclaimed TV series QUEEN SUGAR and her upcoming romance anthology CHERISH THE DAY for Warner Brothers Television. Making history as the first African-American filmmaker to win the Best Director prize at Sundance for her micro-budget, self-distributed feature MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, DuVernay continues to amplify the work of other people of color and women of all kinds through her non-profit film collective ARRAY, named one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies.” DuVernay sits on the advisory board of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and co-chairs the Prada Diversity Council. She is based in Los Angeles, California. 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 

For more information on the PEN America’s 2019 LitFest Gala, please visit https://pen.org/litfest-gala/  


Elyse Weissman 

Stephen Fee 
PEN America, Director of Communications