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The 3rd Annual Anthem Awards’ Special Achievement Recipients Revealed

From forging equitable, sustainable business practices to advocating for racial justice, the 2024 Anthem Special Achievement recipients are defining the standard for social impact.

Annually, The Anthem Awards recognizes a diverse group of individuals as Special Achievement honorees, in honor of their longstanding commitment to advocacy. From disability justice initiatives to police reform, this year’s Anthem Special Achievement honorees are making change on both local and global scales. 

We are so proud to inspire future change makers and to honor this year’s recipients, including Kevin Bacon, Leon Ford, Misty Copeland, Matt Damon, Aurora James, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jesper Brodin and Selma Blair

Below, explore the 2024 Anthem Special Achievement honorees and their work, and hear their call-to-action speeches.

Aurora James, Founder, Brother Vellies

A creative director and designer, Aurora James has long centered Black entrepreneurship through Brother Vellies, her luxury accessories brand. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, James launched the 15 Percent Pledge, encouraging retailers to commit at least 15% of their shelf space to products for Black-owned businesses – the percentage reflecting the proportion of the U.S. population that is Black.

By partnering with over 28 retailers, the 15 Percent Pledge has shifted nearly $14 Billion in revenue to Black-owned businesses. Moreover, James’ work with Brother Vellies uplifts African design practices, craftsmanship and ethical fashion by partnering with local artisans to create the brands’ products. 

Learn More About the 15 Percent Pledge

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Kevin Bacon, Actor & Advocate

A beloved actor, Kevin Bacon launched his nonprofit, Sixdegrees.org, in 2007 to give back to underserved communities, and provide people with a platform to champion the causes that matter most. In 2023, Bacon took the organization to a new level with the podcast, Six Degrees with Kevin Bacon to shine a light impact work happening across the globe. Each episode features a different celebrity guest discussing a nonprofit’s work to make the world a better place. Bacon is providing an incredible platform to shine a light on the organizations making change in communities across the globe while also encouraging philanthropy on a large scale. For his commitment to making a positive impact on the world and using his influence to build up the nonprofit space, we are thrilled to honor him this year. 

Explore Breaking The Stigma with Kevin Bacon

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Jesper Brodin, CEO, Ingka Group

As the Chief Executive Officer of Ingka Group, which operates IKEA Retail, Jesper Brodin is leading the charge to integrate sustainability into their operations. From supply chain management to product development and energy usage, the furniture retailer is making greener choices, with Brodin’s vision at the center of it all. Within eight years, Ingka Group has grown by more than 24%, while cutting carbon production by more than 13%. In 2023 they achieved a 24.3% reduction in their climate footprint against a 30.9% increase in revenue, proving to the world that sustainable practices can be great for business.

Under Brodin’s leadership, IKEA is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by Fy30 and reach net-zero emissions by FY50. As the growing climate crisis demands action from business, Brodin has set the standard for how companies can meet this moment. 

Activist, Author & Social Entrepreneur

At just 19 years old, Leon Ford was racially profiled and mistaken by Pittsburgh police officers. The encounter resulted in 5 shots being fired, one of which paralyzed Ford from the waist down. Following his recovery journey, Ford became committed to end police brutality. This led him to create The Hear Foundation, a nonprofit organization that brings community leaders and local law enforcement together to forge practical solutions. Additionally, Ford’s films, Leon and Breaking Bread: A Conversation on Race in America, and his memoir, An Unspeakable Hope, are just a few of the many ways that Ford is sharing his story and advocating for a better tomorrow. We’re so proud to honor Leon Ford with this year’s Anthem Community Impact Award.

Watch Breaking Break: A Conversation on Race in America 

Misty Copeland, Author, Producer & Principal Dancer

As a principal dancer, producer and author, Misty Copeland has blazed trails for decades. After overcoming many systemic barriers during her pursuit of a career in ballet, Copeland, in 2015, became the first Black woman to be named principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. In an artform that remains, still, overwhelmingly white, Copeland’s success and appointment sparked a movement, striving for greater inclusivity in the ballet world. To help other dancers of color, Copeland founded The Misty Copeland Foundation to make ballet and dance programs more accessible to children in under-resourced communities.  

In her memoir, The Wind At My Back, Copeland pays respects to Raven Wilkinson, her friend, mentor and a trailblazer in ballet decades before Copeland’s time. More than a love letter about her sisterhood with Wilkinson, the book explores how both women were unapologetic in their approach to change a racist industry. Moreover, in 2022 Copeland released a short film, Flower. The film, which she produced and starred in, pays homage to Black silent films of the 1920s to tell a story of intergenerational equity in Oakland, California.  

Listen: Misty Copeland Her Experience in Ballet 

Selma Blair, Actress & Advocate

A talented actress on screen, Selma Blair released Introducing, Selma Blair in 2021 to provide audiences with a raw look at her life with multiple sclerosis. The impactful documentary shed new light on what life can look like with this disability – and the fluid nature of the condition. Moreover, Blair has also partnered with Google to improve disabled representation. Her work encourages others to embrace every part of their identity, including their disabilities. By increasing diversity in entertainment in this way, Selma Blair is not only giving representation to a marginalized community, she is creating valuable space for the more than 1 billion disabled people around the world.

Only with a cultural shift of this kind can the world open up accessibility to a wider, truly representative audience. For her sustained commitment to meaningful change in improving disability inclusion and representation in the media, the Anthem Awards are proud to honor Selma Blair.

Watch: Trailer for Introducing, Selma Blair

Matt Damon, Actor & Film Producer

After seeing the impact of clean water while traveling at a young age, Matt Damon was determined to find a way to help struggling communities. He initially launched the H2O for Africa Foundation and then in 2009 joined forces with Gary White to create Water.org. Water.org is focused on addressing the global water crisis through sustainable solutions and community-based initiatives. Since its inception, the organization has expanded its reach and impact, and continues to innovate and adapt its strategies to address the complex challenges associated with water scarcity and inadequate sanitation around the world. Damon has become an industry expert on water and sanitation issues, lending his expertise and cultural clout to raise awareness through the World Bank, World Economic Forum, The Earthshot Prize, and at multiple UN events. Damon’s work with Water.org also extends to the organization’s impact investing branch, WaterEquity, which is infusing capital into the existing framework to level up development and sustainable solutions.

Watch: Matt Damon Educates on Water Scarcity 

Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Actor & Advocate

With the launch of Tie The Knot, now Pronoun, helped shine a light on the fight that LGBTQIA+ individuals face each and every day for equality and equity. Ferguson has never shied from using his platform for good and through the Pronoun Do-Goods™ program, Jesse is raising awareness and funds to make lasting change. And Ferguson’s advocacy and philanthropic work doesn’t stop there. He has also spent a number of years supporting the Human Rights Campaign, Stand-Up To Cancer, and Broadway Cares. For his ongoing work as an advocate and leader, The Anthem Awards are proud to honor Jesse Tyler Ferguson. 

Patagonia – Don’t Buy This Jacket

Patagonia has put social impact at the core of their brand mission and values from the start, and their iconic Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign demonstrates how brands can use their platform to make an impact — or better yet, to help reduce our impact. This 2011 ad ran in the New York Times on Black Friday, making a lasting impression for its bold message addressing the issue of consumerism head on and asking readers to take the Common Threads Initiative pledge to reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

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NEWS & ANNONCEMENTS

Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels Movement

Love Has No Labels is a movement by The Ad Council to promote diversity, equity and inclusion of all people across race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and ability.

Read our Q&A with Heidi Arthur, the Ad Council’s Chief Campaign Development Officer on the team behind LHNL collaborates with partners to combat implicit bias—from crafting PSAs to driving viewers to take action, to how brands and companies should approach corporate social responsibility with authenticity.

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