Antwone Roberts is a photographer and a music producer.
…And that’s just in his free time. He’s also the full time Deputy Director of PR and Community Engagement at Liberty Hill, a public foundation fighting for social justice across LA County. Whether through Liberty Hill’s new Podcast; Conversations From the Frontlines Real Talk, Real Change with Shane Murphy Goldsmith, or at the largest social justice event in Los Angeles, the Upton Sinclair Homecoming Celebration, Antwone enjoys leveraging his creativity to inspire others to join the fight for social justice.
You might think that balancing all of those hats would be difficult, but for Antwone, pursuing his passions both in his personal life and in his career is crucial to living a fulfilling life. “I love my job, and I love photography, and I love music,” he explains. “I’ve been spending the past few years finding ways to further my career, without neglecting my creative interests.”
Building community is at the heart of all of Antwone’s pursuits and for more than 40 years, Liberty Hill Foundation has cultivated a progressive community in Los Angeles. They leverage the power of community organizers and donor activists to advance social justice across Los Angeles County, funding grassroots organizing that focuses on systemic change.
We sat down with him to learn more about his work at the intersection of communications, community engagement, philanthropy, and social justice. Keep reading for his story— and for tips on how you can make a bigger impact, no matter what your career looks like!
Connection and Community
“Growing up, I had a front row seat to injustice and inequality, and all the things that didn’t work in society,” explains Antwone, so he chose to focus his energy on ways to make a difference in his community. As a student, he volunteered at a local community garden where he engaged with residents, learned how to grow produce, and connected with local farmers markets. He also benefited from the support of grassroots organizations that provided mentorship and a safe haven. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I can see the role that all these different non-profits played on me when I was growing up.”
When it came time to choose a career, Antwone wasn’t sure which direction to go. With so many interests and skills, he took some time to determine which path would allow him to make the most impact. After shuffling through a few different majors, he ultimately chose business marketing and public service, in the hopes of becoming a lawyer.
The coursework helped expose Antwone to different best practices applied to marketing and non-profit work— it’s also what exposed him to the possibility of pursuing a career outside of law.
“During business school, in my small business practicum, where I consulted with different small businesses around the city, I learned that a lot of community organizations were struggling with their marketing,” he explains. So he worked to create social media campaigns to boost engagement and entice people to get involved in not-for-profit initiatives.
After graduating, Antwone decided to take a gap year with AmeriCorps. At the end of his program, he attended a networking event that connected him to his first job at the New York City mayor’s office as an assistant to the former New York City Chief Service Officer, Paula Gavin. Antwone embraced the new challenge and was quickly promoted to Communications and Marketing Manager. “That’s where I found my niche in terms of working with the intersection of communications and community engagement,” he explains. “It’s been an amazing opportunity to marry what I love doing creatively in terms of producing content and storytelling, but for the end goal of getting people civically engaged and inspired to join the fight for social justice.”
The Journey to Liberty Hill
After five years in New York City, Antwone was itching for a change of scenery, so he boxed his record collection, packed his bags and moved across the country to Los Angeles, where he supported himself as a freelance photographer. “I found myself busy with opportunities, but I didn’t feel as impactful as I wanted to be,” says Antwone. That’s why he started volunteering with various local organizations and expanding his network. One organization was Community Coalition, a Liberty Hill grantee founded by Congressmember Karen Bass, which led him to his first full-time job in LA as Deputy Communications Director for LA Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson.
Antwone’s run in social justice didn’t stop there. “The social justice landscape in Los Angeles is very small,” he explains. “A Power to Fly recruiter reached out. I I asked around my network and heard nothing but great things about Liberty Hill, so I took the opportunity to join the team.”
Now, three months in as the Deputy Director of Communications and PR, Antwone’s able to leverage his personal and professional interests for the greater good of his community. Although he’s new to the organization, he’s already started working with the team to make a bigger impact in LA County.
“This is the first time in my career that I am working with a full communications team, with systems, camaraderie and partnerships where we can support each other and not feel like we’re each working on an island,” he says. Currently, he and the communications team are focusing on highlighting stories from Liberty Hill’s grantee organizations and partners for the Upton Sinclair Homecoming Celebration. “Our work is really about making sure that every win really feels like a win, and that the people who are on the frontlines doing this work feel celebrated, because they so rarely are.”
One of the initiatives at Liberty Hill that Antwone enjoys working on includes transformative justice, focusing on prison reform and ending youth incarceration. Antwone strongly believes in the power of mentorship and highlighting Liberty Hill’s partnerships with Los Angeles-based sports teams and grassroots organizations to support boys and men of color. He’s also working closely with a coalition called Stand LA who, “after years of putting pressure on LA City Council, was able to get oil and gas drilling banned in residential areas– which mainly happen where Black and Latino residents live,” he explains. “So, we organized a press conference to commemorate it and let people know that there are people fighting for your health and well-being”
Making a bigger impact
Antwone loves working in social justice, but he’s also a big believer that you don’t have to have a non-profit career to make a positive impact in your community. “There are lots of ways to fight for social justice, if that’s important to you. Every organization needs volunteers and donations.” He also shared two tips to make the most of your career, no matter what role or industry you’re in:
Be intentional about your yes. “If you're becoming the type of person you want to be, people will always see the value that you bring, whether it's a job opportunity, a friendship, a relationship, or a professional networking situation,” explains Antwone. “But if you're intentional about the impact that you want to make, you have to be very selective about those relationships and opportunities. If it doesn't align with you and the person that you're trying to be, you really have to say no.”
Two out of three isn’t bad. It can be hard to weigh the pros and cons of each new opportunity, so Antwone suggests considering three things: “[When you consider an opportunity and you think about] learning new things, making more money, or gaining new experiences, if you can get two out of three, that’s probably a good opportunity.”