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American Mosaic Journalism Prize Awarded to Carvell Wallace and Cerise Castle

Carvell Wallace and Cerise Castle look at camera.

The Heising-Simons Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 American Mosaic Journalism Prize: Carvell Wallace and Cerise Castle.

The American Mosaic Journalism Prize consists of an unrestricted cash prize of $100,000 per recipient—making it one of the largest dollar amounts given for a journalism prize in the United States—and is awarded to freelance journalists for excellence in long-form, narrative, or deep reporting about underrepresented and/or misrepresented groups in the American landscape.

The prize is a complete surprise to its recipients. It is based on confidential nominations invited from more than 150 leaders in journalism throughout the country. A panel of 10 judges—including journalists from NBC News, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post, among others—selected this year’s recipients.

Carvell Wallace is a writer and podcaster based in Oakland, California. As a magazine contributor, he has written profiles in GQ, Esquire, Glamour, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.

Throughout his career, Wallace has explored complex and difficult topics and writes about them with empathy and compassion. The prize judges reviewed pieces such as “What if my mother had an abortion: Who might she have been?” in which he questions the trajectory of his mother’s life and how it may have been less tragic had she not given birth as a teenager, and, “Justin Williams can see the future,” written about one of the nation’s few Black bike racers, which takes an in-depth look at a man who is challenging the lack of cultural, economic and racial diversity in the sport of cycling.

Before beginning his writing and freelance reporting career, Wallace spent 15 years in the nonprofit sector doing direct case management and program design for incarcerated and foster care youth. He is currently working on a memoir, Another Word For Love, on childhood trauma and recovery, and co-creating a podcast with Resham Mantri about intimacy and liberation called “Everyone Is Dying: a Podcast about Love.”

Cerise Castle is a freelance journalist currently based in Los Angeles, California. In the wake of the George Floyd protests of 2020 and after more than six months of investigative research, Castle wrote “A Tradition of Violence,” the first history of deputy gangs inside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the largest local law enforcement agency in the United States.

The investigation was published as a 15-part reporting series for Knock LA exposing 18 gangs, 19 documented murders—all of whom were people of color—and over $100 million dollars in lawsuits paid for by the people of Los Angeles. Castle continued to report on this topic late in 2021 and well into 2022, with pieces that were reviewed by the prize judges such as “KKK-Themed Deputy Gang Allegedly Led By Violent LASD Deputy” and “Deputy Angel Reinosa Says He Attempted to Whistleblow Before He Was Fired.”

Castle’s work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Los Angeles Times, and MTV, among other outlets. She has produced podcast series for Audible, iHeartMedia, and Wondery, as well as segments for VICE News, NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “Marketplace.”

“Journalism, at its best, tells stories that linger, that simmer, that gently or forcefully pose questions we feel compelled to answer,” said Foundation Board Chair Liz Simons. “Our American Mosaic Journalism Prize winners do this and lift the curtain on communities of people who have been misrepresented, under-represented, and all too often, marginalized and oppressed. By connecting us via our common humanity, these journalists make it impossible for us to turn away.”

Wallace and Castle join a distinguished group of past American Mosaic Journalism Prize recipients, alongside past winners Jaeah Lee, Valeria Fernández, Abe Streep, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Rebecca Nagle, Darcy Courteau, David Dennis Jr., Michelle García, Ryan Christopher Jones, and Julian Brave NoiseCat.

The Foundation launched the American Mosaic Journalism Prize in 2018 as part of its work supporting journalism as an essential arm of U.S. democracy. It is part of a portfolio of journalism grants supporting and elevating underrepresented voices, groups, and content in journalism, which includes support of TransLashFuturo MediaJournal-isms, The 19thOur Body Politic, and the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, among others.

We invite you to visit the prize’s webpage to learn more about Carvell Wallace and Cerise Castle and to explore their outstanding journalism.

2023 Judges

Katherine Boo

Author and The New Yorker Magazine Editor

Graham Lee Brewer

Investigative Reporter,
NBC News

Farai Chideya

Journalist/ Host,
Our Body Politic

Stephanie Foo

Author and Freelance Journalist

Antonia Hylton

NBC News and MSNBC

Tracy Jan

Deputy Health and Science Editor,
Washington Post

Jaweed Kaleem

Foreign Correspondent,
Los Angeles Times

Wesley Lowery

Journalist, Author, Correspondent

Perla Trevizo

Reporter, ProPublica — Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative

Daniella Zalcman

Documentary Photographer and Founder of Women Photograph 

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