The David Prize
Photograph of of Talia Scott who is diversifying the legal field by providing money, mentors, and resources to high potential Black women applying to law school Photograph with a yellow overlay of Talia Scott who is diversifying the legal field by providing money, mentors, and resources to high potential Black women applying to law school
Talia Scott
HARLEM, MANHATTAN

Photograph of of Christine DeMaria who is building pathways and support for sex workers to choose their future Photograph with a yellow overlay of Christine DeMaria who is building pathways and support for sex workers to choose their future
Christine DeMaria
UPPER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN

Photograph with a yellow overlay of Sam Rivera who is welcoming people who use drugs into compassionate care Photograph with a yellow overlay of Sam Rivera who is welcoming people who use drugs into compassionate care
Sam Rivera
HARLEM, MANHATTAN

Photograph of of Karen Blondel who is advocating for the 1 in 15 New Yorkers who live in New York City Public Housing Photograph with a yellow overlay of Karen Blondel who is advocating for the 1 in 15 New Yorkers who live in New York City Public Housing
Karen Blondel
RED HOOK, BROOKLYN

Photograph with a yellow overlay of Erika Sasson who is proving that even the most difficult of crimes — homicide — can be treated with care, healing, and using restorative justice
Erika Sasson
KENSINGTON, BROOKLYN

2022
Black and white image of of David Shalleck-Klein who is protecting New York families from unnecessary and harmful separation Photograph with a blue overlay of David Shalleck-Klein who is protecting New York families from unnecessary and harmful separation
Black and white image of Dianna Rose who is creating a healthy and sustainable food ecosystem in Southeast Queens. Image with a blue overlay of Dianna Rose who is creating a healthy and sustainable food ecosystem in Southeast Queens.
Black and white image of Geneva White who is building a more inclusive and equitable creative economy in NYC Photograph with a blue overlay of Geneva White who is building a more inclusive and equitable creative economy in NYC
Black and white image of of Jason Gibson who is teaching free coding classes to NYCHA’s youngest learners. Photograph with a blue overlay of Jason Gibson who is teaching free coding classes to NYCHA’s youngest learners.
Black and white image of Mark Winston Griffith who is redefining and re-voicing New York City's public narratives. Photograph with a blue overlay of Mark Winston Griffith who is redefining and re-voicing New York City's public narratives.
2021
2020
PROTECTING
NEW YORK FAMILIES
FROM UNNECESSARY
AND HARMFUL
SEPARATION
David Shalleck-Klein
UPPER WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN
Black and white image of of David Shalleck-Klein who is protecting New York families from unnecessary and harmful separation
David launched the Family Justice Law Center (FJLC) to defend the rights of underrepresented New Yorkers.
FJLC, currently a part of the Urban Justice Center's Social Justice Accelerator program, will litigate for families unfairly separated and those caught up in the tangled web of the Administration for Children's Services (known as ACS). David’s organization – backed by his community advisory board – will not only change the devastating systems that hurt families, but also shed light on entrenched injustices.
David was inspired by his work with the Bronx Defenders.
As a public defender, David witnessed harmful and unnecessary removals in the middle of the night, rampant delays in removal hearings, invasive searches of families’ homes and strip-searches of children and many more injustices. Now, he’s ready to hold government officials accountable.
Image of David at work
Family separation happens not just at the US-Mexico border.
It regularly occurs within New York’s five boroughs, with disproportionate impacts on poor communities of color. Unnecessary family separation and surveillance is one of the most important – yet underfunded, underreported and misunderstood – civil rights issues of our time.
Image that reads: In NYC, 73,000 children are subjected to investigations each year. 87% are Black or Latiné. Source: David A. Hansell, “Oversight—Racial Disparities in the Child Welfare System” (2020)
Child welfare issues disproportionately impact poor communities of color.
Over 92% of children in foster care in NYC are Black or Latinx, and families below the poverty line are 22 times more likely to be swept into the child welfare system than families with even slightly higher incomes.
Image of David at work walking on the phone" alt="image"/>
Fjlc.org
Learn more and support David's work.
CREATING A HEALTHY
AND SUSTAINABLE
FOOD ECOSYSTEM
IN SOUTHEAST QUEENS
Dianna Rose
SOUTHEAST, QUEENS
Black and white image of Dianna Rose who is creating a healthy and sustainable food ecosystem in Southeast Queens.
Deeply rooted in her Southeast Queens community, Dianna wants to ensure access to healthy living.
Over the past 15 years, Dianna has launched multiple initiatives to reconnect people to the planet – from an MWBE-certified zero-waste catering company, to an online platform for sustainability content, to the first community farmers’ market and commercial kitchen in the Southeast Queens neighborhood.
Dianna’s farmers’ market and community kitchen are driving economic success for local food entrepreneurs in Southeast Queens.
Sovereign Markets launched during the height of the 2020 Pandemic at the Laurelton Long Island Railroad Station, supporting local food businesses and artisans. But while some concessionaires were able to scale to brick-and-mortar stores, others struggled, and Dianna knew there was more to be done.
"YOU ARE INVESTING NOT ONLY IN THAT PERSON’S BUSINESS, YOU’RE REALLY INVESTING IN YOUR ENTIRE COMMUNITY."
A map showing the density of commercial kitchens in Long Island City queens, and the lack of community kitchens where Dianna's is in Southeast Queens.
In 2021 Dianna opened Essential Kitchen Co. to help bring more entrepreneurs to successful scale.
Essential Kitchen is a first-of-its-kind commercial kitchen, filling an infrastructure gap in an historically disinvested community. Dianna is on a mission to establish Southeast Queens as a food oasis and high-end concessionaire market by helping businesses register as WMBE, buy supplies collectively, and win local JFK airport contracts.
Image of Dianna Rose in her Commercial Kitchen
"The community kitchen is a big deal. I used to have to drive an hour to do my business, now I can drive 5 miles away."
avatar
Celeste Sassine
Owner, Sassy Sweet Vegan Treats
Essentialkitchen.co
Learn more and support Dianna’s work.
BUILDING A MORE
INCLUSIVE AND
EQUITABLE CREATIVE
ECONOMY IN NYC
Geneva White
BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN
Black and white image of Geneva White who is building a more inclusive and equitable creative economy in NYC
In 2021, the NYC Department of Education cut its citywide budget for middle and high school arts education by ~70% to just $6M.
Arts education for young people in public schools, particularly those in districts serving mainly Black, Indigenous, and other students of color, is severely underfunded.
NYC's young people of color deserve the opportunity to thrive in the creative sector.
With over a decade of experience supporting NYC's young people of color through institutional higher arts education and the non-profit sector, Geneva understands the need for new career pathways for the city's culture creators - young BIPOC creatives.
"SCOPE OF WORK AIMS TO FUNDAMENTALLY SHIFT THE LANDSCAPE OF NYC’S CREATIVE SECTOR."
Scope Of Work (SOW) is a talent development agency for young BIPOC creatives.
Geneva and Co-Founder Eda Levenson launched SOW in 2016. Since its inception, SOW has worked with more than 300 young creatives from all five boroughs, helping them build portfolios and skills – and land jobs in the industry. SOW helps young people earn and get credit for the culture they make.
EXAMPLES OF SOW MEMBERS’ WORK PHOTOGRAPHING EACHOTHER
Using a three-track ecosystem model, SOW is making big waves within the creative industry.
SOW has worked with creative companies across NYC, placing BIPOC creatives in paid freelance, part-time and full-time positions and driving nearly $1 million in income since its inception.
image that reads: SOW's ecosystem aims to build a more inclusive creative sector. Then shows the three pathways of SOW, Talent development, talent pipeline and talent agency." alt="image"/>
Scopeofwork.co
Learn more and support Geneva’s work.
TEACHING FREE
CODING CLASSES
TO NYCHA’S
YOUNGEST LEARNERS
Jason Gibson
LONG ISLAND CITY, QUEENS
Black and white image of of Jason Gibson who is teaching free coding classes to NYCHA’s youngest learners.
Jason is a native New Yorker who grew up in the Queensbridge Houses
He believes children deserve every chance to succeed, regardless of zip code and background, because when he was coming up, both were strikes against him. Now, as the father of a teenager growing in the same neighborhood, Jason is motivated to broaden the range of opportunities available – and the kinds of people who get access.
Black and white image of of Jason Gibson in front of Queensbridge Houses.
Image that reads: There are more than 302 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) neighborhoods home to 600,000 residents, 26% of whom are under 18
Nearly a third of New York City households lack broadband access. Most are located in high poverty neighborhoods.
Throughout New York City, a digital divide disproportionately affects poor New Yorkers, older adults, and communities of color, who have the lowest adoption rates of digital tools
"ALL OF THE ‘SUCCESSFUL’ PEOPLE I KNEW GROWING UP WERE CRIMINALS, DRUG DEALERS AND STICK-UP KIDS."
As a young adult, Jason was involved in the drug trade; he got arrested and served five years in prison.
Upon release, he found a new north star: serving his community and creating sustainable pathways to economic stability.
Jason started Hood Code to empower youth living in NYCHA housing via coding education.
Since launching the program in 2019, Hood Code has grown to offer multiple courses – one-day workshops, 13-week courses, and summer camps, all free of charge. The goal? To provide NYCHA youth with the skills needed to access opportunities in the 21st century economy.
"These are the jobs of the future, and Hood Code gives our kids access where there is very little."
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Danielle S.
Parent of a Hood Code Student
REDEFINING
AND REVOICING
NEW YORK CITY'S
PUBLIC NARRATIVES
Mark Winston Griffith
CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN
Black and white image of Mark Winston Griffith who is redefining and re-voicing New York City's public narratives.
Mark is a serial community-builder in Central Brooklyn.
He’s been organizing Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights residents since the ‘80s, built a community credit union for low-income residents in the ‘90s, and ran for City Council in 2009. In 2011, Mark co-founded the Brooklyn Movement Center, a Black-led community organizing group where he, until recently, served as E.D. He co-produced the award-winning documentary podcast, School Colors, and is re-imagining citizen story-telling through the journalism platform, Brooklyn Deep.
Brooklyn Deep is a digital journalism platform with a stake in the future of New Yorkers.
Long-term residents tell stories and publish investigative news, analysis, and data that chronicle neighborhood change and bring transparency to the exercise of institutional power.
Mark dedicates himself to creating high-quality, deeply reported journalism by and about communities often overlooked by other newsrooms.
In 2023, Mark will join the staff of The City news agency where he will incubate and expand his vision of long-form citizen journalism for New Yorkers who care about their communities and our collective future.
A graphic showing the lack of racial diversity at The New York Times, where 76% of the leadership is white and 65% of the staff overall is white versus 32% and 21% people of color, respectively.
Brooklyn Deep has already made news.
The second season of Brooklyn Deep’s podcast, School Colors, was picked up by NPR and premiered on Code Switch. School Colors follows generations of parents and educators fighting for self-determination while navigating issues of race, class and community change. The first season focuses on a school district in Central Brooklyn and the second season is set in Queens.
A screenshot of Brooklyn Deep's Podcast, School Colors
Black and white image of Mark Winston Griffith walking on a Brooklyn rooftop" alt="image"/>
Brooklyndeep.org
Learn more and support Mark’s work.
FIGHTING FOR
IMMIGRANTS IN
THE ARMED FORCES
AND THEIR RIGHT TO
STAY IN THE U.S.
Cesar Vargas
DISRUPTOR, STATEN ISLAND
Cesar dreamed of serving the country he called home -- the United States.
Cesar and his siblings grew up in NYC undocumented after crossing the Mexico-US border when Cesar was five. From becoming New York’s first undocumented attorney, to enlisting in the U.S. Army, to joining the Reserves and finally becoming a citizen, Cesar’s unique 30-year journey has created a patriot, a thought leader, and a fearless advocate.
"THE COUNTRY I FOUGHT SO HARD TO SERVE IN UNIFORM IS STILL LEAVING MANY - INCLUDING MY OWN FAMILY - IN THE SHADOWS."
The U.S. has more than half a million non-citizen veterans. There are 45,000 immigrants in active service; five thousand enlist each year.
Advocates estimate that hundreds of veterans from New York City and across the country are deported each year -- the true number is obscured by immigration authorities’ records. Immigrants are promised expedited citizenship when they enlist, but the reality is quite different. Long, complicated processes make it hard for members to gain citizenship, and too many soldiers live in fear of being deported.
Cesar is building a new network of support for immigrant veterans.
Backed by a coalition of lawyers, non-profit organizations, academic institutions, and representatives of local and state government, Cesar empowers immigrants-in-uniform to navigate two complicated systems: immigration and military law.
"Cesar isn’t afraid to swim against the tide. He has assisted 15 soldiers’ citizenship processes, aiding each of us."
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Sergeant Tiago Rocha
US Army Reserve
SPARKING ACADEMIC
EXCELLENCE AND
POSITIVE SELF-ESTEEM
AMONG NYC'S YOUNGEST
LEARNERS
Fela Barclift
JEGNA, BROOKLYN
Fela needed a preschool that combined academic excellence with a nurturing environment specially tailored to Black and Brown children -- so she created one.
Growing up in Bed-Stuy, Fela and her siblings were bussed to “better schools” outside the neighborhood where the hard truths of educational inequity -- mistrustful teachers, disproportionate punishments, social isolation -- battered their self esteem. When she became a mother, Fela wanted more for her children’s early education.
Little Sun People has shaped generations of New Yorkers. Over 40 years it’s become part of Bed- Stuy’s DNA -- an enduring investment in children.
Fela’s unique, Afrocentric preschool is founded on a groundbreaking culturally responsive curriculum that centers Black heroes and incorporates themes from grassroots organizing and social justice. Families and students are seen and celebrated, beginning their educational journey in an community of joyful learners.
As of September 2022, LSP will shape generations of New Yorkers past, present and future in an amazing new space outfitted in the image of LSPs groundbreaking Afrocentric culturally responsive curriculum.
Fela has spent the last 12 months not only codifying LSPs curriculum for future reach, but embarking on a tremendous project in partnership with LSPs Board of Directors to secure a new space for Brooklyn's beloved preschool.
Black and white image of Fela Barclift talking in front of a classroom with a mask on
In all that has come to celebrate Mama Fela and her life's work she still finds herself engrossed in the day to day needs of LSP.
This includes replenishing enrollment with its increase in available seats and working to reopen LSPs signature afterschool program for grades K-3 after its closure in 2020, an unfortunate casualty of the pandemic. Lofty goals, but all very possible! As Mama Fela sets her eyes on retirement in 2024, LSP sets its sights on the next dynamic leader to carry LSP into its very bright future!
littlesunpeople.com
Learn more and support Fela's work.
ENSIVIONING A
CHILDCARE SYSTEM
WHERE PROVIDERS,
FAMILIES, AND
CHILDREN CAN THRIVE
Jaime-Jin Lewis
INNOVATOR, BROOKLYN
Our city relies on 7,000+ family childcare providers to nurture and teach the youngest New Yorkers.
Small childcare centers provide a lifeline to families working low-wage jobs and long or inconsistent hours. 93% of these businesses, which are usually in-home and serve fewer than 16 children, are owned by Black, Latinx and Asian women working an average of 57 hours a week to keep kids safe and busy. These providers provide a safety net, but lack of one of their own.
Jaime-Jin founded Wiggle Room, a technology company that connects parents, caregivers, and employers.
Wiggle Room brings family childcare centers onto a central marketplace platform, streamlines their business operations, and connects them with new clients. Parents can search and schedule based on voucher status, language, affordability, and location preferences.
Jaime-Jin is inspired by her mom, a legendary educator known as “Miss Donna,” and all the early childhood caregivers who help raise the next generation.
She started out in the restaurant industry, watching colleagues with families struggle to make ends meet. Today Jaime-Jin is building Wiggle Room, drawing on her background in urban planning and leadership of The Center for Racial Justice in Education to create an accessible system that respects both working families and owner / providers.
"I don’t know anyone who hustles harder for marginalized communities, to make sure others have what they need." "
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Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs
Founding Organizer of Women's March
wiggleroomnow.com
Learn more and support Jaime-Jin's work.
CREATING ESSENTIAL
COMMUNITY FOR
JUSTICE-IMPACTED
YOUTH SERVING
SUPERVISION SENTENCES
Five Mualimm-ak
ORGANIZER, THE BRONX
Mr. Five knows the criminal justice system.
Five spent 12 years incarcerated, sometimes landing in solitary as punishment for having too many postage stamps or a pencil (it’s hard to be an artist when drawing tools get classed as weapons). Since returning home, he has devoted himself to helping justice-involved youth avoid and recover from system involvement, tirelessly advocating and building innovative pathways for kids.
The Youth Anti-Prison Project (YAPP) is an effort to bridge the service gap for young people with long community supervision sentences.
Five has created safe space in YAPP’s two Bronx homes, offering housing, scholarships, and mentor-assisted support to youth returning home. YAPP works directly with probation & parole officers by bringing them onsite to build trust and compliance.
"NO YOUNG ADULT SHOULD HAVE TO SURVIVE ALONE IN NEW YORK CITY."
"Five is a person who fights for us to have a better tomorrow. He is our voice and his encouraging words are backed by his actions."
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Mike "Mikey" Cole
Founder of Mikey Likes It Ice Cream
incarceratednationnetwork.org
Learn more and support Five's work.
INSPIRING FOSTER
CARE ALUMNI TO
SUPPORT YOUNG
PEOPLE "AGING OUT"
Felicia Wilson
MENTOR, BROOKLYN
Felicia is a lifelong New Yorker and an extraordinary graduate of the foster care system.
After living in 63 different foster homes over 17 years, Felicia has seen the underbelly of NYC child protection. She got to college, despite little support, and since aging out has completed her Bachelors and Masters, and is pursuing a doctorate. Felicia has a fierce vision for what foster youth truly need to reach independence and a powerful plan to achieve it by enlisting foster care alums.
1,000+ young people age out of the NYC foster care system every year.
Young people who ‘age out’ are 19-21 and leaving the system to independence (neither returning home nor adopted). Foster Care agencies struggle to help youth navigate this transition -- only a lucky few get a housing voucher or much beyond a Metrocard.
In 2021, Felicia developed a new model for supporting young people aging out.
What About Us is a roadmap for the essential skills and resources a young person needs to leave care and thrive, including housing and education, employment and financial literacy. Felicia’s secret weapon is the team of foster alumni she’s enlisted to deliver the program -- supporting kids by keeping it real.
Since winning the David Prize, Felicia has hosted an extensive amount of parent development training for child welfare agencies to assist, guide and educate foster parents in New York City’s five boroughs.
Felicia has also provided guidance to the Center for Fair Futures as a consultant and in the process of revamping her work around alumni to serve mother babies and expectant mothers, a key new focus in her work.
Felicia is now in the process of creating a well thought out resource development plan for a child welfare organization in Buffalo, New York.
This resource will assist foster care alumni of color from the ages of 16-35 navigate foster care to create the success and stability they desire.
wauinc.org
Learn more and support Felicia's work.
REUSING NEW YORK
CITY'S ORGANIC WASTE
AND MAKING IT COOL
TO COMPOST
Domingo Morales
COMPOST GURU, BROOKLYN
Domingo was born in the Bronx and has lived in all five boroughs.
Shaped by his upbringing in public housing, Domingo’s obsession with composting and sustainability began with his enrollment in Green City Force, a non-profit that offers environmental programming to NYCHA residents. He came to see compositing as a path to community-building and neighborhood empowerment.
"RECYCLYING WASN'T AN OPTION WHEN I WAS A KID -- NEW YORK CITY'S PUBLIC HOUSING AUTHORITY IS DESIGNED TO BE WASTEFUL."
One third of New York City's trash is compostable. Source: The City of New York
Domingo went from composter and educator to leading the largest human-powered compost site in America.
Following in mentor David Buckel's footsteps, Domingo became a Master Composter at Red Hook Farms. He organized more than 15,000 volunteers, doubled compost production to 200 tons per year, and became known for his expertise nationwide.
"Among our 500+ graduates at Green City Force, Domingo is not just a standout but a legend."
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Lisbeth Shepherd
Co-founder and Strategic Advisor, Green City Force
Since 2020, Domingo has made moves!
Over the past two years, Domingo designed and constructed 10 compost sites in NYC, is currently managing 6 community compost operations in NYC, and has supported 17 community compost sites with technical expertise and site improvements. He also serves Green City Force and NYCHA as a compost expert, helping NYCHA plan and implement innovative waste diversion solutions. He's also been featured in the New York Times, TIME, PBS, and many other news outlets.
compostpowernyc.org
Learn more and support Domingo’s work.
WELCOMING NEW
LGBTQ+ IMMIGRANTS
TO NEW YORK THROUGH
STORYTELLING, COMMUNITY
AND HUMAN CONNECTION.
Edafe Okporo
ACTIVIST, MANHATTAN
Edafe migrated to the United States in 2016 after facing persecution for being gay in Nigeria.
Through connections to activists and friends, Edafe eventually secured a bed and job. 6 years later, Edafe is a global gay rights and immigration activist. Seeing the need to support other LGBTQ+ refugees arriving in New York City, Edafe committed himself to advocating and creating solutions for other vulnerable newcomers.
"I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Edafe is one of the most gifted young leaders I’ve been lucky enough to meet."
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Kevin Jennings
CEO, Lambda Legal
There are more than 40,000 refugees in New York City.
Those applying for political asylum -- especially individuals who fear violence or death in their home countries -- find few resources to help them integrate into New York City while awaiting immigration decisions, and even fewer for LGBTQ refugees.
The first asylum case granted in the United States on the basis of persecution due to sexual orientation was not until 1994.
Edafe founded Refuge America.
Edafe is a leading voice on the issue of displacement, supporting people through transition and rebuilding their lives. Refuge America has a vision of strengthening America as a place of welcome for displaced LGBTQ people. It offers culturally competent services and training to displaced people to share their stories, advocate and build human centered connections.
"When we are born we are given a name, a gender, and a religion, and we spend the rest of our lives fighting for something and living in something we never choose. As gay people, we have the gift to build our own choice of family"
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Shadi Ismail
Syrian refugee
refugeamerica.org / edafeokporo.com
Learn more and support Edafe's work.
REDEFINING COLLEGE
ACCESS AND GUIDANCE
FOR ALL YOUNG NEW
YORKERS
Cielo Villa
ENTREPRENEUR, QUEENS
Cielo's life in New York City started as an undocumented new immigrant from Peru.
She was laser-focused on getting to college and building a life in the USA from there. A top student, she leveraged leadership academies, resources and mentorships to figure out the college application process. Cielo saw there was also plenty of luck involved...and she questioned why luck was needed just to get to the next step in education.
200 TO 1 There are 200+ students for every one guidance counselor in New York City.
"LACK OF INFORMATION IS A BARRIER TO HIGHER EDUCATION. IT SHOULDN'T HAVE TO BE THIS HARD TO SUCCEED."
Enter Road to Uni, a unique online platform that provides the critical resources and support students need to apply to and successfully access college.
Inspired by her own road to Wellesley College, Cielo is building a non-profit edtech platform that provides around-the-clock information, resources, and guidance to NYC students with college access questions. Aiming to aid and collaborate with overworked high school guidance counselors, Road to Uni will streamline key information and provide project management support that helps students complete one task at a time, until they finish the biggest project of their high school career: applying to college.
"Road to Uni creates leaders like nothing I’ve seen before — leaders with the experience to effectuate real change."
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Kyle Lambert
Student, Stanford University, Class of 2024
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roadtouni.org
Learn more and support Cielo's work.
INTEGRATING BEST-IN-
CLASS HEALTHCARE IN
TRUSTED COMMUNITY-
BASED ORGANIZATIONS
Dr. Suzette Brown
DOCTOR, QUEENS
Suzette became a pediatrician, inspired by her mom's commitment to their community.
Born to Jamaican immigrants, Suzette was raised in Brooklyn. Her mom founded a preschool that educated thousands of Black and Brown children. She and her twin sister, Nicole, both became pediatricians to continue their parents’ legacy.
Suzette founded Strong Children Wellness alongside two co-founders, Dr. Nicole Brown and Dr. Omolara Uwemedimo.
Strong Children Wellness embeds socially responsive health care within trusted community-based organizations. Suzette is not only offering a new kind of support to families in NYC, but also aims to pilot an innovative value-based payment system.
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Strong Children Wellness is growing and evolving.
Since 2020, Strong Children Wellness has built three brick and mortar sites and developed partnerships with organizations to provide holistic and tailored care for complex patients. Through the pandemic, SCW figured out telehealth services, which now make up a significant portion of their care for the families they serve.
"Suzette could be doing anything, but she chooses to focus on the most vulnerable children. "
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Bunny Ellerin
President, NYC Health Business Leaders
" alt="image"/>
strongchildrenwellness.com
Learn more and support Suzette's work.
MAKING NEW YORK CITY
A BETTER PLACE
FOR ALL IMMIGRANTS
Manuel Castro
COMMISSIONER OF THE NYC MAYOR'S OFFICE OF IMMIGRANT AFFAIRS, QUEENS
Manuel crossed the Mexican-US border when he was five years old.
As part of an undocumented family, Manuel grew up in fear of deportation, despite only knowing New York City as his home. Manuel advocated for immigrants like himself, now known as DREAMers, and became a key player in the movement.
Manuel served as the Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)
NICE dispersed nearly $4 million dollars in direct cash assistance, distributed tens of thousands of pounds of food to immigrant families in need, and helped thousands of immigrant workers apply for the state's Excluded Worker Fund (EWF). When he applied for the prize, he was focused on creating a cooperative job center with and for day laborers.
In 2022, Manny’s career shifted when he was appointed as Commissioner of the NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) under Eric Adams).
He is responsible for running a City agency dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of the country’s largest immigrant population, supporting over 3.2M immigrant New Yorkers.
"You will not make a better investment in the future of NYC than Manny Castro."
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Robert Courtney Smith
Professor, CUNY
Throughout his career, Manny has strongly advocated for immigrant New Yorkers.
In his current role, Manny is working directly with asylum seekers from Texas sent to New York City giving essentials, food, housing and resources for affected families.
" alt="image"/>
twitter.com/mcastroaction
Learn more and support Manny's work.
PROVIDING RESOURCES
TO ASPIRING
FEMALE BLACK
ATTORNEYS
Talia Scott
HARLEM, MANHATTAN
Photograph of of Talia Scott who is diversifying the legal field by providing money, mentors, and resources to high potential Black women applying to law school
Talia is a New York native hailing from Harlem.
As the child of a once undocumented immigrant, she grew up with an intimate understanding of how the law could impact one’s life, especially for women, minorities and immigrants and saw the law as a way for her to be an advocate and change agent. Talia credits her experience as a driving force throughout her education. She was a Questbridge Scholar and graduated from Haverford College. She later returned to New York City to work as a corporate paralegal and is now pursuing a joint degree in law and business at New York University School of Law and Stern School of Business.
Legally BLK Fund addresses common barriers that disproportionately affect Black women in their journey to law school.
When Talia applied to law school, she was struck by how expensive and exclusive the law school admissions process was. She quickly realized that she needed mentors, test tutors, money and the right know-how about law school and the application process. This formed the basis of Legally BLK Fund, a non-profit started with an Instagram post, that aims to diversify the legal field and increase the representation of Black women in law.
One in four lawyers live in just two states – New York and California (ABA survey finds 1.3M lawyers in the U.S. by American Bar Association, June 20, 2022) and only 2% of all lawyers are Black women
To date, Talia’s organization has provided over $40K in funding.
Supporting Legally BLK Fund Scholars to cover law school application fees, LSAT fees, access to consulting services and mentors, and a roadmap of the application process for over 36 women applying to law school since 2020.
Talia wants to improve laws by changing who gets to uphold it.
Outside of the funding she’s already provided, Legally BLK Fund’s long term goal is to ensure Black women are in more positions to shape how the law is set, interpreted and applied in NYC and beyond.
"Legally BLK fund will become successful because [Talia] is the one stewarding it."
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Danielle Logan, Esq.
Legal Counsel, Spotify
Legallyblkfund.org
Learn more and support Talia’s work.
BUILDING PATHWAYS
AND SUPPORT FOR
SEX WORKERS TO
CHOOSE THEIR FUTURE
Christine DeMaria
UPPER EAST SIDE, MANHATTAN
Photograph of of Christine DeMaria who is building pathways and support for sex workers to choose their future
Christine is a second-year law student at New York Law School, a survivor of childhood human trafficking, and a former stripper.
Christine has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. She opened and led mixed martial arts schools, toured the US as a comedian, published a book, headlined strip clubs as the feature dancer, and most recently, became a law student to learn about the legal systems that impact sex workers.
Christine is launching a non-profit organization called SWITCH (Sex Workers In Transition Compassion Home) to provide education, career development, and legal representation for sex workers.
Informed by her own experience in the industry, Christine intimately understands the challenges sex workers face from legal representation, education gaps, physical and mental health, and financial literacy. At SWITCH, Christine plans to provide holistic and respectful support for sex workers to exit the profession if they want to.
"Christine has challenged powerful people to seek justice on behalf of women in need."
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Professor Kris Franklin, Esq.
New York Law School
In an industry that puts a price on people, Christine envisions a New York where people can instead be priceless.
Long term, Christine’s goal is to provide quality legal representation for sex workers, lobby to change and strengthen laws that impact sex workers - including immigration, criminal, financial, tax, and employment law - and seed a union for sex workers to collectively advocate for their rights.
"As a lawyer, I'll to be able to position myself in front of the people that change laws and educate law enforcement about their shortcomings in protecting this population."
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Switchcares.org
Learn more and support Christine’s work.
WELCOMING PEOPLE
WHO USE DRUGS INTO
COMPASSIONATE CARE
Sam Rivera
HARLEM, MANHATTAN
Photograph with a yellow overlay of Sam Rivera who is welcoming people who use drugs into compassionate care
Sam has dedicated his life to helping people reduce self harm.
Inspired by his upbringing on the Lower East Side during the height of the crack epidemic and his mom’s work as a nurse, Sam learned what it meant to care for others: relentlessly and radically loving on others until they are ready to love on themselves. After leading HIV/AIDS programming at the Fortune Society, Sam joined OnPoint NYC, a small Harlem-based non-profit focused on harm reduction, as their Executive Director in 2020.
Sam led the launch of the first publicly recognized overdose prevention center (OPC) in the United States.
OPCs, also known as safe consumption sites, are spaces where individuals can use previously obtained drugs under the supervision of trained personnel while also accessing other harm reduction services and connections to other stabilizing resources. While OnPoint NYC has been providing harm reduction since 1992, their OPC opening in 2021 was a radical and critical addition to the organization, city and country.
With the worsening overdose crisis in New York City and beyond, Sam’s vision to expand safe and loving spaces for people who use drugs has never been more important.
Sam and his team developed a model of care that integrates the OPC with holistic harm reduction services, ensuring that people stay alive as they pursue wellness on their own terms.
The OPC offers a welcoming space free of barriers or judgment.
With hot meals, showers, bathrooms, and laundry service, and provide holistic services like acupuncture, acupressure, sound therapy, and more. They also connect people to social services and housing, support individuals in their recovery, and collect and analyze data to inform public health approaches. Sam plans to expand this model across the five boroughs and beyond, and support its growth through harm reduction, research, and policy sectors.
"[Sam] embodies the essential virtues of New York: second chances, resilience, charm, humor, and inspiration."
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Adam Gopnik
American writer and essayist
Onpointnyc.org
Learn more and support Sam’s work.
ADVOCATING FOR
THE 1 IN 15 NEW YORKERS
WHO LIVE IN NYCHA
Karen Blondel
RED HOOK, BROOKLYN
Photograph of of Karen Blondel who is advocating for the 1 in 15 New Yorkers who live in New York City Public Housing
A native New Yorker from Coney Island, Karen moved into NYCHA’s Red Hook Houses after becoming a young mom.
Four decades later, Karen continues to call the same Houses home. She has become active in Red Hook’s community over the years. Inspired by the community and its potential, Karen started to pick up skills - like trades, climate justice, local organizing - that helped her better understand the neighborhood and the buildings she saw slowly fall apart. Now, as the president of Red Hook West and an appointee to the Public Housing Preservation Trust Board, Karen is proposing innovative approaches to enhance New York's public housing for all residents.
NYCHA is at a critical inflection point.
NYCHA faces a $40B funding gap to repair buildings into safe and just homes for the New Yorkers that call them home. Deferred and neglected maintenance and repairs continue to exacerbate the situation for residents, causing health and safety worries for Karen and her neighbors across NYCHA. To determine how to fund repairs, NYCHA is engaging its residents in a development-by-development vote. This presents a unique opportunity: residents have a seat at the table.
Karen wants to take advantage of this unique opportunity by engaging residents deeply and honestly through a new initiative called the Public Housing Civic Association (PHCA).
PCHA aims to advance resident decision-making, provide accountability, and ensure access to resources and education about key issues within NYCHA and how they can be resolved. With 340,000 New Yorkers living in NYCHA, ensuring every household has accurate information is a challenge. Karen wants to debunk myths about NYCHA buildings and breakdown the reality of options on which residents will vote.
Image of Karen with other organizers in Red Hook
Karen has a superpower to bring together different stakeholders that impact NYCHA communities.
She tours and educates groups ranging from academics, community leaders, policymakers, architects, and engineers with the goal of centering residents' voices and needs. Through PHCA, Karen will leverage her organizing to provide resources, education, and accountability for NYCHA's improvements.
Karenblondel.carrd.co
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PROVING THAT EVEN
THE MOST DIFFICULT
OF CRIMES CAN
BE TREATED WITH CARE
Erika Sasson
KENSINGTON, BROOKLYN
Restorative justice (RJ) is a framework for justice centered around repairing harm.
It facilitates communication between those affected by a crime and those responsible, and creates a path forward. Restorative justice isn't a new concept: it's rooted in indigenous practices and has been used in New York for lower level crimes for years.
"There is nobody in NYC who has addressed such a wide spectrum of harm and at such a diverse level of systems engagement."
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Margarita Guzman
Executive Director, Violence Intervention Program
Erika’s focus areas–homicide cases, sexual harm, and domestic violence–are not common practice for restorative justice.
Through her unique background as a former prosecutor and over 10 years as a leading practitioner–building out programs in community centers and high-suspending schools, or directing research on gender-based violence–Erika realized taking on the toughest cases can create the greatest change.
For all cases, individuals impacted by the crime and those who caused the harm must all agree to using restorative justice in order to proceed.
After receiving referrals from District Attorney offices in NYC and establishing a team of co-facilitators, Erika implements an independent process over many months whereby participants - both families of victims and those accused - heal, take accountability, and move forward. Erika also works with communities and organizations that want to build restorative justice programming without any system involvement.
Erika wants to pilot 8-10 complex, high stakes cases to build a series of learnings for NYC, showcasing the possibilities and limits of this intervention.
Her vision is to transform NYC into a city that prioritizes alternatives to punishment, offering opportunities for growth, healing, and safety for all involved, even in the toughest of crimes.
Erikasasson.com
Learn more and support Erika’s work.
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