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
Geneva White
BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN

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
David Shalleck-Klein
UPPER WEST SIDE, MANHATTAN

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.
Dianna Rose
SOUTHEAST, QUEENS

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.
Jason Gibson
LONG ISLAND CITY, QUEENS

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.
Mark Winston Griffith
CROWN HEIGHTS, BROOKLYN

2021
2020
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.
"Fela is unique; she's a pioneer and a visionary, she’s been totally committed to this idea of education when few people were."
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Esmeralda Simmons
Founder, Executive Director Emeritus of the Center For Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College, CUNY
"THE WORK OF UNDOING RACISM IS SLOW AND URGENT, BIG PICTURE AND MINUTIAE. AT THE CORE, IT REQUIRES LOVE. "
Little Sun People is poised to grow beyond the school’s four walls.
Fela’s plans include expanding the Little Sun People model into an elementary and middle school. She’s also codifying her special curriculum and culture to reach schools across the city. And because learning should happen 24-7, Fela and her team have built supports for parents to extend the curriculum at home.
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
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
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.
"WHEN WE USE THE WORD 'FOSTER,' WE DENY THE FACT THAT THESE ARE REGULAR CHILDREN THAT DIDN'T PICK THIS OUTCOME."
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.
"Felicia is committed to foster care youth, she is a hard worker and doesn't give up when she receives a "no." "
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Leah Angel Daniel
Executive Director of Fostering Greatness
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."
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
BRINGING HUMANITY
AND COMMUNITY TO
HOMELESSNESS IN A
SHELTER FOR REFUGEES
Edafe Okporo
ACTIVIST, MANHATTAN
There are more than 40,000 refugees in New York City and nearly 65,000 people experiencing homelessness.
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.
"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
In 2017, Edafe became homeless after being detained for six months.
Through connections to activists and friends, Edafe eventually secured a bed and job. He saw the need to support other refugees arriving in New York City, and he committed himself to advocating and creating solutions for other vulnerable newcomers.
Edafe became the Executive Director of RDJ Refugee Shelter.
Edafe runs a 10-bed housing and support program in the basement of a church in Harlem. RDJ is the only shelter serving the specific needs of refugees and asylum-seekers in New York City, It offers culturally competent services and access to jobs as a core part of helping residents gain dignity and essential skills.
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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.
"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 has built a non-profit organization that provides around-the-clock answers to NYC students with college access questions. Bypassing overworked high school guidance counselors, Road to Uni streamlines key information, such as scholarship deadlines, internship tips, and financial aid requirements. The platform offers real-time messaging and includes 90+ video tutorials outlining every step of the college admissions process for students and parents.
"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
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.
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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.
"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
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LEADING A COOPERATIVE
WHERE UNDOCUMENTED
WORKERS CAN ACCESS
SAFE AND FAIR
PAYING JOBS
Manuel Castro
ORGANIZER, 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 became Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE).
NICE is a non-profit with a storefront in Jackson Heights that serves day laborers and newly arrived immigrants to New York City. The organization helps clients find safe and dignified work placements, access appropriate training, and organize to ensure fair wages and reduce wage theft.
"You will not make a better investment in the future of NYC than Manny Castro."
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Robert Courtney Smith
Professor, CUNY
Building on his work at NICE, Manuel is creating a cooperative job center with and for day laborers.
This new organization will be owned and managed by its clients -- newly arrived and undocumented workers in New York City. The co-op will source jobs, provide training, connect to legal assistance and increase wage transparency. Employers will benefit from a streamlined hiring process for quality labor.
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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.
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.
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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."
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Celeste Sassine
Owner, Sassy Sweet Vegan Treats
Essentialkitchen.co
Learn more and support Dianna’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.
There are currently
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.

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