Foundation's 2023 Spark Prize Awards $500,000 to Racial Justice Trailblazers
Today, we are pleased to a $500,000 investment in five outstanding nonprofits advancing racial justice in New York City’s largest borough through our 2023 Spark Prize.
The winners are:
Arab-American Family Support Center
Kings Against Violence Initiative
STEM From Dance
Workers Justice Project
A committee of leaders from Brooklyn’s civic, business, and philanthropic sectors selected the winning organizations from a highly competitive applicant pool of local nonprofits. Each will receive a $100,000 ‘no strings attached’ grant from the Foundation and be honored at the Spark Breakfast on March 14, 2023 from 8-10AM at the Brooklyn Museum. Tickets are on sale now.
The Spark Breakfast, a perpetually sold out celebration, will also honor FPWA CEO and Executive Director Jennifer Jones Austin for her leadership as the Chair of the landmark NYC Racial Justice Commission, successfully amending the city’s charter to dismantle structural racism and embed racial justice and equity in all government functions.
Launched in 2016, the Spark Prize recognizes pioneering nonprofits committed to racial and social justice with deep roots in the borough. Brooklyn is home to hundreds of nonprofits led by and serving communities of color that are often overlooked by the City’s philanthropic sector and wealthy donors. With the Spark Prize, Brooklyn Community Foundation aims to spotlight leading racial and social justice organizations in the borough, while emphasizing the need to provide general operating support that gives nonprofits the flexibility and resources they need to serve their communities and grow.
“Each year, Brooklyn Community Foundation has the privilege of uplifting five visionary racial justice organizations serving communities across our borough—and this year we couldn’t have assembled a more complete picture of the greatness of Brooklyn’s nonprofit community,” said the Foundation’s President and CEO, Dr. Jocelynne Rainey. “I want to extend our gratitude to the Spark Prize Committee for volunteering their time and talents to select this year’s winners and finalists. I hope everyone will join us in celebrating all of Brooklyn’s incredible nonprofit changemakers, including my dear friend Jennifer Jones Austin, at the Spark Breakfast in March!”
"The Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) is honored to accept the 2023 Spark Prize. Since opening our doors twenty-nine years ago in one of Brooklyn's largest immigrant communities, a new generation of families have access to in-language, life-saving support,” said Rawaa Nancy Albilal, President and CEO of the Arab-American Family Support Center. “This award is a tribute to our community's power and fuels our commitment to offer more equitable and racially just services and programs. We thank the Spark Prize Committee for this honor and offer a heartfelt congratulations to all the nominees. We commend your dedication to "sparking change" in Brooklyn!”
“As a youth development organization founded in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Spark Prize is an important recognition of our work and will help catapult KAVI to our next phase of growth — allowing us to deepen our work with more young people and communities,” said Anthony Buissereth, Co-Executive Director of Kings Against Violence Initiative.
”At Mixteca, we are honored to be recognized by the Brooklyn Community Foundation. We will continue to strive towards excellence in supporting our immigrant community with respect and dignity as we honor their strengths and ancestral knowledge,” said Lorena Kourousias, LMSW, Executive Director of Mixteca Organization. “This award will help us to continue our efforts and expand our impact even further. Thank you Brooklyn Community Foundation for your ongoing support of our mission.”
“It is an absolute honor to have STEM From Dance receive the 2023 Spark Prize, and a privilege to do this work alongside so many incredible organizations,” said Yamilée Toussaint Beach, Founder and CEO of STEM From Dance. “We deeply believe in Brooklyn’s youth, talent, and potential and are committed to building an equitable future in STEM. We look forward to empowering more girls of color through the support of the Spark Prize.”
"We are thrilled and humbled to receive the Spark Prize from the Brooklyn Community Foundation. This is a wonderful recognition of the organizing work that the Worker's Justice Project and Los Deliveristas Unidos have accomplished over the past decade," said Ligia Guallpa, Executive Director of Worker's Justice Project. "The Spark Prize will allow Los Deliveristas to continue funding their own organizing efforts and determine how they want to build power in their communities."
The Spark Prize and Spark Breakfast are made possible through the generous support of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Santander Bank N.A., and National Grid.
“Congratulations to the deserving winners of Brooklyn Community Foundation’s 2023 Spark Prize!” said Yajaira Lopez, Executive Vice President, Region President Tri-State at Santander Bank, N.A. “We applaud and proudly support Brooklyn Community Foundation’s commitment to advancing racial justice in our communities.”
“Cleary Gottlieb applauds the winners of the Spark Prize for their dedicated efforts in improving the lives of Brooklyn community members. The firm is proud to partner with the Brooklyn Community Foundation and to spotlight organizations that are committed to making a positive impact,” said David Leinwand, Partner, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP.
“The Spark Prize recipients exemplify what it truly means to build a better community and we congratulate all of them,” said Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid VP of Customer and Community Engagement. “We’re so proud to partner with the Brooklyn Community Foundation to recognize these standup organizations who go above and beyond in making a difference throughout our Brooklyn communities.”
About the 2023 Spark Prize Recipients
Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) has provided culturally and linguistically competent, trauma-informed social services to low-income immigrants and refugees in New York City since 1994. AAFSC's services promote mental and physical well-being, prevent child abuse and work to end gender-based violence, provide the tools for learners of every age to succeed, and uplift the voices and needs of under-represented communities. Their programs include adult education, youth enrichment, mental health counseling, domestic violence support, health insurance enrollment and education, legal services, and more. In addition to offering direct services, the AAFSC Research Institute is a trusted source for information and publications on the voices and experiences of Arab, Middle Eastern, North African, Muslim, and South Asian (AMENAMSA) communities. Their staff speak over 30 languages, enabling them to serve populations that mainstream providers struggle to reach.
Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI) was founded in 2009 by Dr. Robert Gore, an Emergency Room physician who felt compelled to address the rising incidence of violence among youth in Central Brooklyn. KAVI works to prevent and eliminate interpersonal violence from the lives of young people through social justice advocacy, peer leadership, and community mobilization in hospitals, schools, and community settings. Through community and school programs, they serve over 300 youth annually, and have helped hundreds of youth overcome a history of violence and behavioral issues to graduate from high school and attend college. Through their hospital program, they engage and support over 750 patients each year and have reduced hospital recidivism rates by over 75% percent by providing up to a year of follow-up support and care for youth patients admitted with assault-related injuries.
Mixteca Organization was established in 2000 in Sunset Park to address critical needs in health care, mental health, education, social and legal issues facing the growing Mexican and Latin American immigrant community in Brooklyn. In 2016, in response to the increasingly hostile, anti-immigrant political climate, Mixteca increased efforts to provide information, support, and build a grassroots advocacy group led by staff, volunteers, and Promotoras (community advocates). During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mixteca was among the first to respond and provide emergency relief to the Latinx and Indigenous immigrant community, providing a lifeline to the disproportionately impacted undocumented immigrant community who were largely excluded from federal and state aid.
STEM From Dance was founded in Brooklyn in 2012 to empower girls of color with the know-how, experience, and confidence to dream big in STEM — all through the power of dance. STEM from Dance offers programs for girls of color ages 10-18: afterschool residencies in partnership with NYC Title I schools, and Girls Rise Up, an intensive three-week summer program. Through both programs, girls learn the fundamentals of dance and technology and use technology to create unique, engaging choreographed dances. Participants learn how to use circuits to create outfits that light up with their dancing, code drones to dance alongside them, code a brand-new song to dance to, and more.
Workers Justice Project (WJP) is a New York City workers’ rights hub that has been spearheading new ways of labor organizing and empowering workers to gain a voice in the workplace since 2010. WJP is building a diverse membership base and developing the skills of worker leaders who understand the connection between the barriers they face and systemic racism, while providing Spanish-language services, training and organizing. WJP has created over 5,000 construction and house cleaning jobs in the past five years that have resulted in $4.9 million in salaries. Additional achievements include securing six landmark policies to “Deliver Justice'' for 65,000 app-based delivery workers in 2021, and distributing $2.5 million in cash relief to essential workers and excluded workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About the 2023 Spark Breakfast Honoree
Jennifer Jones Austin is a Brooklyn born and raised, fourth-generation faith and social justice leader. As Chair of the NYC Racial Justice Commission, the first of its kind in the nation, she led the development and passage by the New York City electorate in 2022 of three unprecedented proposals to amend the city’s charter to dismantle structural racism and embed racial justice and equity in all government functions.
As CEO and Executive Director of FPWA, an anti-poverty, policy, and advocacy organization with 170 member agencies and faith partners, Ms. Jones Austin has led and secured monumental changes in social policy to strengthen and empower the disenfranchised and marginalized. She brings to her work a profound understanding of the link between race, poverty, law and social policy in America, and the role religion plays.
Ms. Jones Austin is also a radio host; public speaker; author of Consider It Pure Joy; and editor of God in the Ghetto: A Prophetic Word Revisited. She is the Visiting Scholar at the New York University Silver School of Social Work and the Scholar in Residence at Alliance University Center for Racial Reconciliation (CRR). She chaired the NYC Board of Correction and presided over the rulemaking process to end solitary confinement in New York City jails. She was lead advisor for Full Day UPK expansion in 2014-2015 and the 2020-2021 NYPD Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.
Jennifer Jones Austin earned a juris doctor degree from the Fordham University School of Law, a Master of Science in Management and Policy from the New York University Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, and a Bachelor of Science from Rutgers University.