Fighting the Good Fight
I am a firm believer in the power of change from within, which is why I’m so passionate about supporting local nonprofits that are determined to create change for our communities.
The Spark Prize, one of our signature programs, embodies this spirit of community-led change. Each year, we have the honor of awarding five Brooklyn nonprofits a $100,000 ‘no strings attached’ grant to help them continue fighting the good fight against racial and social injustice.
We make these grants in partnership with our Spark Prize Committee, a dedicated group of local leaders that I had the privilege of being part of years before taking on my current role as President and CEO. The committee was my first taste, so to speak, of the Foundation’s participatory grantmaking approach. It offered a front row seat to learning about so many amazing Brooklyn organizations and helped me see exactly what makes Brooklyn Community Foundation so unique.
Unlike the typical awards, the Spark Prize celebrates the underdog, elevating essential yet still under-the-radar Brooklyn organizations like 2022 winner Weeksville Heritage Center.
Weeksville is a historic site and cultural center that preserves the legacy of one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America, right here in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. As its President & CEO Dr. Raymond Codrington told us, winning the award wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk since they had previously applied two times.
“Going through this process made me realize that people were really paying attention to our work,” explains Codrington. “The Foundation has its ear to the ground and has been very intentional about supporting organizations that weren’t necessarily the most well known—but they are definitely organizations that are doing their level best to have an impact.”
With the wide range of programs, exhibitions, and collections all at home in this historic treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, the Spark Prize Committee knew this was an organization that deserved our support—and that they would put it to good use. “The Spark Prize award was really a boost for Weeksville, especially as the funds support not only our programs and events, but our operations as well. If it wasn’t for the Foundation and their efforts to raise awareness about cultural institutions such as ours, Brooklyn’s rich history and many of the Black and Brown communities risk being forgotten.”
And that’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to this year’s winners—Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC), Kings Against Violence Initiative (KAVI), Mixteca Organization, STEM From Dance, and Workers Justice Project.
Each has created a legacy of change here in Brooklyn—from ensuring that new immigrants are connected to the resources they need, to introducing young people to the combined power of arts and science, to providing healing and restorative resources for victims of violence. This year’s winners are worthy of our collective attention and investment, and we cannot wait to celebrate them at the Spark Breakfast next month!
“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’re thrilled that the Spark Prize will help realize all of their exciting new programs and initiatives on the horizon, including AAFSC’s new community health and wellbeing program, Workers Justice Project’s new delivery workers hub in Williamsburg, Mixteca’s expanded support for asylum seekers, and STEM From Dance’s vision to reach 10 million Black and brown girls.
“The 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.
Don’t miss the chance to hear from them in person at the Spark Breakfast on March 14, 2023 from 8-10AM at the Brooklyn Museum. The 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. Tickets are going fast—get yours today!
And if you can’t join us, consider making a donation to continue our critical investment in grassroots organizations through the Spark Prize and all of our racial justice grantmaking initiatives. Your partnership powers community-led change.