The David Prize announces 2021 winners of $1 Million
The David Prize, a $1 million, Brooklyn-based initiative to support up-and-coming visionaries in New York City, recently announced five winners for its 2021 cohort. The winners are: Cesar Vargas, Fela Barclift, Felicia Wilson, Five Mualimm-ak and Jaime-Jin Lewis.
The David Prize is named in honor of celebrated Brooklyn philanthropist and real estate developer David Walentas, who is credited with the renaissance of DUMBO. The $1 million initiative grants $200,000 to five prize winners annually.
The prize supports people with extraordinary ideas, projects or plans that seek to make New York City a better place for all New Yorkers. It’s open to any individual working in New York City’s five boroughs.
The David Prize team worked with a diverse, multisector group of expert advisors to narrow the search from thousands of submissions to 22 extraordinary finalists with creative solutions to the city’s most pressing challenges.
This year, New Yorkers from 92% of the city’s zip codes engaged in the open call to share their ideas in areas including child care, education and youth services, human rights, criminal justice, immigration justice, homelessness and more.
The 2021 David Prize winners are:
Felicia advocates for youth and young adults transitioning out of the foster care system to receive the resources and support needed to thrive — from financial literacy and housing, to mental. With the prize, Felicia will build out her new non-profit organization called What About Us, a Brooklyn-based non-profit that supports young people ages 13 to 25 aging out of the foster care system.
“Going through the foster care system showed me how much work needs to be done to support teens and kids aging out of the system. The Prize will help me create more opportunities for foster youth and alumni, and provide them with more than just their basic needs,” said Wilson.
Fela, commonly known as “Mama Fela,” is the founder of Little Sun People — a preschool in Bed-Stuy that is a community institution of four decades, fostering self-esteem and positive identity through an Afrocentric curriculum. With the Prize, Fela will expand Little Sun People to support students from Pre K and beyond, with current plans to build an elementary school. It will also allow her to extend her work by writing a book of affirmations for African-descended children as well as codifying the culture and curriculum of Little Sun People for other schools and educators.
“After opening The Little Sun People preschool more than 40 years ago, I can’t wait to take the next step in this journey and finally begin piloting my Afrocentric curriculum with K-3. Winning the Prize will help ensure that this work is codified so that other institutions and future generations can see the power of learning about African culture and history from an early age,” said Barclift.
Jaime-Jin is the founder of Wiggle Room, a tech company that builds tools to stabilize and grow family child care (FCC) businesses. FCCs are the largest supplier of child care to poor and working-class communities, communities of color, children ages 0 to 3, and children whose guardians work non-traditional hours. With the Prize, Jaime-Jin will expand Wiggle Room’s reach to support child care providers who, in turn, can support more children and families in their communities.
“Over the past year, small child care businesses — overwhelmingly run by women of color — have been decimated. The current moment is a huge opportunity to think boldly about how to support families and providers, and The David Prize will enable me to build tools and services that support this critical industry,” said Lewis.
Five bridges the gap of services for young adults serving multi-year community supervision sentences. Five’s Youth Anti-Prison Project (YAPP) academies house, train and employ youth throughout their entire community supervision sentence, molding better New Yorkers. With the Prize, Five will launch two homes — one for young women and one for young men ages 18-25.
“As someone who has dealt with the harsh punishments our city offers, I am still hopeful that New York City can be a more inclusive and compassionate place for others. My mission is to help the city’s justice-impacted youth gain the access to continued education, resources and simply a safe bed to sleep in — things our city desperately needs,” said Five Mualimm-ak.
Cesar provides legal counsel to immigrants (and their families) serving in our Armed Forces as they face the labyrinth of immigration and military law while incorporating their voice and experience into a movement against war and militarization of our domestic police forces. With the Prize, Cesar will build a citywide network of agencies, non-profits, and legal providers to further support immigrants and their families with varied status who are serving in the United States’ Armed Forces.
“The David Prize provides me with the tools to realize my vision of helping veterans and immigrants achieve justice and equality. There is little institutional support for this critical work and I hope to be able to create a network of resources to help advocate for a path to citizenship for those who have served our country and their families,” said Vargas.
“With all of the daunting issues our city is facing today, I’m encouraged by the tremendous plans from our winners and finalists this year that promise to bring tangible change to their communities,” said Erika Boll, executive director at The David Prize.
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