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5 nonprofits win Brooklyn Community Foundation’s $100,000 Spark Prize for commitment to racial justice

January 19, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Brooklyn Community Foundation has announced the five winners of its 2022 Spark Prize, celebrating nonprofits that advance the cause of racial justice in the borough.

The 2022 Spark Prize winners are:

  • Arab American Association of New York
  • Black Women’s Blueprint
  • Brooklyn Movement Center
  • Groundswell Community Mural Project
  • Weeksville Heritage Center

The five winning organizations will receive their $100,000 “no-strings-attached” awards at the foundation’s Spark Breakfast on March 8, 2022 from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Brooklyn Museum. 

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Brooklyn Community Foundation launched the Spark Prize in 2016 to recognize 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.

Members and supporters of the Arab American Association of New York join State Sen. Andrew Gounardes at the AAAN’s 17th annual gala in 2018. Eagle file photo by Arthur De Gaeta

Arab American Association of New York (AAANY) was founded in 2001 by Arab immigrant and Arab American leaders in Bay Ridge to advocate for the community in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Today, AAANY serves Brooklyn’s Arab immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities, helping over 6,000 beneficiaries annually through its women’s empowerment and adult literacy programs, immigration legal assistance, mental health and domestic violence support services, and youth programming. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AAANY has transitioned to virtual programming and has transformed its office into a direct relief hub, distributing more than 22,000 food boxes and $450,000 in direct cash for clients in crisis.

Black Women’s Blueprint was founded in Brooklyn in 2008 and is a lifeline for survivors of gender-based violence, providing birth education and maternal health support. The organization’s Sexual Abuse to Maternal Mortality Pipeline report and institute has pioneered a campaign to affirm the link between trauma healing and maternal health. Each year, it engages doulas, midwives, birth-workers and sexual assault advocates to reach 5,000 survivors at 50 different locations through its Sistas Van mobile health unit, and trains 800 clinicians and medical personnel. 

Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC) is a Black-led, membership-based organization of primarily low- to moderate-income Central Brooklyn residents founded in 2011. BMC builds power and self-determination in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights’ Black communities by nurturing local leadership, waging campaigns, and winning concrete improvements in people’s lives. BMC addresses a range of issues including police accountability and community safety, food sovereignty, environmental justice, anti-gentrification media production and more.

You’ll see this mural when you head towards Bush Terminal Park. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A Groundswell mural. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Groundswell Community Mural Project was founded in 1996 to bring together artists, youth, and community organizations to use art as a tool for social change. Its projects beautify neighborhoods, engage youth in societal and personal transformation, and give expression to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public sphere. Each year, Groundswell engages more than 450 youth, led by trained teaching artists, and in partnership with dozens of community partner organizations, in the presentation of afterschool, summer, school-based, and community commissioned programs.

Weeksville Heritage Center upholds the legacy of one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America, using historic preservation, education, the arts, and a social justice lens to keep this unique chapter of American history relevant and resonant for contemporary audiences, particularly Black residents in Central Brooklyn. The Weeksville Heritage Center is the steward of the historic Hunterfly Road Houses, and serves as an education space, community hub, and presenter of free or low-cost recreational and artistic programming. Having emerged from a crippling financial crisis in 2019, Weeksville re-established a record of fiscal accountability under a new strategic plan, and was included in New York City’s esteemed Cultural Institutions Group in 2020. 

“Brooklyn Community Foundation is pleased to recognize these five outstanding Brooklyn nonprofits, which have changed our borough for the better, thanks to their visionary work and commitment to racial justice,” said the foundation’s president and CEO, Dr. Jocelynne Rainey. “These nonprofits are among the best that Brooklyn has to offer and we are so grateful for all that they’ve done.”

The Spark Prize and the Spark Breakfast are sponsored by Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Santander Bank, and National Grid.  

The Spark Prize is named for Brooklyn Community Foundation’s mission to spark lasting social change in Brooklyn. The 2021-22 Spark Prize cycle launched in May 2021 with an open call to Brooklyn nonprofits to submit a 1,000-word essay demonstrating their history in Brooklyn and continued service to the borough; commitment to equity and racial justice for all Brooklynites; strong organizational values; and vision for the future of their work in Brooklyn and beyond. 

To be eligible, organizations had to have annual operating budgets over $250,000 and be in operation for at least five years. Applications were reviewed by the Spark Prize Committee, who narrowed submissions to 20 finalists, and then chose the five winners following in-person interviews. 


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