A cohort of successful Brooklyn nonprofits gathered last week for the return of Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Spark Breakfast, honoring the five winners of this year’s Spark Prize for Brooklyn social justice nonprofits.
The five awardees — the Arab American Association of New York, Black Women’s Blueprint, Brooklyn Movement Center, Groundswell Community Mural Project and the Weeksville Heritage Center — will each receive $100,000 on behalf of Brooklyn Community Foundation in recognition of their hard work to build equity and strength in Brooklyn’s communities. An additional $5,000 in matches are also doled out to prize finalists as part of the Foundation’s #BrooklynGives on Giving Tuesday campaign.
On March 8 at the Brooklyn Museum, a “who’s who” of more than 300 community leaders and activists came together for one of the first times since the coronavirus pandemic hit home two years ago to honor this year’s Spark Prize recipients.
“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, in a statement. “These nonprofits are among the best that Brooklyn has to offer and we are so grateful for all that they’ve done, and what more they will achieve!”
The Spark Prize — named for Brooklyn Community Foundation’s mission to spark lasting social change in Brooklyn — aims to spotlight leading racial and social justice organizations in the borough, at a time when serving communities of color is all the more important.
“Brooklyn is home to countless innovative nonprofits led by and serving communities of color who don’t often get the recognition and investment they deserve,” Dr. Rainey told Brooklyn Paper. “Our $100,000 Spark Prize spotlights exceptional racial, economic, and social justice organizations that have made a lasting impact in Brooklyn, and provides them with critical funding to accelerate their growth. As the city emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, we know that their work is more essential than ever and we hope that this honor provides a powerful boost.”
For Black Women’s Blueprint, a Crown Heights-based lifeline for survivors of gender-based violence and those seeking maternal health support, the Spark Prize means an expansion of its mobile health unit, “Sistas Van,” and the creation of a brick-and-mortar facility where women of color can receive support at all times throughout the year.
“We’ve applied for this Spark Prize several times so it feels incredible to actually have the recognition,” said the group’s co-executive director Sevonna Brown, who added that the organization became more visible over the course of the pandemic when its mobile health units became more prevalent, bringing fresh food and health care opportunities to areas of high need. “What this means for us is we get an opportunity to expand our outreach to be even more impactful.”
“With the Spark Prize, we will bring a state of the art maternal health healing space and facility to Black women in Brooklyn,” Brown added. “This makes a major difference in the lives of Black women and girls across all five boroughs.”
2022 marked the sixth year of the Spark Prize, which has awarded $3 million to 25 winners and 75 finalists since 2016. Since its own founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided more than $70 million in grant money to hundreds of nonprofits in Brooklyn and beyond.