LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative, a committee of Blue Grass Community Foundation, has announced the first class of Grassroots Black Leadership Award honorees. With this award, the Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative seeks to recognize and invest in individuals who are on the frontlines leading the vital work of addressing racial equity, disparities in the Black community and social justice across Lexington. This award provides an unrestricted stipend of $2,500 in recognition of their efforts at the grassroots level to affect change in our community.
“The Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative values our Black community’s determination to thrive amidst the pandemic, and we recognize the significant adjustments many have made to stay connected to family and remain healthy and financially viable during these difficult times,” said Lisa Higgins-Hord, co-chair of the Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative. “It was through our discussions regarding the challenges within the Black community, before and during the pandemic, that we felt compelled to educate people by telling a relevant story, one full of determination and resilience.”
“We wanted to recognize a primary reason our culturally rich community is still thriving: an emerging group we consider to be our unsung heroes,” said Tiffany Daniels, co-chair of the Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative. “These unsung heroes are on the cutting edge of greatness in leadership in our community. We are witnessing the metamorphosis of these heroes blending their passion and purpose to create stronger Black communities in Lexington. Their love for their community has allowed them to achieve synergistic results. We want to celebrate and honor their outstanding contributions because they have invested their time and, on many occasions, their personal finances into their work. They have identified gaps and are meeting the immediate needs within our community.”
“These unsung heroes don’t operate within silos nor do they work through traditional channels of solving problems,” said Higgins-Hord. “They don’t think outside the box because they never knew there was one. Their drive and determination overrode this standard phrase. We consider them to be our uniters, change agents and community innovators. They remind us that greatness is available to anyone who wants to access it.”
“Black contributions and achievements often go unnoticed,” said Grassroots Black Leadership Award recipient Rev. L. Clark Williams. “Combating such omissions is a critical undertaking, especially in today’s environment. I am humbled to be counted among the recipients of the Grassroots Black Leadership Award. Thank you, Lexington Black Prosperity Initiative, for this tremendous recognition.”
The initial round of Grassroots Black Leadership Awards goes to the following recipients:
- Devine Carama is a socially conscious hip-hop artist, educator, community activist and motivational youth speaker. He is director of the nonprofit youth organization Believing In Forever, Inc. Carama is the recipient of the 2017 Coretta Scott Spirit of Ivy Award for community service and the George W. H. Bush’s Point of Light Volunteer Award.
- Khari Gardner, a University of Kentucky student, founded the Movement for Black Lives at UK to focus on social, racial and economic justice in its college community, the Lexington community and across the commonwealth. The Movement for Black Lives collaborates with a wide variety of organizations to improve the quality of life of all Black people and of all marginalized groups, as well.
- Tonya Lindsey founded Sisters & Supporters Working Against Gun Violence (SWAG) in 2013 to promote awareness of the impact of gun violence on communities. She has hosted educational events for youth, including Stop the Bleed, Hands Only CPR, prevention lock-ins and resource fairs.
- Sharon Murphy’s social justice work provides education on the importance of voting and how policy impacts lives. Her Facebook posts during elections, “Sharon’s Election Office,” provide practical information about voter registration and candidates’ positions to empower people to make decisions that align with their values and interests.
- Elisha Mutayongwa founded the Rafiki Center to better serve the Swahili-speaking community in Lexington. The Rafiki Center creates cross-cultural connections through education, events and advocating for improved representation of the Swahili-speaking community in the school district, the business community, the DMV, local clinics and hospitals, and social services.
- Stephen T. Overstreet founded Our Park in 2013 to transform Douglass Park from an environment conducive to drugs and violence into a place that could be used for fun and enjoyment. As a member of the City Council’s 100-year Centennial Commission for Douglass Park, Overstreet organized more than 100 events in and for the park.
- Ashley C. Smith and Trevor Claiborn Sr. co-founded Black Soil: Our Better Nature in 2017 to help reconnect Black Kentuckians to their heritage and legacy in agriculture. Black Soil fosters the next generation of Kentucky Black farmers and chefs and leads efforts to address racialized disparities and barriers.
- Tanya Torp is a diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility consultant who has worked as a facilitator at numerous organizations providing workshops to improve Black lives. She is co
founder of Not The Only One In the Room, a space for women of color in the community, and is co-founder of BIPOC womyn’s writing group.
- Rev. L. Clark Williams has been involved in social justice and voter engagement work in Lexington and Central Kentucky, and throughout the state, since 2010. He founded Operation Turnout and The People’s Campaign to inform and engage those who care about affordable health care, public education, and social and economic justice.