By Megan Sayles
AFRO Business Writer

Baltimore-based CLLCTIVLY is set to honor five community leaders during its annual Changemaker Awards on Aug. 4. The ceremony is a part of the organization’s larger CLLCTIVGIVE campaign, a 24-hour fundraiser for local Black-led social change nonprofits.

The Changemaker awardees include, Darlene Cain, president and founder of Mothers on the Move; Maurissa Stone, director of innovation for The Living Well; Nati Kamau-Nataki, owner of Everyone’s Place; Araba Maze, founder of Storybook Maze and Dionne Joyner-Weems, creator of #MyBmore Project.

“We’re awarding organizations that are not only committed to the fight but also have a more liberatory focus,” said Jamye Wooten, CEO and founder of CLLCTIVLY. “Do-gooders are great people that see a problem in their community and want to fix it. Changemakers are looking at the systemic and structural issues and attacking them at the root.”

To choose the honorees, the organization asked Baltimore residents to nominate leaders in their neighborhoods. Wooten said an advisory committee then reviewed the nominees and their missions and selected the finalists.

Wooten praised winner Kamau-Nataki’s longevity in the city and his commitment to educating Baltimoreans about the African Diaspora.

“No one can tell Baltimore’s story better than the people of Baltimore.”

The entrepreneur opened Everyone’s Place on the 1300 block of W. North Ave. in 1986. The bookstore sells works written by African-American writers and poets. It also boasts an African cultural center that sells apparel, soaps and incense.

“One changemaker who’s very near and dear to me is brother Nati from Everyone’s Place bookstore. It’s been in Baltimore for a very long time,” said Wooten. “Everyone’s Place is an institution of knowledge, particularly of the nontraditional learnings that you can get from your own ancestors and scholars. Brother Nati has been an anchor and a supporter of many organizations throughout the city.”

Sandtown-Winchester native Joyner-Weems said the Changemaker Award is special because it represents recognition from her neighbors. Her organization, #MyBmore Project, created in 2017, amplifies positive stories about Baltimore to spur community engagement and solutions.

“This award means validation from my people,” said Joyner-Weems. “In everything that I do, I’m leaning on faith. This is confirmation that my work is worth it.”

Joyner-Weems was inspired to start #MyBmore Project after the 2015 uprising that erupted in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. At that time, residents posted photos and testimonies on social media with the hashtag “MyBmore.”

Joyner-Weems capitalized on the hashtag and turned it into a movement. She believes that learning about the lives and histories of Baltimore’s Black residents will propel activism and community participation in the city’s development.

“No one can tell Baltimore’s story better than the people of Baltimore. But, isn’t it ironic that there haven’t been spaces for the people of Baltimore to be involved in the solutions and the changes? That’s not design thinking,” said Joyner-Weems. “Design thinking is being able to put your assumptions and bias aside and bring empathy to the forefront so people who are closest to the challenges are at the table and creating sustainable solutions.”

Megan Sayles is a Report For America corps member.