By Kara Thompson,
Special to the AFRO
Twenty Baltimoreans were recently named as recipients of a $5,000 Weaver Award for their projects, which all help connect community residents in a positive way.
Weave: The Social Fabric Project, is a program created by the Aspen Institute that encourages people to build connections in their communities and promote stronger relationships with those who they interact with in every aspect of their life.
“Receiving this Weaver award means someone sees the work I’ve been doing outside of just performing and being a recording artist,” said Baltimore wordsmith, Eze Jackson. “I applied because Shorty Davis recommended I do so – and Shorty never ties himself to foolishness. He encouraged me to at least give it a shot.”
Jackson said the youth of Baltimore will benefit from the opportunity.
“My award will be used to put on an event that showcases young performing artists who are serious about their craft but may not have had the experience of performing and being paid for their talent,” Jackson told the AFRO. “When you’re a young performer, things like that are huge confidence boosters and I’m always about supporting young artists in the city.”
Out of 100 applicants, 20 awardees from Baltimore were chosen by a local advisory board to receive the $5,000 grants to help fund their projects.
Olu “Butterfly” Woods, the ever-popular local artist and activist, said winning her award means “a further mandate to serve my people as a full expression of myself– especially at the intersection of community, technology, arts and land.”
“Baltimore needs more self-esteem, said Woods. “It is an amazing place with amazing people. I have been around the world and I am clear. My award will be used to further the village by connecting people to the earth and growing their own food through art and socializing.”
Through the Weave project, the Aspen Institute, in collaboration with M&T Bank, created the Weaver Awards. These awards are given to people who are dedicated to bringing their community together in various ways. Some awardees ensure people are fed around holiday times, others are dedicated to supporting new parents, and some projects are designed to help people without homes.
“We use the word ‘weaver’ to describe these important people because they are trusted and give trust, weaving our communities together through relationships,” said a statement by Frederick J. Riley, who leads the Weave project at the Aspen Institute. “They are the people we turn to when something happens or the community needs to act. They bring us together.”
Chin-Yer Wright, creator of the organization entitled “The Baltimore Scene, ” has long been a link between the different Arts communities that flourish in Charm City.
“My award will be used to start a multi-generational arts program bringing people of all communities across Baltimore together for discussion, healing and solving neighborhood issues,” said Wright. “The joy, unity and love I’ve been honored to experience doing this work has been a priceless gift. I’m thankful that through this award, I will be able to expand and deepen the work to support and serve more people.”
Other winners from the Baltimore area include Tyde-Courtney Edwards, who founded the non-profit Ballet After Dark. Using dance therapy and self-defense, the nonprofit utilizes physical movement and trauma-informed care to help those who have experienced sexual and/or domestic trauma heal. Edwards will use the award money to fund to host monthly workshops for Black girls and women about safety and security.
Another winner was Michael Harris, of the organization Freedom Advocates Celebrating Ex-offenders, which aims to help formerly incarcerated people transition back into society and their own communities. The organization offers substance and mental health counseling to those making the transition, as well as helps them find jobs and housing. Harris will use the money he receives from this award to help more formerly incarcerated people share their stories and get back on their feet.
The remaining winners are Danielle Billups, Dayson Brooks, Turell Brooks, Charles DeBarber, Christina Delgado, Haneef Hardy, Dena Jackson, Isaiah Johnson, Valarie Matthews, Sonja Merchant-Jones, Christopher Schulze, Tray Smith, Danna Thomas, Diane Williams, and John “Chin” Williams.
For more information about the selected projects, please visit https://awards.weareweavers.org/ .
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