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Congratulations to the 2021 winners of the Tzedek Impact Awards! The Tzedek Impact Awards are designed to honor individuals who have engaged in systems change or community healing work in the Asheville region using the wisdom gained by directly navigating systems of oppression. We are deeply inspired by the work of these leaders and are honored to celebrate their past achievements.
Laura Padilla, an immigrant of Mexican descent, serves as the Program Coordinator for Word on the Street/Voz de les Jovenes. Laura has dedicated the last few years to curating ARTivist events for the queer and BIPOC community in Asheville. In addition to being an independent immigrant rights organizer and mixed media artist, Laura has volunteered to play music and organize for many of the local Black Lives Matter direct actions.
Ria Young has worked as an author, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director to make change. This year Ria debuted her short film “The Power Of Our Village,” an ode to the Shiloh Community and their efforts to combat gentrification of one of Asheville’s most historic Black neighborhoods. In a partnership with the Asheville Community Theatre, Ria also created the Young & Gifted Internship, which provides youth of color interested in a career in film or theatre an opportunity to intern on a theatrical production.
Honey Simone founded A Different Wrld, a culture house and creative hub that partners with cultural workers, artists, and organizers to break down the barriers of entry to the creative industries through physical space, creative tools, and community for artists from marginalized experiences, whose access has been limited by white supremacy and homophobia.
Thomas Priester has worked to address racism in Asheville by hosting community info sessions where he works with residents of Asheville Pisgah View, Dearerview, and SouthSide to discover their inherent leadership capacity. Together, participants attend Buncombe County Commission and Asheville City Council meetings to advocate for the neighborhoods.
Elizabeth Lashay is the creator and co-host of Slay the Mic 103.3 Asheville FM and co-founder of STM Multimedia. She has intertwined her passion for radio entertainment and her deep desire to uplift people of the global majority to amplify stories that impact Asheville’s Black communities. She has been able to do this by building authentic connections, and organizing events like Slay the Vote, Sleigh the Mic Toy Drive, Brunches, and partnering with local businesses.
Debra Kiliru has collaborated with a range of Asheville organizations and schools to enhance their capacity and deepen their impact through youth leadership, somatic wellness, and regenerative agriculture. She has bridged people across borders and especially focused on healing connections between Africa and the Diaspora.
Nex Millen is a hip hop scholar and cultural curator, who served as the executive producer of an online series called “A Kwanzaa 365” that facilitates cultural pride and healing. A Kwanzaa 365 celebrates the African American holiday of Kwanzaa, exploring its seven principals through discussion, musical performance, and poetry.
Alan Ramirez has organized in Asheville and Western NC through many organizations and grassroots groups committed to abolition and building community power. As their work in response to ICE raids demonstrates, Alan is deeply invested in community organizing and building infrastructures to respond to community crises and opportunities for community transformation.
After noticing a deficit in Black and Brown children’s reading, confidence and comprehension, Tiffany DeBellott started a Saturday school reading program called “Get Ready, Get Set, Grow”. Children read culturally relevant books and grew their love of reading. Tiffany has also collaborated with other local Black leaders to develop and design HoodTalk conversations, Asheville’s 2021 Juneteenth celebration, and the Goombay Festival.
Inspired to create a paradigm of Black girl magic and self love, Nicole Cush founded a mentoring group called Glitter Sisters: For Girls Committed to Glow and Grow. Glitter Sisters is a space for Black girls in Asheville to be themselves, hold tough conversations, and receive a range of support from opportunity self-care support to after school tutoring.
Broadcasting media host Servetta McDowell, also known as “Servetta DaVine” with I Voice Radio Show/I Voice Media, has utilized her platform and voice to spotlight individuals, businesses, and organizations that are positively impacting humanity in Western North Carolina and surrounding areas, including Black Wall Street AVL.
Joseph Longobardi has worked as a documentary photographer to tell the stories of individuals who have been pushed to the margins. By photographing diverse people of Asheville, Joe photographs the city’s diverse culture and achievements and changes the narrative of this place.