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Congratulations to the 2022 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.
As a dedicated community leader and student ambassador at My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT), DeAngelo (“Lo”) Collins supported youth ages K-12 in working through life’s challenges. Lo’s founding of the MDTMT Jr. program for 5-11 year-olds expanded the organization’s initial reach. Ultimately, Lo was motivated by opportunities to foster growth, celebrate transformation, and bring out the good in all people. His entrepreneurial spirit also led to the recent launch of his Hood Chronicles Clothing line.
DeBorah Ogiste bridged racial divides through intentional conversation. DeBorah created “BIPOC Raw,” a Zoom-based forum, to connect and empower women through spiritual exploration of the self and society. In this online racial equity education exchange, Black, Indigenous and other Peoples of Color (BIPOC) shared their lived experiences of systemic racism with others seeking to deepen their understanding and change how they show up in the world.
Hanan Shabazz’s life work is characterized by a love of cooking. As a business owner, social justice activist, and volunteer, her passion has fed, nurtured, and sustained those often overlooked by mainstream society, including older adults and people experiencing food and housing insecurity. Hanan linked food, history, and culture in and through her community service. Her joy has flavored cuisine served at Asheville’s Southside Kitchen, Asheville City Schools, GO Kitchen Ready, the Livingston Community, and other organizations.
Jewish-born, LGBTQIA-identified creatrix, Jenna Jaffe, has called Asheville home for over 18 years. As a music educator, artist, ESL teacher, Transgender/Gender vocal/life coach, Reiki healer, and herbalist, Jenna applied creative methods to erode inequalities and build holistic community partnerships. Her service on the boards of the Asheville Area Piano Forum, Girls Rock Asheville, Western North Carolina + National Music Teachers Association, BPR.org Community Forum, and through other engagement avenues has helped promote greater human and environmental equality in Asheville.
Chef Kikkomon (“Kikko”) Shaw is a Black Asheville native whose culinary capabilities and community leadership have impacted multiple diverse segments of Asheville/Buncombe County. Kikko’s Southside Kitchen team assisted the community in overcoming the difficult overlap between injustice and hunger, including cranking out and coordinating the delivery of 300+ meals a day with local pandemic relief efforts. As such, Kikko has played a meaningful role in shifting the “low-wealth equals low-health” norm.
London Newton is a Black Queer organizer on Cherokee land (“Asheville”) who has a passion for uplifting community through food. As part of Asheville For Justice, they facilitated the dispersion of over $50,000 in funds and resources to Black and Brown individuals, people experiencing poverty, and unhoused folks. London also worked with a diverse group of mutual aid networks, medical collectives, and activists to build equitable, sustainable community support systems.
Luce Beagle has been an active participant in systems change and community healing for Asheville’s trans and nonbinary community for the last 15 years. Luce’s experience as a member of the trans community has inspired and motivated him to leverage professional privilege as a tool for championing systems change. In addition to interacting with and challenging local institutional structures, Luce volunteered support for other trans and nonbinary community members.
Artist and activist Michael-Jamar Jean Francois is a first-generation Haitian-American whose love of community, creativity, and collaboration has been expressed through local service. Michael worked as a visual arts mentor with Word on the Street and as a community canvasser with Black AVL Demands. This first-hand experience of the existing disparities between White and Black living environments fueled his desire to build a better future for Black Asheville.
Michelle Padrón is a queer Afro Latina who has dedicated their time to community care and advocacy. Michelle helped humanize social support systems and services by changing how folks are perceived, engaged, and treated. As an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) member, Michelle provided bilingual support and completed research on barriers to treatment for unhoused clients. Additionally, Michelle’s organizing and de-escalation training were essential in implementing a safe, accessible, BIPOC-led student protest response to intensifying racial tensions on their college campus.
Mychal Bacoate put his extensive banking, finance, and public policy advocacy expertise to work in addressing a wide range of issues challenging racial equity in Asheville – from urban renewal to public housing to educational disparities. As co-founder of Asheville PEAK Academy, Mychal was instrumental in bringing innovative, culturally-relevant education to local learners and future leaders. In August 2021, PEAK opened to 80 K-2 students – 75% of whom were children of color – guided by a dedicated faculty/staff team, over half of whom are of color. Additionally, Mychal served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity.
Activist Priya Raya founded DIYabled, a nonprofit grassroots group that believes DIY spaces are essential to creating a healthy, thriving community. DIYabled educates people about disability, accessibility, and inclusivity in collaborating with the Asheville community to create People Living with Disabilities (PLD)- accessible DIY spaces. Through PLD education, outreach, and events, Priya has improved local business PLD awareness and practices.
Asheville native Rafrica Adams (or Raf) is a video production professional and creative change agent who has lived and worked in the region all his life. Raf believes that the framing of a story is as important as the story itself. As the videographer/editor for The Asheville View, Raf has spotlighted many local and regional equity advocates, organizations, and projects combating systemic injustices and impacts of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and white supremacy/white nationalism.
As a Black trans storyteller residing on Cherokee territory, Spike Thompson (she/they) advocated for a reimagined world where the landscape is abolition-centered and spaces are grounded in deep, enriched community care. An avid orange-lover and body movement-encourager, Spike embraced the honoring and celebration of our full, embodied, messy selves, using protest, poetry, and advocacy to share this self-acceptance message throughout Western North Carolina.
Healed Skin and Candle Co. creator and CEO Traci Taylor-Freeze partnered with Youth Transformed for Life and In Real Life to teach candle-making skills to local youths. This hands-on learning experience explored the uses and benefits of aromatherapy and mindfulness for improved focus, rest, mood, and vitality. Traci’s self-care education offered a tangible way to promote and empower improved community welfare and wellbeing.