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The Tzedek Social Justice Fund (Tzedek) is excited to announce that Rasheeda Hall and Philip Cooper are the winners of the Tzedek Brilliance Awards.
Tzedek Brilliance Awards honor Asheville’s leaders who have engaged in impactful, intersectional efforts to further racial justice and LGBTQ equality or to combat antisemitism. As opposed to the majority of Tzedek’s grantmaking that funds organizational work, Brilliance Awards are designed to cultivate the well-being of individual brilliant community leaders by recognizing and rewarding their past work to make Asheville a place where everyone can thrive.
The Tzedek Brilliance Awards are a one-time no-strings-attached grant of $50,000.
Rasheeda Hall received the Ella Baker Brilliance Award in honor of a Black community leader in Asheville who has empowered and organized others to address systemic oppression.
Philip Cooper received the Pauli Murray Brilliance Award in honor of a community leader who, like Pauli Murray, has been involved in a wide variety of social justice efforts and who leads with the knowing that all struggles for liberation are connected.
Inspired by transformative grantmaking models that change the power dynamics between funders and grantees, the Tzedek Brilliance Awards represent a practice of trust-based and community-based grantmaking.
“The struggle against systemic oppression requires many strategies and approaches. Conventional philanthropy often supports organizations, while ignoring the many strides made by individual leaders who have dedicated their lives to growing communities and who often work behind the scenes to keep the more visible collective work moving. The Brilliance Awards are a move to acknowledge and resource these efforts, in addition to collective work.” says Tzedek Executive Director Marsha Davis.
About the Awardees
Born and raised in Asheville, Community Development Specialist Rasheeda Hall has invested 18 years of government service in actively supporting local people and neighborhoods impacted by race, poverty, and trauma. She received two degrees from UNC Greensboro, first in biology and later in social work, and a master’s in social work from Temple University. Her love of social work led her to devote 13 years to Child Protective Services as an investigator and foster care social worker. She also supervised a team of social workers for eight years.
Her unwavering commitment and compassion shine bright in where and how she shows up. After the murder of a young child in 2013, Hall assembled a team to address issues in her community by going door to door and asking, “What do you need, and how can I assist you?” These long-term relationship-building and community organizing efforts have made Buncombe County a better place to live.
Hall currently supervises Buncombe County’s Community Engagement Team, where she continues working tirelessly to bridge gaps between the County and our area’s Black communities in seeking to advance access, equity, inclusivity, solidarity, and resiliency for all. Under her leadership, the Community Engagement Team received two Achievement Awards from the National Association of Counties, which honors innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents. In addition, Hall was recognized with an award for her allyship through CoThinkk.
I am honored to receive the Brilliance Award and be recognized for my work in this community to impact social change,” says Hall. “I particularly admire my grandmother, Annette McDaniels, who taught me to love and treat everyone with respect and dignity through all my interactions. She taught me to see value in everyone without judgment, and she is my definition and example of just being a good human being. She encouraged me to move with love and compassion and take responsibility and accountability for my actions, good and bad. I want to continue culturally responsive outreach across Buncombe County to ensure that I help mobilize resources and influence change.
Widely known as Change Agent Cooper, Philip’s innovative advocacy work has centered on returning citizens (formerly incarcerated people), people recovering from substance use disorder, and local Black community college students. Cooper is a certified community health worker, certified peer support specialist, and reentry expert who has repurposed his lived experiences to build bridges, possibilities, and community. Like water, Cooper sees a gap and flows to the lowest point where the impact of his rising-tide, direct-engagement approach uplifts all.
As a Western North Carolina native, his commitment to fighting for workforce equity and closing the opportunity gap has transformed many lives and sparked multiple initiatives across the region. Cooper’s vulnerability, humility, resilience, and passion embody servant leadership excellence. He is the co-founder of The Clinician of Color Movement, the founder of Voices of Affrilachia, an MLK Service Award recipient, an Appalachian Leadership Fellow, and a Leading with Conviction Fellow with JustLeadershipUSA. Cooper presently serves as the INspire Coordinator at Land of Sky Regional Council, the Practitioner in Residence at NC State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues, and the Executive Director of Operation Gateway. He also serves on the Buncombe County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and is the Chair of the Just Economics of WNC Board of Directors.
I am honored to receive the Brilliance award and to be recognized for the work that I have been doing for the people,” Cooper says. “Tzedek has played a major role in the ripple effect, including the funding to start the Clinician of Color Movement. This work is hard work, but God knows what’s best and God saved me because He knew that I would reach back and fight for others. I love the People. Always power to the People. And when I say, ‘Power to the People’ – not just Black people, not just Brown people, but all People of the struggle. I’m going to fight for the underdog until I am in the grave!
About the Grantmaking Process
The Brilliance Award winners were selected by a committee composed of Tzedek staff and Tzedek Community-led Grantmaking Fellows, community leaders who design and implement Tzedek’s participatory grantmaking process.
“Organizations and communities must have individuals willing to lead the complex work of dismantling oppressive systems and practices. The Brilliance Awards is Tzedek acknowledging community leaders, their sacrifices, and how their work has impacted the lives of others,” says Libby Kyles, Tzedek’s Director of Community-led Grantmaking.
Learn more about Tzedek’s approach to social justice philanthropy here: https://tzedeksocialjusticefund.org/social-justice-philanthropy/