Criminal justice reform, affordable housing, food deserts, poverty and climate change. These are some of the most pressing issues facing the Triangleand the world. They seem insurmountable, but our seven Citizen Award winners are undaunted by the challenge.

Since 1983, the INDY has honored those who have worked to make the Triangle a more just and equitable place. The INDY accepts nominations from the public, and the editorial staff suggests people who have come to our attention through our news gathering. We then vote to select the winners based on their impact, their commitment and the issues facing the Triangle over the past year.

This year, criminal justice emerged as a theme.Three of our winnersLamont Lilly, Christine Mumma and Melissa Radcliffwork on behalf of those inside and outside the system.

A community organizer in Durham, Lilly has advocated for reform within the Durham Police Department. Mumma works as an attorney in Raleigh at the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, which investigates cases of people who may have been wrongfully convicted. Radcliff is the executive director of Our Children’s Place, an Orange County nonprofit that helps kids whose parents are incarcerated.

Meanwhile, Durham CAN has been working tirelessly on the issues of affordable housing and transit, both critical to the quality of life of all people in the Bull City. In light of three cyclists’ deaths in the last year, Bike Durham has raised awareness about road safety and design, not only for bicycles, but also cars, buses and pedestrians.

In Southeast Raleigh, Erin Byrd is tackling the problem of food deserts by creating a cooperative grocery that will provide access to healthy eating for low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Long overdue recognition goes to Nerys Levy of Carrboro, who for decades has worked on the issues of environment, poverty and community.

Next month, the INDY will honor the winners of the Citizen Award and the Indies Arts Awards at a luncheon celebrating their impact and commitment.

The winners of 2015

Erin Byrd: Working to eliminate food deserts in Southeast Raleigh
Christine Mumma: Advocating for the wrongfully convicted
Lamont Lilly: Pushing for workers’ rights and police reform
Bike Durham: Promoting safer streets for everyone
Durham CAN: Empowering communities for more affordable housing , transit
Melissa Radcliff: Supporting children of incarcerated parents
Nerys Levy: Advocating for society’s neediest