The United Way is giving $100,000 to community leaders across the Triangle in an effort to empower the people who most need it. 

The organization’s new “Neighborhood Impact” initiative aims to bolster the efforts of people who have firsthand experience of the issues facing their community. With the help of Terrance Ruth, a former state NAACP director, the nonprofit chose nine activists whose work starts in their own neighborhoods. 

The program will ensure these leaders “have not just a voice, but a vote on how resources are deployed in their community,” Eric Guckian, president and CEO of United Way of the Greater Triangle, said in a news release. 

The initiative is part of a new funding strategy that “prioritizes lived experience as expertise,” according to the release. 

The activists who will receive money are:

• Felicia Arriaga, advocate for criminal justice reform. Arriaga is a visiting scholar at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and a criminology professor at Appalachian State University. Her research focuses on race and ethnicity, immigration, and the criminalization of immigration policy and procedure. 

• Kamal Bell, CEO of Sankofa Farms. Sankofa Farms aims to reduce the income and food availability gap among minorities in Durham and Orange County. Bell also helped develop an “agricultural academy,” which educates students about the importance of food production. 

• Melissa Florer-Bixler, author and pastor of Raleigh Mennonite Church. Florer-Bixler plans to directly fund neighborhood leaders, tackling the issues preceding police involvement in her community. 

• Yasmin Fozard, landscape architect and environmental justice advocate. Fozard helps teach youth about natural resources, landscapes, and the environmental ecosystems in North Carolina.

• Troy Johnson, founder of Young Men 4 Christ Enterprises. Johnson’s nonprofit aims to teach young men ages 8-17 about the social, emotional, educational, and professional skills needed to overcome disadvantages. 

• Byron Laws, training and capacity building manager for Wake County. With the grant, Laws is creating a venue to engage community members in civic life. He plans to provide culturally accessible information about complicated political issues that directly affect the lives of his community members.

• Maria Mayorga, Latinx civic engagement coordinator at Blueprint NC. With the grant, Mayorga aims to create equality for Latinx organizations and activists in the world of philanthropy. 

• Sonia Padial, a mental health advocate. Padial has spoken against the state’s involuntary commitment practices for people who need mental healthcare. 

• Kerwin Pittman, founder of Recidivism Reduction Educational Program Services, criminal justice reform advocate. Pittman’s nonprofit aims to reduce recidivism for criminal justice-involved individuals. Pittman advocates for social justice and police reform

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