Weave: The Social Fabric Project / The Aspen Institute

The Weaver Awards

Baltimore 2022

Some people weave their communities together. They are the ones we all trust, the people we count on to get things done and to see the best in everyone. We call them weavers and here’s our chance to recognize and celebrate the weavers in Baltimore.

Congratulations to
Baltimore’s 2022
Weaver Awardees!

Why an award?

We all know people who show up, again and again, to do the hard work of listening and connecting us. They often don’t have big titles or get government grants. They do what they do because they care about weaving together our neighborhoods.

Some help kids or the elderly. Some make sure everyone has a holiday meal. The Weaver Awards celebrate these weavers. From nearly 100 applications, a local advisory board selected 20 to each receive $5000 to complete a project that connects us and makes us feel we belong here.

Meet the 2022 Awardees

Danielle Billups

West Baltimore and beyond

As a cancer survivor and RN, Danielle knew how tough it could be to get access, support, and quality care in our health system. So she pulled together a team of caregivers and started Compassionate Hearts of Care to offer no-cost guidance and support to Baltimoreans facing health issues, helping make healthcare more understandable and equitable.

Dayson Brooks

Greenmount and beyond

Dayson has worked with children and community groups since he was 13 and is now a junior at Coppin State University. He founded the non-profit Level Up to propel young people towards growth and success by giving them mentors, resources, clothing, food, and moments of joy through outings. He will use the award to expand Level Up’s work across the city.

Turell Brooks

Sharp Leadenhall

Turell launched the South Baltimore Engagement Center in his neighborhood of Sharp Leadenhall as a gathering place for events, after-school programs, parenting classes and food distribution. With his award, he will bring together surrounding neighborhoods for a Summer Festival in Solo-Gibbs Park offering local food, music, art, and back-to-school supplies.

Charles DeBarber

Curtis Bay-Brooklyn

Charles helped revitalize the Filbert Street Community Garden in his Curtis Bay neighborhood, which brings neighbors together over environmental workshops, job training, and free fresh produce and fruits. He will use his award to buy hive equipment, expand food production, create jobs, and commission murals to further polish this neighborhood gem.

Christina Delgado

Belair-Edison

Christina is an artist, educator and community organizer. She founded Tola’s Room as a collective space for the arts, community engagement, and education in Northeast Baltimore. This space is the only Puerto Rican cultural hub in the city and she will use the award to expand her work inspiring others to tell their stories and understand the city’s Puerto Rican culture.

Tyde-Courtney Edwards

Midtown Mt. Vernon and beyond

Tyde-Courtney founded the non-profit Ballet After Dark to help neighbors process, rebuild, and reclaim their lives after sexual and domestic trauma, using trauma-informed care and physical movement such as dance therapy and self-defense. She will use the award to host monthly safety and security workshops with classes, films, and discussion for black girls and women.

Haneef Hardy

Upton and beyond

Haneef founded the Unlimited Potential Mentoring Program where he hosts cooking, music and painting workshops at a local recreation center. The program allows youth to discover and showcase their skills and entrepreneurship. He will use the award to amplify his work connecting youth with community leaders to help them uncover their full potential.

Michael Harris

Penn North and beyond

Michael works to help incarcerated people successfully transition back into their communities. His organization, Freedom Advocates Celebrating Ex-offenders, connects returning citizens with each other, mental health and substance counseling, education, jobs, and housing. He will use the award to enable more returning citizens to share their story and re-envision their lives.

Dena Jackson

City-wide

Dena started Positivity in Baltimore with her friend Angie Hines to meet the needs of many underserved people in the city by running literacy programs, providing socks, toiletries, and school supplies, and feeding the hungry. She will use the award for the Community Baby Shower, offering supplies and support to parents and newborns for a healthy start in life.

Eze Jackson

Station North and beyond

Eze has been bringing Baltimore musicians and artists together for years through the annual “Dirty Christmas” show, Rap Round Robin, Bmore Beat Club, and as a collaborator with the Baltimore Boom Bap Society. Eze will use his award to give young artists experience and confidence by creating the “Who’s Next?” project—performances with city artists under age 21.

Isaiah Johnson

Greenmount East

Isaiah founded the Greenmount East Leadership Project to inspire and support youth to reach their fullest potential by providing them with the fundamental life skills and knowledge necessary for their journey into adulthood and success. He intends to use the award to further support his vision in the Barclay, Midway and Greenmount neighborhoods.

Valarie Mathews

Park Heights

Valarie inspires youth and helps families in the Park Heights neighborhood build a sense of belonging and a better quality of life through her work with Catherine’s Family and Youth Services. She will use the award to enhance the group’s Food Pantry and Diaper Hub, which offers essentials to 250 families, from groceries to feminine products and baby supplies.

Sonja Merchant-Jones

Better Waverly

Sonja describes herself as “a mother, a Mum-Mum, an auntie, and a friend” to the Better Waverly neighborhood. She chairs the community association and holds an annual Friendsgiving Dinner to bring youth and local police officers together to share their stories. She will use the award to gather neighbors and support them with food, art and reading series, and clothes for kids.

Christopher Schulze

Gwynns Falls

For the last 12 years, Christopher has worked with neighbors in the Gwynns Falls Community Association to acquire and transform six vacant lots into a vibrant park that is safe for children and families to gather, play, learn, and socialize. He will use the award to expand the activities that include clean ups, workforce development, and community gardening.

Tray Smith

Southeast Baltimore and beyond

Prior to COVID, Tray organized neighborhood groups and dozens of volunteers to hold the first Southeast Youth Celebration in Patterson Park. It inspired young people to get involved in community clean-ups, food and clothing drives, and rallies against violence. He will use the award to hold another Youth Celebration and keep young people engaged in the community.

Danna Thomas

Southwest Baltimore and beyond

Danna supports educators to be their best selves and handle the social, emotional and intellectual needs of teaching children. She leads the international Happy Teacher Revolution, a learning and support network for teachers struggling with shame, blame, guilt and work/life balance. She will use the award to create mental health and wellness staff support.

Diane Williams

Oliver

Diane creates a safe, healthy, and tightly woven community in the Oliver neighborhood by organizing youth to clean parks and vacant lots, plant trees, install solar lighting, and help seniors, and doing whatever else folks need. She will use the award to bring neighbors together in service to each other, restore natural beauty, and celebrate holidays and community successes.

John “Chin” Williams

Station North

John supports North Ave Mission’s Red Shed Village, a garden and gathering place for those who know homelessness in the Station North neighborhood. Known as Chin, he weaves mutual aid and acceptance across difference, so people can see and share their strengths. He will use the award to build a rain garden with paths, benches and tables for folks to gather in community.

Olu Butterfly Woods

Reservoir Hill and beyond

Olu Butterfly is a mother, author, poet, and multi-talented artist. She will use the award to organize Garden Art Parties at Whitelock Community Farm, Backyard Basecamp and other venues. The parties will feature potlucks, open mics, art, and gardening to move her community to a more sustainable village life.

Chin-Yer Wright

City-wide

Chin-Yer is an award-winning poet, musician, creative, and writing program director who founded The Baltimore Scene in 2006 to connect, serve, and honor the city’s artists, activists and entrepreneurs. She will use the award to start a multi-generational arts program bringing people of all communities across Baltimore together for discussion, healing, and solving neighborhood issues. 

Who chose them?

Most of the advisors were Baltimore community advocates, including some past Awardees. These are people who know the spirit of the city and its neighborhoods. They care about weaving a strong, inclusive social fabric and they know what it takes.

Adilio Alfaro
The Aspen Institute

Danielle Battle
Restoring Inner City Hope (RICH)

Duane “Shorty” Davis
Good in the Hood Initiative

Tanya R. Dorsey
M&T Bank

Ashley Esposito
Village of Violetville, Inc.

Judeith James
Alternative Approaches
to Mental Health Crisis Center

Nneka Nnamdi
Fight Blight Baltimore

Frederick Riley
The Aspen Institute

Jim Peterson
M&T Bank 

Denis Sgouros
B-360 

Naimah Sharif
NLife 

Sam Smith
#WeaveBaltimore Community

Antonio Tabora
Fulton Bank

Chris Wack
Baltimore Ravens 

Rev. Michele Ward
Lights On Greenmount West Initiative 

Crickett Woloson
The Elbow Fund

Join the Action

If you care about building trust and community in Baltimore, join the national community of weavers and sign up for the Weave Baltimore local group. When you do, you’ll be invited to meetups and Weaver Award celebrations. You’ll hear about funding opportunities, skill building workshops and other resources. You’ll connect with those working to strengthen relationships and weave our city so you can share your work and stories, find support, and meet collaborators.

You can also just follow the progress of the awardees and learn about future rounds of Weaver Awards.

Contact us

If you have questions about the Awards, want to support the Awards next year, or have any problems using this website, let us know. If you want to learn more about weavers across the US, visit weareweavers.org.

Copyright © 2022. Aspen Institute’s Weave: The Social Fabric Project. All rights reserved.