Meet our Black Justice Fellows: ten local Black leaders fighting for racial justice in our region, and beyond. These 10 visionary leaders were selected from 4,334 nominations representing 362 Black leaders, as the inaugural Fellowship cohort of the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund DMV. Launched fall 2020 in partnership with Bridge Alliance Education Fund and the DC-based nonprofit GOODProjects, the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund DMV supports activists, organizers, and leaders who are on the front lines of advancing social justice and racial equity.
Each Fellow will receive a personal grant of $30,000 to support their work and living expenses for a year, in support of their racial justice work that is shaping and driving this powerful movement to build a fair, equitable community.
Read on to meet (and congratulate!) these 10 inspiring Fellows—and learn what values drive them to continue pushing for change.
Reginald Black: People for Fairness Coalition
“My personal brand is giving the city everything it needs.”
Reginald Black is an advocacy director at People for Fairness Coalition, an organization aiming to empower people to end housing instability in the DC metro area using advocacy, outreach and peer mentoring. Their vision is to use practical and educational processes to get residents from poverty to self-sufficiency. In his spare time, Black serves as an artist and vendor for Street Sense Media.
Xavier Brown: Soilful City
“I am rooted deeply in nature and the community. I’m focused on creating more leaders by working with people to find the power already within them. My personal brand is about building community connections, networks, and community power based on the wisdom of nature.”
Xavier Brown is a native Washingtonian and founder of Soilful City, an organization building bridges between urban agriculture, environmental sustainability and people of the African diaspora. Their work is part educational and part collaboration with fellow Black farmers. Brown sees nature as a way to uplift and heal stressed communities. He is considered the face of DC Black farmers.
Aalayah Eastmond: Team Enough and Concerned Citizens DC
“I am focused on uplifting the voices of Black youth and families—as well as the most marginalized groups, such as transgender Black women. These values are based on addressing the intersections of gun violence, the leading cause of death for Black youth, with racial equity/justice and police violence.”
Aalayah Eastmond is the co-founder and finances and operations director of Concerned Citizens DC, an organization aiming to improve the quality of life for Black people in DC and improve policing practices. As a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Eastmond experienced an attack by a gunman that resulted in 17 deaths among students and staff. Since, she has advocated against gun violence, in particular the chronic gun violence affecting Black communities daily. Eastmond serves as an executive council member for Team Enough, a youth-led organization working to end gun violence. She’s spoken about her experiences and mission at the 2018 March for Our Lives, the 2020 March on Washington and before Senate and House judiciary committees. Eastmond is also a BLM supporter who’s spent time at protest frontlines in DC.
Jawanna Hardy: Guns Down Friday
“Our main value [at Guns Down Friday] is integrity: doing the right thing when no one is watching. Other values are commitment and consistency. We’re loved by the community, because we never gave up.”
Jawanna Hardy is the founder of Guns Down Friday, an outreach program that provides resources to communities affected by youth homicide, suicide and mental health illnesses. Hardy is a US Air Force veteran who recognized that DC streets were worse than the warzone. Guns Down Friday was founded in 2018 in collaboration with Hardy’s daughter Dnayjah Joseph. The organization provides services such as the mobile trauma unit emergency response, therapy, books, food and clothes giveaways and violence intervention.
Liz Jones: Greenwithin
“My personal brand is being honest about your contribution to the earth and even more honest about how you care for yourself. Adopting eating habits that are best for yourself and the Earth. Having genuine connections and engagement with your community. An easily achievable plant-based diet. Simple sustainability practices.”
Liz Jones is the founder of Greenwithin, an organization creating sustainable food opportunities for underserved DC residents through local organic agriculture, plant based food and nutrition education. Jones hopes to refamiliarize her community with unprocessed, whole foods and to provide resources that lead to sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyles. She calls this her life’s work and family legacy.
Myron Long: The Social Justice School
“My brand is love, learning, and liberation, and my values are community, family, justice, service, and spirituality. I am and have a reputation of being authentic because my professional persona matches my personal and spiritual identity. Who I am as an educator and entrepreneur is who I am as a community activist, husband, and father.”
Myron Long is the founder and executive director of The Social Justice School, a revolutionary DC charter school that educates with social justice and design thinking at its core. Long has served the DC community as a veteran teacher and a principal. He hopes the school, which will eventually expand to accommodate 5th through 8th graders, will develop students academically and produce social justice advocates with skills to interpret and dismantle systems of oppression.
Ashley McSwain: Community Family Life Services
“My personal brand is relentless and unapologetic advocacy for justice-involved women.”
Ashley McSwain is the Executive Director at Community Family Life Services, a nonprofit serving re-entry women and families by providing wrap around support as they move towards self-sufficiency. McSwain is a licensed social worker in Maryland and a certified domestic violence counselor. She has worked in the human services field for over 25 years and is a recognized expert in women’s reentry.
Ty Hobson-Powell: Concerned Citizens DC
“My personal brand is radical love. I believe that the world only seems as careless as it does because we care less about each other than we should. The problem is that for so long there are many of us who’ve felt like we’ve had to do it all ourselves.”
Ty Hobson-Powell is the founder and Director of Policy of Concerned Citizens DC, an organization aiming to improve the quality of life for Black people in DC and improve policing practices. He has led protests in Washington, DC streets to bring awareness and dialogue to critical issues. Hobson-Powell is a child prodigy who graduated high school at 13 years old and earned his master’s in human services by 17 years old.
NeeNee Tay: Black Lives Matter DC (BLM DC)
“I am seeking to solve a better education system for our children. To have health care and housing for all of our people. To dismantle systems that contribute to state sanction and inter community violence. To defund the police and re-invest funds into programs and resources that will empower marginalized people and communities.”
NeeNee Tay is an Activist and Core Organizer for Black Lives Matter DC, is a member-based abolitionist organization centering Black people most at risk for state violence in DC, creating the conditions for Black Liberation through the abolition of systems and institutions of white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, and colonialism. Tay’s current focus is on criminal justice reform, displacement and youth in the DMV area. Tay describes her activism as walking “in the spirit of Harriet Tubman.”
Bethelehem (Beth) Yirga: The Palm Collective
“I am a single mom who values collective action, education and authenticity. The vision of a future deserving of my daughter is what keeps me fighting for racial justice. I have no choice but to use my power to prepare our emerging generation of leaders in DC, and beyond, through cultivating spaces of learning, collaboration and standing in your power.”
Bethelehem Yirga is the co-founder, chief strategist and lead organizer of The Palm Collective, a Black-led organization connecting individuals, networks and grassroots organizations working to end systemic racism in DC. Their goal is to create powerful communities through Collective Action. Yirga has over 10 years of experience as an educator. She believes in inclusivity, collaboration, collective action and fighting for Black, Brown and BIPOC people to matter.
About the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund (DMV)
The Black Voices for Black Justice Fund (DMV) was seeded by the Bridge Alliance Education Fund and Greater Washington Community Foundation. This local initiative stemmed from the national Black Voices for Black Justice Fund, which was launched from a partnership between many philanthropic organizations across the country.