June 4th, 2012
When the White House Council for Community Solutions delivers its final report to President Obama today, it will highlight the Family Independence Initiative’s Torchlight Prize as an example of a concrete solution that will endure after the Council has finished its work.
FII established the Torchlight Prize to recognize and reward groups of families, friends, or community members that have self-organized to strengthen their communities or neighborhoods. Up to four groups will be honored every year and receive $10,000 in unrestricted funding.
"We launched the Torchlight Prize to recognize people in communities with the fewest resources who self-organize to make their communities stronger,” said Mia Birdsong, Vice President of FII. “We want to show the country that regular people can and do take initiative to create solutions to decades-old problems in their own communities. We need to invest our resources in these groups that are making change.”
The prize not only spotlights the knowledge, skill, and initiative that exists in low income communities, but is designed to encourage direct investment into resident led initiatives such as these to amplify their impact.
“The spirit of community collaborations—people coming together on their own—is as alive today as ever, but looking at our national approach to fighting poverty you wouldn’t know it,” said White House Council Member and FII President and Founder Maurice Lim Miller. “We created this award because solutions developed and led by regular people from within a community have the most traction, are the most relevant, and are the most sustainable.”
2012 Torchlight Prize Winners
Black Dot Artist Collective: Established by young African American artists and cultural workers in Oakland and New Orleans who created cultural venues, after-school programs, community gardens, and small businesses. They established themselves as a caring presence in their communities, instilling cultural pride and strengthening the community.
Iu Mien Community: Iu Mien families in Richmond and Oakland, CA came together to solve a gang violence problem. They worked together to rebuild a cohesive community, and with small personal donations created a community center, temple, and a scholarship fund to address the cultural disconnect and lack of viable alternatives that were at the root of the problem. Many youth are now college bound.
Club Social Infantil: Several Columbian families in East Boston came together to create structured activities for their youth in the tradition of Latin American Natilleras, social clubs. Meeting monthly, they organize events that have strengthened family and community bonds.
The Torchlight Prize selection committee is comprised of Lonnie Bunch, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Culture and History; Michele Jolin, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; and Maurice Lim Miller, President and Founder of Family Independence Initiative.