Eight Brooklyn activists are finalists for The David Prize, reports The Brooklyn Paper. The award is a $200,000 cash award for individuals and ideas working to create a better New York City.

Named after billionaire real estate developer David C. Walentas, The David Prize provides unrestricted funding for artists fighting for a better New York City. Financed by the Walentas Family Foundation, the prize comes with “no strings attached,” and the confidence that the winners will invest the money to improve their work and their impact.

Among the group is Bedford-Stuyvesant based housing advocate Velvet A. Ross. Ross was living in the Bronx and serving on her local community board when she was illegally evicted. Her apartment was infested with black mold-infested apartment and she later became homeless.

“I started getting really sick,” Ross said. She found shelter through an acquaintance in Red Hook, where she currently works. “Brooklyn was saving grace for me from all of the stress that I was living with in the Bronx. There was so much opportunity for me to basically get rehab and recreate myself. I got connected with the community. They basically took me in and helped me get into the voucher program to get back on my feet.”

Ross is now a member of a handful of groups supporting recipients of housing vouchers. She is also the founder of UnlockNYC, a tech nonprofit led by women who have experienced housing discrimination due to having rental assistance vouchers. 

If Ross is chosen by The David Prize committee as one of the winners, she will invest the funding into an eviction fund to provide “financial help to support families who have gotten evicted until they’re able to get the next step.”

“People who were directly impacted by housing discrimination, including me, we were involved in the process, the governing process that dictated what would happen to others in the same situation,” she said. “And we are still ongoing.”

To stay up to date on winners of The David Prize click here.

Kimberlean Donis

Kimberlean Donis is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn. She is a student at both London City University and Williams College majoring in Political Science, Art History, and Africana Studies.

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