Baltimore Homecoming’s Homecoming Hero awards: Vote for the third class of city change-makers

This spring, Baltimore Homecoming’s third Homecoming Hero Awards, sponsored by T. Rowe Price, will recognize five Baltimore heroes — community and nonprofit leaders, activists, artists or other innovators — who have made a significant impact on our city over the past few years.

Nominations were accepted on this page from Sept. 7 through Oct. 15. From the nominees, Baltimore Homecoming’s Selection Committee has chosen 10 semifinalists. Members of the public will determine five winners via the online vote below, which runs through Dec. 31. All semifinalists will be invited to share their stories at the May 4-6 Homecoming event.

Vote for up to 5 Homecoming Heroes

You may vote again 12 hours after casting your ballot. Scroll down to learn more about the semifinalists before voting.

Meet the semifinalists

Steve Allbright - Culinary Director, Franciscan Center

Before the sun comes up, Chef Steven can typically be found starting his workday praying over the tilt skillet. “God, please don’t let me run out of food today — We have to feed your people.” Allbright is the chef and culinary director at the Franciscan Center of Baltimore. The center serves an average of 400 to 600 meals per day, with the number of meals reaching more than 340,000 in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chef, his culinary team and dedicated volunteers serve meals made from scratch, thanks to the work of volunteers and donations from two urban farms and two farms within the city. More than 14 years sober and in recovery, as well as seven years out of prison, Allbright said his vocation to serve food to people in need in Baltimore is done because it is necessary and his belief that everyone deserves a meal served with dignity.

Michael Battle Jr. - Executive Director and Founder, RICH (Restoring Inner City Hope)

Michael is a mentor, motivational speaker and advocate working to restore inner city hope. Mr. Battle is known nationally for his dedication and commitment to transforming his community. He is a leading voice on community engagement and empowerment. Growing up in Cherry Hill, one of Baltimore’s toughest neighborhoods, Mr. Battle has seen his share of despair, struggle, and the compromises made for survival. Through RICH Mr. Battle and co-founder and wife Dani Battle have designed programs to address gaps and needs in the community. They participated in the Social Innovation Lab Accelerator (2020-21) cohort to professionalize their operations as they look to scale their youth programs and launch a workforce development program.

Alanah Davis - Assistant Director of Community Arts, MICA

Alanah Nichole Davis, or Baltimore’s Godmother as she is affectionately called, is a cultural worker, MDDC Press Association award-winning columnist, MICA Fred Lazarus Leadership for Social Change award-winning social designer, mother, very good friend to so many in Baltimore, and the current assistant director of community arts at Maryland Institute College of Art. Davis is committed to her Baltimore community or what she considers warmly, her family. Alanah earned her Master of Arts in Social Design at Maryland Institute College of Art in 2021 where she was a Leslie King Hammond Graduate Fellow. Her commitment to Baltimore City was acknowledged by Mayor Brandon Scott with a Certificate of Recognition in October 2021.

Tyde-Courtney Edwards - Founding Director, Ballet After Dark

Tyde-Courtney Edwards is a survivor of sexual assault and a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts Dance Department. Recognizing the lack of prevention and recovery resources available to Black survivors devastated by sexual trauma and various levels of violence in Baltimore City, she founded Ballet After Dark — the only local program that provides free, trauma-informed, dance therapy classes to youth and women impacted by sexual trauma and violence. With an emphasis of amplifying and prioritizing the healing of Black youth and women, the Ballet After Dark cohort program offers a 9-month curriculum that engages survivors with over 70 dance classes, mental health resources, financial incentives, self-defense classes and other nuanced resources that help survivors reprocess, rebuild and reclaim relationships with their bodies following sexual abuse and violence.

Janet Glover-Kerkvliet - Dir., Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group/Life Career Pivoters Inc.

Janet is a self-proclaimed late-bloomer. After working many years in workforce development, she decided to go back to grad school — earning a master’s in Clinical Community Counseling from Johns Hopkins University at the age of 46. She has worked as a therapist ever since. However, she never lost her deep interest in the dignity of work and the desire to help others get, keep and thrive in a job they love. Thus, Janet’s side-gig: Serving as director of the Baltimore Job Hunters Support Group (BJHSG), which assists older, long-term unemployed workers with the social, emotional and psychological pain of mid-career job loss.

Sam Novey - Co-Founder, Baltimore Votes Coalition

Sam Novey leverages his passion and experience to preserve and further accessible democracy in Baltimore City. As co-founder of the Baltimore Votes coalition, Novey has harnessed the collective power of a diverse set of individuals and nonprofits to pursue a future where every eligible person, in every precinct, votes in every election. Most recently, Novey was involved in founding the innovative Party at the Mailbox (PATM) campaign which sent over 3,000 custom boxes out to voters in Baltimore. Each box was a celebration of local talent. PATM partnered with local artists at the Globe Collection and Press at MICA to design t-shirts, posters, and coloring books, sourced local snacks like Berger cookies and crab-flavored chips and included the latest guidance on voting to ensure that every person who received a box was ready to make their mailbox their ballot box.

Noah Smock - Executive Director, Baltimore Community ToolBank

Noah Smock has made it his personal and professional mission to “Serve the Servers.” While often working tirelessly in the background, Noah and the ToolBank don’t just provide the tools and resources to enhance service projects — their very existence makes new, ambitious community projects possible in the first place. He’s activated the Baltimore Community ToolBank as a community resource that prides itself on being environmentally sustainable and accessible to all who choose to affect positive change in Baltimore and the region.

Atiya Wells - CEO and Founder, Backyard Basecamp

Backyard Basecamp was founded by Atiya Wells, a pediatric nurse with a passion to introduce, educate, and connect families in Baltimore, especially people of color, to local outdoor spaces. While learning more about our natural world, she often noticed that she could count the number of Black, indigenous or people of color in the room on one hand. Diving into research and history, she learned that ancestral wounding and historical trauma are key players in the lack of diversity in nature-based programming. She has dedicated her time to (re)introducing BIPOC folks to nature by starting with nature walks in their own neighborhoods, eventually embarking on a journey into the many wild spaces across Baltimore.

Ateira Griffin - Founder and Executive Director, BOND (Building Our Nation’s Daughter’s)

Ateira Griffin is a lifelong Baltimore City resident, entrepreneur, educator, and community organizer. She earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Morgan State University and a master’s in secondary education from Johns Hopkins University. Her love for teaching led her to serve as a K-12 educator and school administrator at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. She is the founder and CEO of BOND — Building Our Nation’s Daughters, Inc., which mentors single mothers to cultivate positive mother-daughter relationships and increase their economic mobility two generations at a time. Currently, she serves as a school board commissioner for Baltimore City Public Schools, and is a 2019 Echoing Green Fellow and 2020 Open Society Institute Fellow. She believes a part of her life’s purpose is to disrupt all things oppressive to the Black community, women of color, and single mother households.

Dorian Walker - Executive Director, Family Survivor Network, Inc.

Dorian envisions a Baltimore where African American boys and men are supported and uplifted. With a bachelor’s in public policy and as a master’s candidate in negotiations and conflict management, he is experienced in policy writing and program coordination. As an African American man, he tirelessly encourages stakeholders to cultivate policies and programs that humanely serve their members. He strives to reform systems while developing innovative solutions to systemic injustices, ultimately leveraging opportunities that sustain communities and their members. Family Survivor Network’s mission is to support the mental, emotional, and physical health of individuals, families, and communities impacted by violence in Baltimore.

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More about Baltimore Homecoming and the Homecoming Hero Awards sponsored by T. Rowe Price

Baltimore Homecoming aims to inspire Baltimore alumni — anyone who was born, grew up, lived or worked in Baltimore — to reconnect with the city and join it in building a brighter future. Through the Homecoming program, it will introduce out-of-town guests to the city’s leading innovators, artists, activists and community leaders.

Here’s how it will work:

» NOMINATE: From Sept. 7 through Oct. 15, the public nominated Homecoming Heroes. Anybody who does their transformational work in Baltimore was eligible, but Baltimore Homecoming was looking in particular for individuals who have made a significant contribution to the city through their activism, the arts, or community work; through a faith-based organization; or through nonprofit leadership. Baltimore Homecoming’s Selection Committee narrowed down the pool of nominations to 10 finalists. Below you’ll find more detail on the selection criteria.

» VOTE: You can vote on your top five Heroes once every 12 hours. The voting opened Oct. 31 and run through Dec. 31. All 10 semifinalists will be invited to participate and share their stories at the Homecoming event and participate in T. Rowe Price Foundation’s capacity building program. The five winners will have a speaking opportunity on stage at the Homecoming and will receive a cash award of $3,000 each.

» TUNE IN: Baltimore Homecoming will announce the five winners about a week before the May 4-6 Homecoming event To keep it a surprise, we’ll keep vote tallies secret until the announcement.

The Homecoming Hero Awards are subject to Baltimore Homecoming’s Privacy Policy.

Read the official rules.

Frequently asked questions

Who is eligible?

Baltimore Homecoming is looking for community leaders, activists, artists, leaders of small or start-up nonprofit organizations, small-business owners, and other innovators. That said, any U.S. citizen or legal resident 18 years of age or older who has demonstrated commitment to social change and community engagement on behalf of those living in Baltimore is eligible.

What are the selection criteria?

Baltimore Homecoming’s Host Committee will review nominations and select 10 semifinalists on the basis of three factors, which will be weighted equally:

» Impact: What challenge(s) has the nominee sought to address? What progress have they made? Have they transformed the lives of individuals? Touched the lives of many?

» Inspiration and mobilization: Did the nominee inspire others to take action? Did they work to organize others within their neighborhood or across Baltimore as a whole?

» Creativity: Did the nominee’s work break new ground or create a new model for change?

What are the awards?

Winners can choose to receive their $3,000 cash prize an unrestricted individual gift or to donate to a nonprofit organization or charity of their choice.

Will there be awards for finalists?

All 10 semifinalists will be given a chance to participate and share their story at the Homecoming event May 4-6.

How will winners be selected? What’s the timeline?

We accepted public nominations through Oct. 15. Baltimore Homecoming’s Selection Committee then narrowed down the list to 10 semifinalists. Public voting to select the five winners will be live until Dec. 31. The five winners will be announced on May 4.

Why can’t I see the voting results?

To save the excitement for the reveal!

What if my question isn’t answered here?

Email and depending on the nature of your question Baltimore Sun technical staff or Baltimore Homecoming organizers will do their best to help.