In 2021, what do a Native artist center, BIPOC food share program, Latinx community agriculture, driver’s union, and community owned real estate and social impact business, have in common? They are part of an inaugural cohort of changemakers who are exploring solutions to the stark lessons learned from the impacts of COVID-19, racial injustice, and economic instability for millions of people. Five Frontline Community Fellowship projects launch this month to showcase the range of possibilities. The people behind the innovative efforts are imagining a new economy – one that has a vision for sustainable, equitable, and healthy communities.
Funded by a Seattle King County Communities of Opportunity Grant, Front and Centered and the People’s Economy Lab partnered to develop a program designed to support entrepreneurs from communities of color who are integrating the principles and practice of a “Just Transition.” With over 40 applications pitching projects, five inaugural fellows were selected to receive $35,000 to seed new or support continuing projects. Each fellowship project aims to have a community impact, demonstrating core principles of democracy and self-determination, environmental sustainability, equity, and creates shared economic well-being for communities. The collective vision is bold, innovating and originating out of BIPOC communities, supported by a growing community of BIPOC thought partners, social impact entrepreneurs, investors for good, policy advocates, and creatives.
Stay tuned as we document the experiences of the fellows, their project developments, and potential community impacts. The fellows will be joined by a cohort of New Economy learning peers who are also developing new economy projects.
Meet the Frontline Community Fellows!
is the fellow and cofounder of the Yəhaw̓ Project. She is an artist, curator, and arts organizer based in Tacoma, Washington. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and a proud member of the diverse Urban Native community in the Pacific Northwest. Her studio practice includes oil painting, collage, beadwork, and other media. Asia was the recipient of the first Vadon Foundation Native Artist Fellowship, and was named one of Seattle Magazine’s Most Influential People in 2019. In 2018, she co-founded yəhaw̓ with Tracy Rector and Satpreet Kahlon, curating the inaugural exhibition at Seattle’s King Street Station. Yəhaw̓ is a Lushootseed word that means proceed, move forward, do the work. The project’s mission is to improve Indigenous mental and emotional health outcomes through art-making, community building, and equitable creative opportunities for personal and professional growth. The project is a growing collective of Indigenous creatives which features hundreds of artists working in a variety of mediums across Coast Salish territories.
is the Executive Director of Villa Communitaria and the fellow behind the new Latinx Community Supported Agriculture program. She is passionate about creating spaces for people to thrive and believes that investing locally is the best way to have a sustainable economy. Coming to Seattle as an immigrant from South America in 2001, she got involved as a parent of two teenagers in Seattle Public Schools and became a community organizer advocating for closing the academic gap for children of color. Her interest to know and expand knowledge about resources and information available for families and individuals who speak a second language, drove her to develop targeted programs in Seattle. She was a client, a volunteer, and an agent of change with Villa Communitaria prior to becoming their Executive Director. Villa Comunitaria’s recent efforts have initiated the first steps to implement a cooperative. A group of five Latinx women and a farmer started a CSA (community-supported agriculture) box and the plan is to expand to other products next year.
Mark Jones, Ph.D
is senior executive leader and consultant, and the fellow behind the CORD Project. He is passionate about building community, and has over forty-five years’ experience developing Beloved Community and real estate initiatives. Given his deep expertise, Mark has been innovating and leading community enterprise efforts throughout the region. As the founder of the Sunyata Group and the Academy of Beloved Community Development program, Mark is launching CORD, a project about under-served communities becoming joint owners of real estate and thriving businesses. This project aims to change the emphasis from highest and best use based on market value as the principal driver for policy, decision making, and implementation — to the highest and best use based on Beloved Community (community-derived high-performance teams) value as the principal driver for policy, decision making, and implementation.
is the fellow behind Plant-Based Food Share, and is a well-known local chef, culinary anthropologist, educator, food justice and healing-through-food advocate. Ariel’s cooking and multiple food projects have been spotlighted, calling her a “doughnut magnate,” “culinary mad scientist,” cultural food purveyor and the list goes on. So when Ariel witnessed the need to offer healthy plant based food boxes to the urban communities when COVID-19 began to impact the lives of everyone in March 2020, she conceived of her plant-based foodshare program. Her Plant Based Food Share re-imagines food access for Black and other communities of color in Seattle under the cloud of COVID-19. The project’s approach centers fresh foods from local, BIPOC farms, culturally appropriate practices that embrace vibrant communities through culture, flavor and joy, well-being from chef-driven foods and plant-based diets, and empowering people to cook and grow their own food, using recipes developed by local POC chefs, virtual cooking and gardening classes full of “how-to’s” that encourage sustainability and entrepreneurship for communities of color.
is the lead fellow behind the Drivers Union project. The Drivers Union is a powerful organization fighting for fair pay and basic rights for gig workers in Washington State. Lata’s leadership has helped build support for groundbreaking victories such as guaranteed wages, paid sick and safe time, and unemployment insurance for Uber and Lyft drivers and others. Lata has been an active community leader in Seattle ever since his arrival in 2014. He has served as a community tutor and translator, a City-appointed safety advocate, a tech support expert, and on the Executive Board of the Oromo Cultural Center. Lata is a visual artist and fluent in English, Oromo, Amharic, Swahili, and Arabic.
New Economy Learning Peers
is a civic and visual designer creating systems-based solutions, focusing on transition-based design practices with a focus on clean energy, circular economy, and equitable development.
is a landscape architect by training, but a design-activist who has worked on community-powered environmental projects locally and in Detroit, Flint, and Seattle. She manages the Danny Woo Community Garden in the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) and is the principal owner of earthling design LLC.
is a Seattle transplant from Hong Kong, pursuing her MPH at the University of Washington. Her prior experience in delivering extensive community-level environmental outreach at ECOSS shaped her passion about food systems and solid waste, especially in food waste reduction through an environmental justice lens.
Elizabeth and Joycelyn are developing a closed-loop food security system that recycles nutrients from local restaurants to urban farms and gardens in the Chinatown International District.
Chiarpah “Sonny” Matheson
is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, where he served a term in Tribal Council. He has worked in Indian Country for 20+ years. Chiarpah’s career experience includes successful Indian Country Development Block grant application and implementation of construction for the Spokane Indian Housing Authority. Chiarpah hopes to create a Tribal Real Estate Investment Group open to all federally recognized Native Tribes in the State of Washington.