From left to right: Luz Corcuera, Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Edgar Villanueva, John Rice, and Nathaniel Smith. Photos provided by Precision Strategies
From left to right: Luz Corcuera, Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Edgar Villanueva, John Rice, and Nathaniel Smith. Photos provided by Precision Strategies

Bank of America launches the Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality Award

The award’s five inaugural honorees are leaders in the nonprofit space that uplift communities of color.


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The Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality Award is the latest addition to Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders program. The award honors people who are “advancing racial equality and economic opportunity in Black, Hispanic-Latino, Asian American, and Native American communities.”

Awardees get to direct $200,000 of flexible funding to a nonprofit of their choice. The selected nonprofits will be invited to participate in The Neighborhood Builders Leadership Program. This program goes for a year and gives participants training in strategic growth and development. 

The 2022 awardees are: 

Edgar Villanueva, the founder and Principal of the Decolonizing Wealth Project (DWP). Through the Decolonizing Wealth Project and its fund, Liberated Capital, he helps guide companies in many sectors on how to advance racial equity through social impact investment strategies. In addition to his nonprofit work, Villanueva is an activist and the best-selling author of Decolonizing Wealth. 

“I am deeply honored to work alongside other leaders working tirelessly to advance racial equity and economic opportunity for communities of color. At Decolonizing Wealth Project (DWP), we’re disrupting the existing systems of moving and controlling capital through reparative giving, narrative change and healing programming. I am grateful that Bank of America is taking important steps to lift up the critical work of DWP and the other grantees with the Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality Award,” said Villanueva.

His funding will go to Liberated Capital, “a donor community and funding vehicle aimed at moving untethered resources to Black, Indigenous and other people-of-color communities for liberation and racial healing.”

John Rice, the founder and CEO of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT). Over 20 years, Management Leadership for Tomorrow has helped countless students and professionals of color achieve career success. MLT’s college-to-career model helps students overcome barriers by preparing them to land and do well in their first jobs. This sets students up for economic mobility that can help close the racial wealth and positively impact the next generations. In 2014, Rice was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. 

“Sixty percent of the nearly 500,000 Black and Latino students who graduate from college each year end up unemployed or in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. That is not acceptable. Bank of America’s investment in MLT empowers Black and Latino communities by equipping these students with the professional coaching, high performance playbook, and employer connections they need to land career-path jobs that guarantee economic mobility for them and their families,” said Rice.

His funding will go to Management Leadership for Tomorrow.

Luz Corcuera, the Executive Director of UnidosNow,  a nonprofit committed to empowering the Hispanic/Latino community in the Sarasota/Manatee, Florida area. This is done through programs focused on education, integration, and civic engagement. As an immigrant herself, Corcuera has a unique perspective on integrating into a new country and community. She has a passion for helping underserved communities, and through the organization has been able to develop community-based initiatives to support and amplify the voices of these communities. 

“I am honored and humbled to be one of the inaugural recipients of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality Award. I am grateful to all the amazing partners, mentors, donors, colleagues, friends, and family that have inspired me for the past 22 years to never stop believing in the power of us and to continue building hope. Bank of America has been instrumental in providing the guidance and support to make Manatee and Sarasota a region that cares for our most vulnerable, elevating and lifting up our voices and our work,” said Corcuera. 

Her funding will go to UnidosNow.

Manjusha (Manju) P. Kulkarni, the Executive Director at the AAPI Equity Alliance. The AAPI Equity Alliance is a coalition of over 40 community-based organizations that advocate for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the LA area. The organization has a specific focus on the disadvantaged sections of these communities, such as low-income and immigrants. Kulkarni co-founded the Stop AAPI Hate website during the pandemic. This is the largest aggregator of COVID-19 related hate incidents against AAPIs in the United States. The information on the website has helped drive national action against anti-Asian hate. Kulkarni and the other co-founders of Stop AAPI Hate were included in Time Magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2021” list for their activism. 

“I am incredibly honored to receive the Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality Award from Bank of America and delighted to be able to support South Asian Network, an organization dedicated to addressing racial, social and economic disparities experienced by South Asian Americans and ensuring equity for all marginalized communities in Southern California,” said Kulkarni.

Her funding will go to the South Asian Network, an organization that “provides culturally and linguistically specific services to and advocacy on behalf of South Asians in Southern California, in the areas of healthcare access, gender-based violence, and civil rights/civic engagement.”

Nathaniel Smith, the founder and Chief Equity Officer of Partnership for Southern Equity. The Partnership for Southern Equity works to achieve shared prosperity and balanced growth in Georgia and the American South. To do this, the organization helps those from local communities learn how to advocate for themselves better on relevant issues on the local, state, and federal levels. Some of the issues the organization covers are health, energy, and economic opportunity. Smith was named one of The Huffington Post’s eight “Up and Coming Black Leaders in the Climate Movement” in 2017. 

“I appreciate Bank of America's commitment to the equity ecosystem, and I'm honored to receive the Neighborhood Builders: Racial Equality Award. The gravity of the events, trials, victories, and defeats of the push for racial equity during the COVID-19 pandemic is not lost on any of us. Bank of America's ongoing support of our work helps us to stay the course today and every day,” said Smith.

His funding will go to Partnership for Southern Equity.

This award is the latest example of how Bank of America is continuing to build on its philanthropic programs. These include its commitment to fund or invest $1.25 billion over five years to advance racial equality and economic opportunity and its Neighborhood Builders programs. Over almost 17 years, the Neighborhood Builders and Neighborhood Champions programs have partnered with more than 1,400 nonprofits in 92 communities across the U.S.


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