2 lines of kids singing/performing on brightly lit stage, wearing red sweaters and plaid dresses or black pants.
Photo from Baltimore Homecoming.

Five Baltimore leaders have been chosen to be recipients of Baltimore Homecoming’s fourth annual Homecoming Hero Awards.

Winners will receive $5,000 in cash and the chance to present at Baltimore Homecoming’s Activate 2023 event the weekend of Oct. 19-20.

The Homecoming Hero Awards is sponsored by T. Rowe Price, who partnered with the Baltimore Banner to open nominations to the public to celebrate and uplift the “heroes” within Baltimore’s communities.

Baltimore Homecoming is an organization that connects accomplished Baltimoreans around the world, with the goal of sparking new collaborations and investments in Baltimore. The Activate event is their annual signature celebration bringing back these accomplished “alumni” from around the country and the world. It’s also where the “Crab Tank” pitch competition takes place.

The five 2023 Homecoming Hero Award winners announced on Monday were chosen via a public online voting form on the Banner’s website. They include:

  • Kevin Beasley — Director of Beats Not Bullets, a program that aims to increase middle- and high school-age students’ knowledge of the sound engineering and recording industries.
  • Elijah Miles — Founder and chairman of Tendea Family, an organization that helps advance Baltimore’s Black community through transformative programs focused on identity, self-improvement, community service and development.
  • Brian Pham — CEO and co-founder of Break a Difference, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that helps other nonprofits coordinate large-scale volunteer projects around the world with a new program, “From: Baltimore’, that empowers Black and Brown youth to volunteer.
  • Nykidra Robinson — Founder of Black Girls Vote, a non-partisan grassroots organization that focuses on mobilizing African American women to use their collective voting power to advocate for issues that impact them and their families.
  • Rashad Staton  — Executive director of Community Law In Action (CLIA), which helps develop and position youth and young adults to be stakeholders in decision-making opportunities and policies that directly impact youth across the State of Maryland.  

“We’re looking forward to amplifying the work of these five community leaders at this year’s event,” said Matthew Reeds, Baltimore Homecoming’s deputy director. “Each winner represents the heart and soul in Baltimore’s communities that work each day to create positive change. Their work shows why Baltimore is worth investing in.” 

Five runners-up will also have the opportunity to attend the Activate 2023 event to network with alumni and the Baltimore business, nonprofit, and arts communities. They include:

  • Charita Cole Brown — An author and mental health advocate who lives with a severe form of bipolar disorder. She chronicles her powerful story in her book, “Defying the Verdict: My Bipolar Life” and as a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Maryland board member.
  • Iya Dammons — A proud trans woman of color, activist for the TLGBQIA+ community and founding executive director of Baltimore Safe Haven, a nonprofit organization that provides dedicated TLGBQIA+ support services including housing, healthcare and more.
  • Vanessa Geffrard — Vice president of education and outreach at Planned Parenthood of Maryland where she leads a team of educators who implement programming for ages 9 to 99 focused on life-affirming sex education, consent, body positivity, abortion stigma and more.
  • Katie Kilby — Founder and president of Reveille Grounds, whose mission is to build both stronger veterans and thriving communities in Baltimore City. The organization is building a brick-and-mortar location to host programs and resources.
  • Fred Watkins — Comedian, youth advocate and founder of Big Laughs Company and Lil’ Laughs anti-bullying program. His work helps counteract self-esteem issues that plague students every day and build confidence through laughter, mentorship and restorative programs.  

“Baltimore’s Homecoming Heroes have had a tremendous impact on the community at large,” said Raymone Jackson, head of diversity, equity, and inclusion and corporate responsibility at T. Rowe Price. “We’re proud to support and magnify the contributions of those dedicated to using their passion and talents to strengthen our city and make it a more inspiring place.”

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