A local cultural arts organization that empowers individuals through education, workshops, and training in order to build a thriving African American community in Newport County is among this year’s recipients of one of the Rhode Island Foundation’s most prestigious awards.

Sankofa Community Connection shares the 2021 Community Leadership Award with other diverse cultural organizations that participated in the Foundation’s Expansion Arts program. The organizations were honored for celebrating and preserving their cultural traditions and sharing them with the wider Rhode Island community.

“Rhode Island Expansion Arts Program is a multi-year, capacity-building program that offers unrestricted funding to culturally specific organizations that are led by people of color,” said Elena Calderón Patiño, director of the Community Arts Program at the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in a statement, which supports Expansion Arts along with the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and the Foundation. “Rhode Island is an amazing place where there is a unique mixture of art, people and cultures that creates a beautiful tapestry of collaborations throughout the state.” 

The Foundation also announced the winners of its two other annual awards. BCBSRI received the 2021 Carter Inspiring Partner Award, which recognizes donors that have demonstrated a thoughtful approach and commitment to philanthropy. The organization has long supported community-based health initiatives.

“What inspires me is our vision to passionately lead a state of health and well-being across the state of Rhode Island for all Rhode Islanders. It’s something we do every day to support our members and the community,” said Martha Wofford, president and CEO of BCBSRI in a statement. “I’m excited about the path ahead. Our communities have some serious issues to face, but we have the opportunity in our small state to come together to tackle the big problems, and to create a more equitable, better functioning health care system. I’m so excited to partner with the Foundation and with the community to walk down that path together.”

Newport Mental Health, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Providence, the Rhode Island Free Clinic and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT are just a few of the organizations whose work BCBSRI supports.

James C. Sullivan received the 2021 Harold B. Soloveitzik Professional Leadership Award, which recognizes a member of the professional advisor community who has demonstrated an enduring commitment to philanthropy. One of five attorneys in Rhode Island to have earned the Certified Elder Law Attorney designation, Sullivan practices at Sullivan & Sullivan in North Kingstown. His work is focused in the areas of estate planning and administration.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $68 million and awarded a record $87 million in grants in 2020. Since its centennial five years ago, the Foundation has awarded more than $284 million in grants and has raised more than $328 million. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. For more information, visit rifoundation.org.

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).