Downtown Do-Gooders Hit Hollywood

Feb 16 2015 | 10:55 AM

National awards to honor two local young people inspired to make a difference On July 31, two young Lower Manhattanites will be honored at the 2013 VH1 Do Something Awards in Hollywood, California. Sasha Fisher, 24, and Daniel Maree, 25, will join celebrity social change activists like Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Hudson, LL Cool J, and Kelly Osbourne at next week's ceremony. Along with three other young finalists, they will receive a $10,000 grant for their cause. Fisher, who grew up downtown and currently lives in Tribeca, founded Spark MicroGrants to help create economic self-sufficiency in poor communities. By giving strategic grants to low-income people through partner agencies, the organization is able to help communities in Rwanda and Uganda build schools, water wells, and health centers. "Often, non-governmental organizations come in and tell local populations what to do, forcing what they think they need onto them," Fisher explained. "But projects implemented by outsiders fall apart after the outsiders leave, because nobody maintains them." [caption id="attachment_65365" align="alignleft" width="300"]( Sasha Fisher with one of the kids her organization has helped.[/caption] Fisher and her partner organizations work with local organizations in Africa to keep the projects going. "There are a lot of causes that can feel urgent, and it's hard to make global poverty feel that way because it's been going on for so long," said Fisher, who just returned from Uganda on Sunday night. Daniel Maree, the man behind the Million Hoodies Movement in honor of Trayvon Martin, currently lives in Stuyvesant Town. After catching wind of the news about Martin, he wrote a blog post on the subject, but decided that alone wasn't enough. He launched the hoodie campaign, which quickly spread like wildfire. Celebrities, NBA stars, and thousands of families nationwide tweeted pictures of themselves in their hoodies. "This isn't about black and white. This is about right and wrong," said Maree. "We have to stop the bleeding." The rally he organized on March 21st, the United Nations Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination, made the front page of the New York Times. President Obama made his first pubic comments on the case shortly thereafter, and the movement led to the eventual arrest of George Zimmerman. "We didn't want this to just be a moment, we wanted it to be a movement," he said. The movement is now an official non-profit called The Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, focused on elevating the voices of young people of color and empowering them to use social media to defend justice and human rights. DoSomething.Org, based in New York City, is the country's largest not-for-profit for young people and change. During Wednesday's TV broadcast, viewers can vote to decide which one of the five finalists deserves to take away the grand prize of $100,000 for their cause.