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Dr. Jocelynne Rainey Honored with Sweetwater Clifton ‘City Spirit’ Award

Jameela Syed


Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton

This Monday, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the New York Knicks honored our President & CEO Dr. Jocelynne Rainey with the Sweetwater Clifton ‘City Spirit’ Award, in recognition of her community work and her long career exemplifying the leadership and community service of Dr. King's legacy.

The Sweetwater Clifton ‘City Spirit’ Award pays tribute to local heroes who have made a significant difference in the lives of others. The award is named in honor of the late Knicks great, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who was the first African-American to play for the Knickerbockers. Recipients of this award epitomize the same trailblazing characteristics of the Knicks Legend.

In the interview below, Dr. Rainey discusses her work, motivation, and what it means for her personally to win the Sweetwater award. 


What motivates or inspires you? 

Dr. Rainey: Today I am most motivated by the nonprofits that ensure that their communities have the services and resources they need to thrive. These lifelines provide much needed education programs, address food insecurity and housing instability, organize and advocate for their communities.  They do this work often under resourced themselves, but they understand that what they do is critical to the people they serve.

What does it mean to win the Sweetwater award?

Dr. Rainey: It is an honor to receive the Sweetwater award on the day we recognize the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have spent the bulk of my career working to ensure equity and opportunity in the spaces where I have even a smidgen of power. In this moment, to even be mentioned a along with Martin Luther King Jr., a man I will never measure up to but strive every day to live and act in ways that continue his unfinished work, means that I am doing the WORK.  The Sweetwater Award is the recognition that my career dedicated to racial and economic justice has made an impact in my community.

"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What would you like to be remembered for? 

Dr. Rainey: I would like to be remembered as a woman that was unapologetically committed to leveling the playing field for those impacted by structural racism.

What are you most proud of, your organization? 

Dr. Rainey: I am most proud that Brooklyn Community Foundation does philanthropy differently. Our approach is truly community-led. We look to the community to advise and inform where funding should go to best support Brooklyn’s communities. We visit and learn from people who live in the community, and this informs our grant making strategy. We walk the walk to help us to meet our mission to create a more fair and just borough. 

The Sweetwater Clifton ‘City Spirit’ Award pays tribute to local heroes who have made a significant difference in the lives of others.