2024 Awardee

Nicole Lee

Executive Director, Urban Peace Movement

Nicole Lee (she/her/they) is the Executive Director of Urban Peace Movement, a racial justice organization in Oakland that works to transform social conditions that drive violence and mass incarceration in low-income communities of color. Founded in 2009, Urban Peace Movement uses a unique healing-centered organizing model to support youth to feel hopeful and confident while empowering them to organize for positive community change. Among the organization’s accomplishments and successes, Urban Peace Movement has invested in the leadership development of hundreds of young people in Oakland and the East Bay to weigh in on issues that impact their lives and communities, successfully advocated for policies to reduce the impact of mass incarceration on youth of color, supported the healing of community members impacted by gun violence, and hosted an annual Oakland music festival called Town Up Tuesday, which reaches thousands.

Nicole is a fourth-generation Oakland native of Chinese American descent and co-founded Urban Peace Movement as the Executive Director in 2009. Nicole’s experience growing up in Oakland gave her a deep understanding of how systemic inequities impact communities of color. During her lifetime, she and fellow activists campaigned against Proposition 21, which criminalized young people of color by trying them in adult courts, successfully stopped a superjail from being built in Alameda County, which would have been the largest per capita juvenile hall in the country, and protested to close California Youth Authority prisons, which housed over 6,000 youth in abhorrent conditions. Nicole also witnessed a cultural renaissance and social justice movement born from Oakland communities’ creativity and resilience firsthand. In 2018 Nicole was named to Ebony Magazine’s prestigious Power 100 list as a Community Crusader, and in 2022 she was awarded the Leading Edge Fellowship, a renowned award that supports the next generation of progressive leaders in California to pursue their vision for change.

Nicole has spent the past 25 years on the frontlines of Oakland’s movement for racial justice, and a sabbatical will allow her “a slower pace of life because I currently live on the edge of burnout and have done so for over two decades.” This time for essential rest will provide Nicole with an opportunity to think about the impact of her work and the role she should play in the next phase of her career.