Raleigh Convention Center | Wednesday, May 1, 2019 | Opening Sessions 10 a.m. | Lunch Program 12 Noon – 1:45 p.m.

Can you imagine what this region would look like if everyone were thriving? We believe that everyone should be able to thrive, but inequitable barriers and other factors like a growing poverty rate, opportunity gaps in education, and more, stand in the way for many in our community. Even as the Triangle continues to top “best of” lists, not all people are able to grow, move forward, or flourish. How can we work together to tackle the root causes of these issues and make real change for our region? Join us for What Matters: A Thriving Community, as we discuss and explore what’s possible from other communities engaged in this meaningful work.

Event Details

Below you will find important information detailing this year’s event. Tickets to What Matters are $75 and include admission to an (optional) opening session as well as the luncheon and main stage speakers. Tables available for purchase, click here for pricing. Please note that due to the popularity of this annual event, tickets do sell out. This page will be updated regularly with new information.


We are pleased to partner with EdNC to livestream the Education opening session, and with UNC-TV to live-stream the luncheon discussion.

Speakers | Opening Sessions | Philanthropic Awards |Host Committee | Sponsors | About What Matters

2019 Speakers

Joining us on the main stage to discuss thriving and how community-based efforts can break down barriers and reinvigorate a region are representatives from the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI). DSNI is a community-led effort in Boston, Mass. – now a nonprofit – with its mission to empower Dudley residents to organize and plan for a vibrant, diverse and high-quality neighborhood in collaboration with community partners. They have programs in K-24 education pipeline and youth development, cultural arts, affordable housing, environment and health, workforce development – and are a great example of what can happen when you work together for change.

Elizabeth “Liz” Miranda
is an example of what can become of Boston’s young people when they are given the opportunity to rise above their circumstances. As a first-generation Cape Verdean-American and lifelong Roxbury resident, Liz has spent her entire life in the district she now represents. She is a Wellesley College alumna and proud graduate of the John D O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury. Liz is a true youth champion, community builder, and philanthropist. She has had a long career in both community building and youth development which began as a teen living in the Dudley Street neighborhood through the Nubian Roots Youth Committee, the DSNI Board, Mytown,Inc. and the Orchard Gardens Teen Center. Liz has been a staunch advocate for gun violence prevention, environmental justice, economic empowerment, and for women and girls of color. As an activist, educator, and non-profit executive, Liz has always utilized social innovation to drive community change. Her life-long work has activated and amplified resident and youth power. Along with the title of State Representative of the 5th Suffolk district of Massachusetts, which includes parts of Roxbury and Dorchester, Liz currently serves as Executive Director of the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center and sits on numerous non-profit Boards.

Trayce B. Booth is a long time resident of Dorchester, Massachusetts where she currently resides on the Dudley Neighbors Incorporated (DNI) Land Trust. A mother of 4 talented adults and grandma of 6 beautiful grandchildren, Trayce holds several volunteer roles at neighborhood organizations such as: Board Member at Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) and Union Capital Boston, Co-chair of DSNI’s Sustainable Development Committee, Resident Leader for Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, Coordinator for Fair Food at Dudley Village, and Trustee for the Boston Arts Academy High School. She graduated with a Bachelors degree from Leslie University with a major in Liberal Arts and a specialization in Human Services and is currently taking courses at Urban College in Boston studying Community Advocacy. A lifelong community activist, she is also a member of the Leland Community Garden and Food Project, as well as, a former Fellow for DSNI’s Fair Chance for Family Success program where she helped local residents gain wealth and make powerful connections to further their personal goals. She is a recipient of a scholarship from Vital Village Community Partnership and most recently worked as a parent advocate for the Boston Public Schools Welcome Center.

Ramona Lisa Alexander is currently the Arts & Culture Manager at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative for the Fairmount Cultural Corridor (a creative place-making initiative). In 2017 she was the Co-Chair for Boston Creates, a citywide cultural planning process, under Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture. She has also supported DSNI’s role in the strategic planning process to form the Upham’s Arts and Innovation District with the City of Boston and Boston Planning and Redevelopment Authority. Prior to joining DSNI & FCC team she worked as the Manager of Performance Programs in the Education Department at the Boch Performing Arts Center in Boston. Early in her career, Alexander worked as the Regional Youth Worker/Organizer overseeing multiple community sites for the Boston Center for Youth and Families. She has worked with various organizations, integrating the therapeutic aspects of theater, performance, movement, and writing with a focus on civic engagement and social justice.

Anita R. Brown-Graham will serve as the moderator for this discussion. Anita rejoined the UNC School of Government in September 2016 to lead the public launch of ncIMPACT—a special initiative that seeks to expand the School’s capacity to work with public officials on complex policy issues. Since her arrival, she and her colleagues have devised programs to support communities working on economic mobility, poverty, the expansion of prekindergarten, extending the labor pool, and opioid misuse and abuse. In 2013, the White House named her a Champion of Change for her work at the Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State University, and the Triangle Business Journal named her a 2014 Woman in Business for her policy leadership in the state and a 2017 CEO of the year. Brown-Graham serves on the boards of several organizations, including Triangle Community Foundation. She earned an undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Opening Sessions

Each year, What Matters offers dynamic opening sessions led by community leaders, funders, and field experts for the a deeper discussion around the day’s topic. These sessions are included in the event ticket, but are optional. Sessions are capped for optimal interaction, and do sell out quickly.

Community-Based Solutions: A Shift in Power and Voice (SOLD OUT)

Della Pollock, Executive Director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center (Moderator); David Reese, President and CEO of the East Durham Children’s Initiative; Kia Baker, Executive Director of Southeast Raleigh Promise; Beatrice Parker, Family Success Alliance; and Ebony West, Triangle Community Foundation.
Session sponsored by Duke Energy

Our communities are home to residents, assets, and institutions that drive economic and social change. However, we have long focused on the gaps and deficiencies in our neighborhoods, rather than the strengths and rich histories of the community. Now, local nonprofits and governments are harnessing the power of residents to determine and be catalysts for change in their communities. Join us as we learn with local organizations how we can flip negative narratives of communities and tap into the strengths of our neighborhoods to better serve and support residents

Advancing Equity in Education (SOLD OUT)

2015 NC Teacher of the Year, James Ford, EdNC, various local students, and Sarah Battersby, Triangle Community Foundation. Session sponsored by Lenovo.

To be a thriving community everyone must have equitable access to a high-quality education. We know that achievement and opportunity gaps exist and stem from systemic inequities that have existed for generations. Join a discussion formed and facilitated by current students and 2015 NC Teacher of the Year, James Ford, on what these gaps look like and how students, families, system leaders, and our community can contribute to a more equitable education system.

Green Gentrification: Another View of Sustainable Revitalization Projects

DeDreana Freeman, Council Member of Durham City Council; Jacob Lerner, City of Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services; Aidil Ortiz, Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee; Justin Robinson, Extra Terrestrial Projects; Camryn Smith, Communities in Partnership; Tara Mei Smith, Extra Terrestrial Projects; and Sarah Guidi, Triangle Community Foundation
Session sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

In cities across the globe, re-purposing outdated industrial infrastructure into sustainable, “green” infrastructure has helped cities promote environmental conservation, stimulate economic development, and transform communities. But this growth hasn’t always been shared equitably. Hear how “green gentrification” has inadvertently perpetuated social injustices in other communities and learn about the innovative approaches to equitable green projects going on in the Triangle.

Supporting a Vibrant and Inclusive Art Scene

Monét Noelle Marshall, Artistic Director of MOJOAA Performing Arts Company; Sinclair Palmer, Musician; and Sarah Guidi, Triangle Community Foundation. Session sponsored by Mary Duke Biddle Foundation. 

Do you feel reflected in the art you see in our community? Diverse art and inclusive cultural spaces are essential to creating thriving communities, but if only a segment of the community is reflected, is it a thriving community for everyone? Challenge yourself to think about ways in which the arts offerings you consume or produce reflect the diversity of our community and learn tangible strategies for making the arts more accessible and equitable.

Philanthropic Awards

Each year during What Matters the Foundation presents two philanthropic awards sponsored by American Underground, focused on the game-changing work of deserving community members. The Legacy Award recognizes individuals who have supported our community by providing vital service to the Foundation, while the Catalyst Award recognizes engaged, visionary donors whose dedication has made – or is making – a significant impact in our community. Nominations are made by our staff and board, and a Foundation committee selects the winners each year.

Jim Stewart, Legacy Award winner – Jim Stewart is not only recognized for being a family legacy at the Foundation but for his own legacy of leadership to the Foundation and his dedication to the betterment of our community, particularly his continued work on issues affecting children like healthcare and education.



Carol Robbins, Catalyst Award winner – Carol Robbins is awarded for her innovative philosophy of combining her former vocation (urban planning) with her avocation (choral music) to provide awards and scholarships to outstanding teachers and programs doing work to connect choral singing to young people that might not otherwise be exposed to or participate in the art form.

Host Committee

Farad Ali | Perry Colwell | Julia & Frank Daniels, Jr. | Christine DeVita | Debbie & Sheldon Fox | Annette & Rick Guirlinger | Alice & George Horton | Fred Hutchison | Mark Kuhn | Beth & Phil Lambert | Prue & Peter Meehan | Pat Nathan & Mervyn Groves | Cathy Pascal & Ron Strom | Elizabeth & Michael Schoenfeld | E. Jack Walker, Jr.


This event would not be possible without support from:

Presenting Sponsor


Philanthropy Awards Sponsor

Opening Session Sponsors

Media Sponsors


Community Builders

Bank of America | Bourke Services, LLC | Duke University Health System | Fifth Third Bank | Hamilton Point Investment Advisors, LLC | Hutchison, PLLC | IBM | KDI Capital Partners, LLC | Kuhn Advisors, Inc. | PNC | The Redwoods Group | Schell Bray PLLC| Stewards Fund | Walker Lambe, PLLC

Interested in being a sponsor? Click here to view details.

 About What Matters

What Matters is the Foundation’s annual community luncheon that gathers people from all sectors in our Triangle region to learn about and address key community issues. What Matters attracts leaders who are dedicated to making our community great for everyone.  The day begins with dynamic morning workshops topically chosen that relate to the year’s theme. These opening sessions are led by community experts and Foundation partners, and provide an opportunity for additional dialogue and education. Each year, Triangle Community Foundation brings engaging keynote speakers to What Matters, to speak about the topic in ways relevant to our community, offer insight on solutions to key challenges, and inspire action going forward. During the luncheon the Foundation presents philanthropic awards focused on the game-changing work of two deserving community members.  Event proceeds support the Foundation’s Fund for the Triangle, which provides funding for Our Focus in the arts, community development, environmental conservation, and youth literacy.

For more information about past speakers and topics, please click here.


Meg Buckingham

Director of Marketing & Communications
Phone 919.474.8370 ext:4018
Email [email protected]