upcoming grant deadline: 05/15/2019

upcoming grant deadline: 05/15/2019

Yolonda Johnson-Young


Yolonda is a formally homeless Philadelphia native filmmaker, survivor, and activist.

Her first foray into the arts was through music, having sang on various choirs throughout her time in the Philadelphia School District. Yolonda also received voice instruction at the Settlement Music School and drama coaching at Freedom Theater. She sang on the All Philadelphia High School Choir, performing at the Academy of Music and on the beautiful marble staircase at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, PA with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops. In the early 90s, she and two other women came surprisingly close to revamping the singing group, The Three Degrees, with the group founder, Richard Barrett. It was also during this time she and a friend sang background vocals on a project for a local jazz saxophonist, which received airplay on local jazz radio station WJJZ.

In 1999, after fleeing from domestic violence, Yolonda became homeless. She spent some time in a shelter for abused women. Meeting Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) founder Cheri Honkala was pivotal in creating the activist Yolonda is today. It also started her career in film. Her first two movie roles made possible through their friendship.

Yolonda's previous projects are The Ultimate Song (2002), March on Broad (2000), and Night Catches Us aka String bean and Marcus (2010). A mother to 3 boys, Yolonda is also a twice bereaved parent. Having lost her daughter De’Andra to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 1989, and most recently, the tragic loss of her 20-year-old son Elijah to suicide in 2017, she needed an outlet for her pain and grief. In the year after Elijah’s death, Yolonda learned documentary filmmaking at Scribe Video Center through the Film Scholar Program. She merited a scholarship to complete the nearly year long fellowship.


Leeway grant?

Leeway Transformation Award

The Transformation Award provides unrestricted annual awards of $15,000 to women and trans* artists and cultural producers living in greater Philadelphia who create art for social change and have done so for the past five years or more, demonstrating a long-term commitment to social change work. [read more]

deadline 05/15
Upcoming events
03/2712:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Understanding Taxes for Artists

Leeway is partnering with CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia and Vision Driven Artists for three sessions designed to help artists understand tax season!

[learn more]

03/276:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Infosession at Taller Puertorriqueño

Learn more about our grant programs and application process at this information session!

[learn more]