Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

"Be Me" this September, One Story at a Time

Sept. 1, 2011, noon, Posted by Rishi Jaitly

What motivates you to engage in your community? Why do you lead others?

Any Detroiter’s list would surely include an uncommon love of city. Detroit in 2011 is a town bubbling with change agents: loyal and resourceful citizens are working together to create inviting public spaces, help our children succeed in school, build community-based small businesses, and much, much more.

There is something, though, that we Detroiters share with all people: we engage even more ambitiously when we’re recognized, celebrated, and supported for the community work we do.

It’s with this in mind that we at Knight Foundation pursue our mission of “informed and engaged communities” in Detroit by supporting transformative ideas that make it even easier for Detroiters to, together, flourish and self-identify as leaders in their own communities.

One month ago today, we launched BME (pronounced “Be Me”), a city-wide effort to recognize, celebrate, and support black men and teenagers doing big and small things for the community. Through September 30th, we’re asking all Detroiters, including you, to recognize black males in the city who lead and look out for others in our community.  

Start with just one.

Think, for just a minute, and recognize someone today on BME at http://www.bmechallenge.org.  I nominated a pastor who connects his congregation to small-business resources across the city and a chef who develops lifelong skills and character in his employees.

Beginning in October, all those recognized - and those who have shared their own story through BME - will be celebrated, connected, and have a chance to receive up to $50,000 to take their leadership to the next level.

Detroit’s a majority African-American town so we’re piloting BME with our city’s vibrant community of black males.  We’re delighted today to announce our inaugural local partners for BME; we’re grateful that these partners have stepped up to help spread the word and capture stories.  They include: Allied Media Projects; Berg MuirheadBig Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan DetroitBrightmoor Alliance; Bureau of Urban Living; the Charles H. Wright Museum; City Council President Charles Pugh; City Councilman James Tate; Detroit Jazz Festival; the Detroit Public Library; the Detroit Public Schools Foundation; Detroit Public Television; Good Fathers Only Inc; the Hudson Webber Foundation; I Am Young Detroit; the Little Rock Baptist Church and Rev. Dr. Jim Holley; Marygrove College; Michigan Chronicle; Michigan Forward; Model D; New Detroit; Nonprofit Enterprise at Work; the Office of the MayorRacquet Up DetroitSlow’s BBQSoulTracks.com; Sunday Dinner Company; State Representative Maureen Stapleton; Team Detroit; The Skillman Foundation; True Rock Church and Pastor Darryl Redmond; and WDET-FM.

Our city’s continued strength depends on a culture in which all Detroiters see themselves as co-equal leaders in community.  This month, BME gives us another chance to take a step forward towards that end.

So take a September minute to recognize an inspiring black male who leads others to strengthen community, and start with just one.