50 Black men honored for reshaping their communities with BMe Leadership Award – Knight Foundation

50 Black men honored for reshaping their communities with BMe Leadership Award

BMe is a growing network of black men working together to strengthen cities

(May 14, 2013)  Black men from all walks of life received a combined $600,000 today to advance their community-building work as winners of the BMe Leadership Award.

Created by BMe, a growing network of black men committed to making their communities stronger, the award recognizes and provides resources to brothers doing their part to better their cities.

The winners are volunteers and engineers, a chemist and a cartoonist from Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia – three cities where BMe operates. They will:

  • Foster skills in the science, technology and math through workshops that involve an African-American cartoon character Mad Max the kid scientist, a program that teaches youth to design their own video games and a camp that combines wrestling with academics;

  • Promote financial stability through a Baltimore coffee shop focused on training and employing disconnected youth, a mentoring program that teaches economics and training workshops for people interested in launching businesses in the creative sector;

  • Help ex-offenders lead efforts to reintegrate other returning citizens into society through a “Pardon Me Clinic” that aims to get rights restored, a film exploring the transition from the point of view of three men, and another program focused on the needs of ex-offenders’ families.

  • Empower youth to become world-class debaters, video and documentary producers and develop parenting skills.

A full list of projects is below, with more information and videos of winners available at bmecommunity.org.

“BMe is based on a simple truth, that there are thousands of black men who are assets to their communities— and if the rest of us got behind people like these, the city would have more to celebrate,” said Trabian Shorters, who founded BMe. “They are men from all walks of life. They help others just because they can, and because they care.”

“There is no cavalry coming to save the day in communities across America. The visionary leaders that many are waiting for are already here and a bunch of them look like the BMe winners who are contributing to the vitality and resiliency of their communities every day,” said Shawn Dove, who leads the Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which funds BMe along with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Launched in Detroit in 2011 and now in Philadelphia and Baltimore, the BMe community helps black men connect with each other, exchange ideas and receive resources to advance the positive work they do in the city. Numerous events—from barbershop talks to “acts of community” service  —have taken place in the three cities. In addition, more than 3,000 men have shared their stories of personal commitment to improving their community —many of which can be found at BMecommunity.org.

BMe is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The Heinz Foundation is funding a variation of BMe in Pittsburgh focused on story-gathering and positive images of black males.

For more, visit bmecommunity.org or follow @bmecommunity.

2013 Leadership Award Winners


Teaching marketable skills to teens

Entrepreneur and activist Kwasi Akwamu knows what can happen when a young man takes the wrong road.  After spending 12 years in prison, he teamed up with Yusef Shakur, a prior BMe Leadership Award winner, to launch the Second Chance Support Group for ex-offenders in the Detroit area.  The program also offers an eight-week program pairing at-risk youth with mentors in various trades to teach marketable job skills to teens. ($16,000)

Inspiring the next generation to succeed

Phil Black, who is completing his degree at Wayne State University, is the founder of The Manhood Project, a four-step approach to reduce at-risk behaviors in young men while inspiring them to succeed. In partnerships with local schools, the program provides a combination of mentoring, art and educational workshops, guest lectures and civic engagement opportunities. ($15,000)

Promoting community health and fitness

Wayne State law student Shawn Blanchard is helping people in his community add years to their lives through health and fitness. By expanding the Run This Town Detroit effort, Blanchard will grow and strengthen a community of people committed to defeating obesity and living healthier lifestyles through fitness, education and information sharing.  ($15,000)

Fostering creative businesses

Designer Clement Brown, who has been making and selling clothes since he was 12 years old, founded FAME SHOP, which helps individuals build their own personal brands. Through FAME SHOP, Brown provides workshops in technical skills like embroidery, screen-printing and intellectual property to encourage others to become creative professionals. ($15,000)

Spreading awareness of prostate cancer

A survivor of stage four prostate cancer, Lewis Colson founded Project: Better Man as a way to reduce the number of African-American men dying from the disease. The project partners with fraternities, churches and community-based organizations to reach a younger population who may be vulnerable to health challenges.  ($10,000) 

Developing committed young fathers

Community advocate Quanna Fish was inspired to work with at-risk fathers after working as a youth specialist at a local detention center in 2003. Fish will launch the Fathers Focused on Fathering program, a project of Young Fathers Standing United, that will educate, develop and support fathers under the age of 25. ($15,000)

Instilling a knowledge of economics

Educator Truman Hudson Jr. knows how to turn disappointment into determination. The doctoral candidate failed economics twice in college, before mastering it and getting a degree in it. Now as the founder of the Community Economic Development Club, he provides dozens of young people year-round instruction, mentoring and practical experiences in economic mastery. ($20,000)

Cultivating life skills in young boys

Nonprofit founder Norman Hurns created Brother Making a Difference to prepare young boys to be productive citizens that build stronger families and communities. Funding will go to a four-week summer camp that helps boys develop character and life skills. ($15,000)

Life and character training for high school students

Clothing designer William Malcolm is the founder of The Suit Project, which provides life skills mentoring, interview preparation and clothing to young men. In addition he started the Man of Style & Substance Scholarship Contest that awards scholarships to students based on their educational achievements and community activism. With funding, Malcolm will create a yearlong program for male high school students that combines his previous programs. ($10,000)

Revitalizing neighborhoods, a playground at a time

Engineer Gaston Nash co-founded the College Core Block Club, a community group dedicated to the improvement of the streets between the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College. The group seeks to rebuild a half-acre Lollo Tot Lot playground in the Fitzgerald Community. ($10,000)

Using basketball to provide time for reflection

Law student Isaac Nzoma and Dongelo Moore want to replicate their Better Men Outreach program, currently serving young adults 16 and over on the Northwest side of Detroit. The program is comprised of two hours of playing basketball separated by a mandatory reflection session on a range of topics. ($12,000)

Supporting character building through the martial arts

Jason Wilson, founder and CEO of the faith-based nonprofit organization The Yuinon, will continue to teach young men to go into a “cave” to conquer their anger and fears through the Cave of Adullam Mentoring through Martial Arts Program. ($20,000)

Putting youth on the right path

Community Organizer and mentor Ray Winans founded the youth empowerment group Keeping Them Alive, which works to reduce youth violence and increase youth education.  The group meets every Saturday morning to engage in community service, activism and educational activitiesservice, activism, and educational opportunitiesservice, activism, and educational opportunities service, activism, and educational opportunities. ($10,000)

Using video game creation to offer teens options

Graphic designer and former police officer Keith Young tired of arresting young people he saw as underdeveloped. So he founded The Creation Station, which teaches urban youth to program and design a basic video game, to give them an outlet and options. Young will teach students how to plan a game, write a story, create basic game code and design game graphics to create a finished product that they can play for fun or sell to others. ($15,000)


Inspiring students to fulfill their dreams

School Principal Omar Barlow will launch the “Passion Project” at Eastern University Academy Charter School, to empower students to take action on their personal goals, and to see the process evolve from an idea to implementation. ($10,000)

Building community, remembering a son

Community leader Ronald C. Brown, Sr. started a community day after his son was murdered upon returning home from college.  The Southwest Philadelphia resident will support the Ivan Pick Brown Memorial Foundation Fun Day by bringing programming to the neighborhood, including a winter coat giveaway and school supplies drive, year round. $5,000.

Promoting financial skills in youth

James Burnett, executive director of the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution, will strengthen WesGold Fellows, which provides paid summer internships for high school students focused on financial education, personal development and educational planning. BMe funding will go directly towards interns salaries, which are matched by the program in an effort to teach financial management. ($20,000)

Strengthening a network of college access professionals

Education consultant Thomas Butler will strengthen the Philadelphia College Prep Roundtable, a volunteer organization of college prep professionals who help increase opportunities for students to attend and graduate from institutions of higher education. The Roundtable provides a place for practitioners to share resources and tools and explore ways to bridge the gap between research and practice.  ($10,000)

Fighting Domestic Violence with Peace + Love

Herman Davis’ program Peace + Love will offer a six-month, bi-weekly course for middle school and high school students on personal history and life lessons.  Herman strives to bring awareness of domestic violence to students, and encourages peer-to-peer communication and therapeutic expression through poetry. ($10,000)

Stronger communities through mentorship

Joe Davis became a paraplegic 32 years ago due to gun violence, but he has turned his adversity into advocacy.  He runs the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation program at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.  Funding will go to a “Train the Trainer” project to mentor young black men to become educators, role models and change agents in their schools and communities. ($10,000)

Making science cool in urban schools

Entrepreneurs Michael Gross and Bryheem Charity will strengthen S.T.E.A.M. Rising, which fosters interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and math through mentoring and a series of workshops and lessons across grade levels. ($10,000)

Removing barriers to employment for ex-offenders

Wayne Jacobs co-founded X-Offenders for Community Empowerment as a way to reduce recidivism by empowering people released from incarceration to become community change agents. Through the Pardon Me Clinic, Jacobs will help ex-offenders remove the barriers to employment through executive clemency. ($10,000)

Increasing College Graduation Rates

Joaquim Hamilton, an experienced college admissions official, co-founded IMPACT Inc. as a student at Frankllin & Marshall College to increase college retention and graduation rates for male students of color. IMPACT partners with colleges, including Franklin & Marshall and Arcadia University, to bring targeted programming to campuses on academic success, health and wellness, meanings of masculinity, relationships and leadership. ($10,000)

Creative expression for kids through jazz

Musician Lovett Hines, director of education for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts, will use funding to create a jazz ensemble of young students, teaching them the language of music. The project is in partnership with the Universal Institute Charter School and emphasizes creative expression, self-esteem, values and life skills through group dynamics. ($10,000)

Providing pathways to success for teens

Social worker A. Nasir al-Maliki’s Stop the Violence OPTIONS program teaches youth alternatives to negative behavior and violence by offering test preparation and social and personal development activities. The program runs after school, on Saturdays and over the summer at Overbrook High School, and gives students three program options: job training, college preparation or an academic enrichment program.   ($5,000)

Preparing the next generation for college

Fraternity leader Khary Moody, in conjunction with his brothers from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, launched Society 41, which works with youth from north Philadelphia to prepare them for college through workshops, mentoring, SAT prep courses and college tours.  Each member of Society 41’s core team teaches by example: they were born and raised in Philadelphia’s inner city, attended and graduated college, and are now pursuing careers in their respective fields. ($10,000)

Promoting Peace in South Philly

Anton Moore, founder of the nonprofit Unity in the Community, will promote  “Peace Week,” which centers on empowering South Philly to fight violence through a teen night, peace conference, a college readiness drive and a rally and march held in partnership with Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and State Representative Jordan Harris.  ($10,000)

Cultivating community through urban gardens

Jimmie Moore will create several urban gardens around the Cobbs Creek section of Philadelphia, employing senior citizens and young men as garden tenders to promote cross-generational mentorships while beautifying the area. Participants will gain skills in horticulture, garden tending, landscaping and scientific research. ($10,000)

Connecting communities through content

Writer Chris Norris will be funded to support Techbook Online, a multi-media publishing, marketing and news organization he founded in 2009. It not only covers hyper-local news and events but also advocates for change and provides readers with the tools to take action. ($5,000)

Cultivating entrepreneurs focused on community

Chris Rabb, who teaches social entrepreneurship at Temple University, will develop a series of workshops to teach entrepreneurship to low wealth individuals. The project seeks to give them the tools and the context in which to pursue entrepreneurship in ways that build community and promote shared prosperity. ($20,000)

Telling stories of returning citizens through film

Filmmaker El Sawyer will put the final touches on “Pull of Gravity,” an intimate portrait of three men, including Sawyer, in different stages of reentry from prison to society. The piece, in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, offers insights that can help shape responses from family members, parole officers, law enforcement officials and the social networks upon which reentry is dependent. ($10,000)

Feeding Philly’s hungry

Craig Stroman, a Civil Rights Investigator with HUD, started his program to address homelessness and hunger in his community with only four volunteers after he saw a homeless family come out of a tent after a nearly two foot snow fall.  Now, his non-profit organization, We Feed the Homeless Philly boasts more than 500 volunteers and serves 300 to 400 meals to the homeless every week, all on donations.  ($15,000)

Inspiring high schoolers to care for the environment

Temple University student Rashuan Williams will launch an effort to engage high school students in caring for the planet through recycling and composting programs. His project, TechKnowledge G!, will use gaming and interactive content to drive participation amongst both parents and high schoolers.  ($10,000)


Empowering youth through art

A nonprofit leadership major at Coppin State University, Shawn Burnett founded Walks of ART Inc to fill the void between urban youth and the arts. The organization aims to bolster a sense of self in Baltimore youth by providing a forum for them to express themselves through drawing, painting, dancing, writing short stories and other activities. ($10,000)

Stemming violence through community campaigns

Antiviolence advocate Gardnel Carter wants to help stop the violence in four Baltimore neighborhoods with Safe Streets, a public health campaign that aims to reduce shootings and homicides. The program engages the community in planning activities, public responses to shootings and homicides and mobilizing residents. Ex-offenders who have been successful in turning their lives around serve as outreach workers. ($10,000)

Using tech to instill a love of math
Computer scientist  Emmanuel Cephas wants to awaken the inner math genius in black youth through a new educational program that enables children to use their own body movement to solve equations. MIYAGI stands for “Move If You’re A Genius Inside.” Funding will allow Baltimore children to test its features, contributing to the design. ($20,000)

Providing on-the-job training for youth

Entrepreneur Brian Gray co-founded the CUPs coffee shop in Southwest Baltimore, which employs and empowers disconnected youth. BMe funding will support project ‘I CAN’, which helps employees, ages 16 to 24, develop transferable work and life skills. Through enrichment courses, youth will learn how to create resumes and improve interview and conflict resolution skills, while strengthening their customer service abilities.  $15,000)

Offering employment and training for those who can’t find jobs

Entrepreneur and former Bethlehem steelworker Edward Griffin will help more men become financially stable by employing them through his business, A Touch of Class Cleaning Service. The program helps men who can’t find jobs in the traditional sense because of past mistakes including incarceration, drug addiction and a lack of transportation. ($15,000)

Building communities through acts of service

Coppin State University student Cirron Lanier Greenidge wants to engage and inspire the next generation of Baltimore youth through acts of service. His project Encouraging The World will offer local students a year-long program that includes an international volunteer excursion and monthly volunteer projects in Baltimore. ($15,000)

Helping youth tell their stories

High school student Trevor Hale and Wide Angle Youth Media will support the Mentoring Video Project, which provides Baltimore youth with media education to tell their own stories and become engaged with their communities. The curriculum gives participants the tools to analyze issues that affect young people, create short films that address these topics, and then to share their finished work with local residents, schools and stakeholders. ($15,000)

Urban farming builds job skills for returning citizens

Elder Clyde Harris will help to rebuild the lives of African American ex-offenders transitioning into the Baltimore community through Strength to Love II Urban Farm The project, located in the Sandtown-Winchester community in West Baltimore, will not only provide training and employment on a farm for returning citizens, but it will also sell produce on the commercial market. ($15,000)

Pairing wrestling and science at summer camp

Chemist Lydell Henry is encouraging young black males to “Beat the Streets” through the Baltimore Wrestling STEM camp. The hybrid camp for Baltimore City public schools combines amateur wrestling with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses at Morgan State University. ($15,000)

Preparing the next generation of debaters

Policy advocates Adam Jackson and Dayvon Love want to change the face of debate in Baltimore by establishing a debate camp at Morgan State University. The primary operators and instructors at this camp will be black men who are nationally acclaimed former debaters. The camp is also in partnership with Morgan State and Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a for-profit, youth-led policy thinktank in Baltimore where Jackson and Love work. ($20,000)

Supporting families with returning citizens 
A former addict turned outreach worker at GROUP Ministries, Anton Pridget will develop a program to support family members as they help returning citizens adjust to reentry in their communities and in their homes. The program is being developed with preliminary focus groups and will be piloted with funds. ($15,000)

Changing prospects for youth at risk

Community leader Billy Stanfield, founder and executive director of New Vision Youth Services, will launch a ministry, mentoring and life skills coaching program to help change the cultural environment of youth who struggle with academic and behavioral issues. The program, called Positive Impact Movement, hires urban specialist mentors to coach participants. ($10,000)

Using equine therapy for HIV awareness

Equestrian and activist Jean Albert Renaud will further develop Project Arrowhead, which combines equine therapy with an awareness program to educate youth about the risks of HIV infection. The project uses proven strategies from equine therapy to develop a sense of self-efficacy and acceptance, impulse modulation and social skills building. ($10,000)

Providing hope and counseling for homeless youth

Counselor Luther Thompson will help develop a new outreach program for homeless youth at the Youth Empowered Society Drop-In Center, which opened in 2012. The center’s counselors are all formerly homeless youth. They will develop outreach skills by providing assistance and case management to youth ages 14-25 who are in imminent risk of homelessness.

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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. More information is available at http://www.knightfoundation.org/.

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education. More information is available at http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/

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