Fifteen Detroiters – educators and engineers, clothing designers and community organizers – were recently awarded $200,000. The one thing they have in common is that they are all black men who are doing positive things to help their communities. They received awards for their community projects in Detroit as winners of Black Male Engagement (BMe) Leadership Award.
BMe is a growing network of black men committed to one task, making their communities stronger. The award recognizes and provides resources to black men doing their part to better Detroit.
“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.
The funding will help a variety of people and neighborhoods across the city – and will go towards various projects, from teaching youth a basic knowledge of economics, to promoting prostate cancer awareness. To forward BMe’s community-building mission, priority was given to projects that involved people and organizations working together to deepen their impact.
One of the most interesting projects which will receive funding was set up by graphic designer and former police officer Keith Young. Young was 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. Young students learn 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.
Ray Winans is another one of the 2013 awards winners. He 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 and activism. Winans also helps to educate his group; he takes them to the laundry mart, teaches them about the importance of personal hygiene, and has also taken youth to the grocery store and taught them how to cook.
The other men to receive the 2013 BMe Leadership Award were: Kwasi Akwamu; Phil Black; Shawn Blanchard; Clement Brown; Lewis Colson; Quanna Fish; Truman Hudson, Jr.; Norman Hurns; William Malcolm; Gaston Nash; Isaac Nzoma and Dongelo Moore; and Jason Wilson.
“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.”
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.