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

Feb 02, 2012

Meet the Detroit BME Leadership Award winners

Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


Knight Foundation recently announced the winners of the BME Leadership Award, created to honor black men in Philadelphia and Detroit who step up to lead the community. 

The 20 black men were recognized for making Detroit and Philadelphia stronger and received a combined $443,000 to stregnthen their communities. 

Tomorrow, members of the public are invited to meet the winners from Detroit, hear their stories and learn more about their winning projects. 

All 10 Detroit winners will be at the main branch of the Detroit's Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave., from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 3.

Interviews will be conducted with each winner and broadcast live on Detroit's WJLB FM 98 and on the station's website.

The Huffington Post recently profiled the 10 Detroit winners noting: "Detroit's leadership award winners include a mentor, a lawyer, former prisoners who now teach literacy and media skills, an LGBT rights activist, entrepreneurs, and one Comeback Kid."

To read more about the winners of the BME Leadership Award in both Detroit and Philadelphia, visit BMEChallenge online.

The winners of the 2012 BME Leadership Award in Detroit are:

Winner: Eddie Connor survived cancer as a young teenager and has since dedicated his life to serving as a teacher and mentor, working through schools and media to help young people understand their potential.

Project: Connor will lead book clubs at schools and at off-site field trips to expose Detroit teenagers to important life skills and character traits that he has embraced during his life.

Winner: Andre Dandridge, New Young Fathers Dandridge is a law school graduate who helps small businesses overcome legal obstacles. As a young father, he founded New Young Fathers, a local initiative to help equip young men with the skills they need to be great dads.

Project: Dandridge will lead a series of in-depth workshops that New Young Fathers will conduct across the city, designed to make young men more equipped for fatherhood, more aware of their potential and more inclined to join a local support network. 

Winner: Brook Ellis was in prison when his life was transformed by reading the biography of Reginald Lewis – lawyer, investor, philanthropist and the wealthiest black man of his day.

Project: The Reginald Francis Lewis Reading Academy will strive to improve literacy, civic responsibility and academic achievement at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.  Each enrolled student will read and write a self-affirming essay on the Reginald Lewis biography and "Lonely At The Top" a new e-memoir by his daughter, Christina Lewis-Helpern, and be exposed to a literacy mentor; 30 boys will participate in a competitive college readiness program at Michigan State University.

Winner: Emu Michael Kumane is a manager in the auto industry who volunteers at local schools through Big Brothers Big Sisters Detroit.

Project: Drawing on his network in schools and in the corporate community, Kumane will lead a project to expose 100 young people to the business world. They’ll meet with 20 local businesses, learn how they work and devise a plan for an enterprise they’d like to start. 

Winner: Curtis Lipscomb After coming out as a gay man and observing the potential of young people in Detroit, he began helping youth around him take action against discrimination.

Project: Lipscomb will oversee the LEAD project, which will facilitate an in-depth training of 22 young Detroiters to become more effective advocates of social issues facing the city’s LGBT community. 

Winner: Miguel Pope is a global career development facilitator and motivational life coach who advises and volunteers for various community projects in his neighborhood and the city.

Project: Pope will launch Be Exposed, a program to inspire ambition in young people by exposing them to new cultural and social activities, including shows, restaurants and field trips to new cities. 

Winner: Shaka Senghor started writing while he was incarcerated and later developed a career as an author and speaker who inspires young people with his voice.

Project: Senghor will launch and oversee the Live in Peace Digital and Literary Arts Project, which will coach young people on how to fully express their life stories across media. The project will result in each young person creating his or her personal “anthology” of stories. 

Winner: Yusef Shakur is a former inmate who has became a well-known community activist focused on youth empowerment in a Detroit neighborhood known as Zone 8.

Project: Shakur will increase the impact of the cyber café he has opened in his neighborhood by providing literacy classes, digital training and school supplies to young people in the neighborhood.  

Winner: Dennis Talbert, a former media executive, is now a pastor devoting himself to mentoring youth in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood.

Project: Talbert will lead Rescue 51, an initiative of four BME Challenge participants to develop literacy skills, character and a knowledge of health and wellness issues in 51 children in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood.

Winner: Fran Westbrooks

Westbrooks is an advertising executive who founded Detroit Comeback Kids, which offers young Detroiters innovative, project-based experiences across the city.

Project: Through Detroit Comeback Kids, Westbrooks will help kids plant vegetable gardens in unused lots across the city, by matching young Detroiters with local culinary arts experts and senior citizens who own vacant lots they seek to beautify. Small vegetable stands will offer extra produce to the community. 

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