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BMe awards grants to Detroit community leaders

DETROIT — Fourteen Black male leaders in Detroit were honored with BMe Leadership Awards. These men have helped to build, protect and educate the community, showing a personal commitment to the well-being of others.

For that commitment, they, along with recipients from Baltimore and Philadelphia, were awarded a total of $600,000 in small grants paid for by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

“The men weren’t awarded the grants just for what they do, but for who they are and what they represent,” reads the BMe Web site. “They represent our chance to live in communities where people look out for each other, turn their talents into income, vacant lots into playgrounds, hopelessness into confidence and death into new life.”

These BMe leaders are among over 3,000 Black men who have posted video testimonials of things that they consistently do to make a difference. Visit for more information or to watch the videos.

Here are the 2013 Leadership Award winners from Detroit:

Kwasi AkwamuKwasi Akwamu: Teaching marketable skills to teens ($16,000)

Entrepreneur and author 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. Akwamu is co-founder of Helping Our Prisoners Elevate, founder and president of the Martz Park Community Association, and co-author of The Window 2 My Soul: My Transformation from a Zone 8 Thug to a Father and Freedom Fighter, which explores the impact of snitching on the black community.

8Phil-BlackPhil Black: Inspiring the next generation to succeed ($15,000)

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.

Black develops learning and development curriculum for design and communications students. He survived a gunshot to the face in 1997 and says that, as a result, he has made a conscious decision to be a positive influence to at-risk youth.

8Shawn-BlanchardShawn Blanchard: Promoting community health and fitness ($15,000)

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. Blanchard is a mentor, University of Michigan graduate and former math teacher.

8William-MalcolmWilliam Malcolm: Life and character training for high school students ($10,000)

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 and Substance Scholarship Contest that awards scholarships to students based on their educational achievements and community activism.

Malcolm also highlights men for their community and philanthropic endeavors through his Distinguished Man of Benevolence Awards, which is presented to Michigan men annually. With funding, Malcolm will create a yearlong program for male high school students that combines his previous programs. Malcolm is the founder and lead creative designer for William Malcolm Luxe Collection, a classic menswear fashion label.

8Clement-BrownClement Brown: Fostering creative businesses ($15,000)

Designer Clement “Fame” 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. Brown, a member of the MIT Innovators Guild, believes that fashion, art, music and entertainment should help people.

8Lewis-ColsonLewis A. Colson: Spreading awareness of prostate cancer ($10,000)

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, launched in 2009, partners with fraternities, churches and community-based organizations to reach a younger population who may be vulnerable to health challenges.

With funding, the project will conduct prostate awareness charity walks and awareness sessions with the goal of bringing more volunteers into the outreach network. The training helps participants understand the impact of a prostate cancer, which causes 27,000 deaths annually, the majority in the African American community.

8Quanna-FishQuanna Fish: Developing committed young fathers ($15,000)

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. Small groups of dads will complete an evidence-based, 12-session workshop series that will give them the parenting, relationship and communication skills they need to be involved, responsible and committed fathers.

Fish is founder of Young Fathers Standing United, which offers mentorship to teens and young adult fathers. He was inspired to form the organization while mentoring young men as a youth specialist at Eliot Juvenile Detention Center. Currently, he is a technician at the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

8Truman-HudsonTruman Hudson Jr.: Instilling a knowledge of economics ($20,000)

Educator Truman Hudson Jr. knows how to turn disappointment into determination. The doctoral candidate of Education at the University of Michigan-Dearborn 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. Hudson, a DEXDesign Associates affiliate, is an educator who finds solutions to economic development conycerns within low-moderate income communities.

8Norman-HurnsNorman C. Hurns Sr.: Cultivating life skills in young boys ($15,000)

Nonprofit founder Norman Hurns Sr. created Brothers 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. Parents will also participate through a family enrichment component.

Hurns is the founder and executive director of Brothers Making a Difference, where he manages the organization’s grant funding, fundraising and partnerships with school districts, community organizations and cultural institutions.

8Gaston-NashGatson Nash III: Revitalizing neighborhoods, a playground at a time (10,000)

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. Nash purchased two abandoned homes on his block, rehabbed one and is currently working on the other.

Isaac Nzoma: Using basketball to provide time for reflection ($12,000)

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.

Since 2009, the program has worked with close to 700 men and boys. Nzoma, who has a degree in criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University, is co-founder of Better Men Outreach. He attends Wayne State Law School while working in the insurance industry.

8Jason-WilsonJason Wilson: Supporting character building through the martial arts ($20,000)

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. The principle-based male character strengthening system teaches life skills that will enable them to endure and overcome negative influences and unexpected challenges.

The Yuinon Inc. has reached more than 7,000 youth and young adults in the metro Detroit area since 2003 through culturally-relevant programming, workshops and trainings.

8Ray-WinansRaymon Winans: Putting youth on the right path ($10,000)

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 activities. Winans is a full-time organizer working with communities to foster relationships between young people and seniors.

8Keith-YoungKeith Young: Using video game creation to offer teens options ($15,000)

Graphic designer and former police officer Keith 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, 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. The program will engage several schools including Bates Academy, Schulze Academy and Detroit Impact Non Profit, where the program will be held.

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