Friday, February 3, 2012

Black Male Activists in Detroit and Philadelphia Win Leadership Award

Black Male Engagement Award Winners Receive a Combined $443,000 to Strengthen Communities

NEW YORK — Twenty men—teachers, businessmen, writers and pastors—have been named winners of the Black Male Engagement (BME) Leadership Award, created to honor black men in Philadelphia and Detroit who step up to lead the community.

"There is no cavalry coming to save the day in black communities in America. The answers we're looking for reside right within the hearts, hands, and heads of community residents,” said Shawn Dove, manager of the Open Society Foundations Campaign for Black Male Achievement, which is helping to sponsor the award. “BME recognizes black men and boys as assets to the community, not as problems to be solved, and we're thrilled to be a partner in this strategy.”

The BME Challenge offers the winners a combined $443,000 with the aim of inspiring others to step forward to strengthen their communities.

The funding will pair young people with senior citizens and culinary experts to plant vegetable gardens in vacant lots, equip new fathers with parenting skills, provide therapy for autistic children, help veterans find services, and more. 

The BME Leadership Award is part of the BME Challenge, which is led by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in partnership with the Open Society Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

Earlier this year, BME asked local black men and boys in its two pilot cities to share the stories of what they do to make their communities stronger. More than 2,000 people in Detroit and Philadelphia submitted personal video and written testimonials, viewable at Those who shared their stories were then eligible to apply for funding through the BME Leadership Award.

BME is an ongoing initiative that seeks to recognize, reinforce and reward black males who engage others in making communities stronger.

“The award shines a light on a truth that we need to remember: there are thousands of black men in these cities who choose to make it a stronger and better place to live for all of us,” said Trabian Shorters, one of the leaders behind the BME Challenge, which sponsors the award. “Perhaps if we tell their stories and others decide to support their efforts, you will see more and more black men and boys willing to follow their example.”

This spring, BME will be looking for local partnerships in Detroit and Philadelphia to encourage more black males to positively engage in their communities. This summer, BME will conduct another call for stories, to be followed in the fall by a call for a new round of applications to the BME Leadership Award.

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

Brook Ellis: 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. ($40,000)

Curtis Lipscomb: After coming out as a gay man with HIV/AIDS, Lipscomb began helping young people 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. ($20,000)

Greg Corbin: Corbin is a teacher who integrates hip-hop, spoken word, and poetry into his classroom lessons to help better reach students. He also founded the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement.

Project: Corbin will launch The Legacy Project, which will explore the multi-layered experience of Black men through a one-man theatrical performance and community workshops. ($25,000)

To learn more about all of the winners and the BME Challenge, visit