Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

20 Black Detroiters Making History 2023

Design by Alexis Bagley

Rich in history and culture, Black Detroiters are known for setting a standard of excellence. The creativity, innovation, and brilliance of Black youth in Detroit sets the tone for our annual 20 Black Detroiters Making History campaign.

To celebrate Black History Month, we are spotlighting Detroiters, ages 25 and younger, creating and redefining Black history. From entrepreneurs to environmental activists, this year’s nominees are changemakers of the highest degree.

Here are 20 trailblazing young Detroiters making history:

Caleb Seay

Caleb, 10, is a leader in his afterschool programs at the Center for Success Network. Caleb encourages his peers by writing uplifting messages on his classroom’s dry-erase boards, creating cheerful artwork to share, and even encouraging his classmates to step out of their comfort zone.

On top of that Caleb is an entrepreneur and creative who founded his own apparel business, Agents of Clothing. He has shared his skills with his peers by teaching a t-shirt design class. In and out of the classroom, Caleb uses his shining personality to inspire those around him.

George “Mr. President” Latham IV

George, 8, has been lovingly called “Mr. President” at his school since Kindergarten because of his natural leadership and kindness to his classmates. He published his first book “I Can Be” at just 6 years old and George just released his second book “I Can Be (Sports Edition)”. 

George is an active member of Detroit PAL and he was inducted as an honorary Detroit police officer in 2021. He encourages his friends and peers that they can be whatever they want to be in life.

Ian Solomon

Ian, 25, is bringing the great outdoors to Detroit. He founded Amplify Outside, a social group for Black Michiganders, to encourage outdoor recreation in his community. Ian has led free sound healing events on Belle Isle, hiking affinity groups in northern Michigan, and collected his own data on Black peoples’ thoughts surrounding outdoor recreation.

Ian is an outdoor photographer pursuing his MFA from Cranbrook School of Art, and he plans to continue using his skills to engage historically underrepresented groups in Michigan’s outdoor recreation.

JaJuan Jones

JaJuan Jones, 21, is a young man with many titles and love for his community, and he is a student leader like no other.

During his time at Lawrence Technological University (LTU) as a biomedical engineering major, JaJuan has founded the Student Philanthropy Council, became president of the student government association, and served as vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers. On campus JaJuan is known as a genuine and caring friend, leader, mentor, and helping hand to anyone and everyone.

James Moulden

James Moulden, 17, is an active member of the Developing K.I.D.S. Youth Advisory Council & 482Forward. James loves to share his passion for activism and mentorship. He is a role model to his peers and encourages them to get involved in community events.

Jasmin Smith

Jasmin, 18, is a rising multimedia artist in the Detroit art scene, and she uses her talents to increase youth access to the arts. Known for being an outspoken leader in her community, Jasmin has served alongside the Museum of Contemporary Arts Detroit (MOCAD) and the College for Creative Studies (CCS). On top of her work in the arts, Jasmin is also active in community service, supporting causes like Make-A-Wish and suicide prevention programs.

Jasmin’s artwork, largely celebrating Black identity, Detroit identity, and self-expression, has been featured in shows across the city including, most recently, the Gucci ChangeMakers exhibition.

Julyanna Favors

Julyanna, 21, believes everyone deserves to feel beautiful and she is passionate about giving young girls a Hollywood Experience. She recently founded her own organization called Beautiful Diamond Butterflies to pursue her mission. As part of launching her new organization Julyanna will be hosting her first workshop for girls 13-18 where she will create makeup starter kits, a photoshoot, and a fashion show for girls to participate in!

Julyanna shares that Beautiful Diamond Butterflies, is an organization that supports young ladies in becoming young Women, striving to make this world a better and brighter place. “I have hopes to assist as many girls as possible with their independence, social awareness, and self-love. Show young ladies that it’s ok to be different, have your own style, to be confident in whatever skin God gave you, and be your own person without any doubt. I want to be able to change the look on fashion and its concepts when it comes to ‘style’ and being unique, along with being a role model and a shoulder to young ladies, from the same background as myself. Coming soon in June.”

Keyaira Johnson

Keyaira, 15, has done community work with the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan and St. Cecilia Girl Scout Troop for the last 10 years. Her time is also spent with Gleaners, Free Press Marathon, Ronald McDonald House and local resource pantries.

Keyaira’s Girl Scouts Silver Award project addressed the issue of homelessness. Keyaira gave a room at the Genesis House a complete makeover for a family that was temporarily homeless. Using bright colors and her eye for design, she made the room feel more like a home. Her goal was to provide a space to help the family feel a sense of empowerment, peace, and happiness while in a temporary situation. Keyaira’s amazing work has resulted in awards such as the Urban League of Detroit’s ‘Do the Right Thing Award’ and the Detroit City Council Award.

Khalilah Smith

Khalilah, 24, is not content with sticking to the status quo – she’d rather pave the way for those who look like her. Michigan State University’s first Black Rodeo Queen (2018) and now Miss Rodeo Michigan 2023, Khalilah is putting Black equestrianism on the map and centerstage.

Khalilah has also been active in nurturing the next generation of Detroit horse lovers by being a mentor for students through Detroit Horse Power’s programs.

LaShay Heard

LaShay Heard, 25, created the first mobile art studio in Michigan to reconnect her community with art through her paint party company, Paint’D. She also mentors youth and aspiring business owners in her neighborhood.

LaShay’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. She has secured contracts with the City of Detroit, Bedrock (Monroe St Midway), Youngblood Vineyard, and more. LaShay has also been featured in the Detroit News and WXYZ for her work within the art community of Detroit.

Lenae Jefferson

Lenae Jefferson, 24, is currently the Program Manager for The Konnection and she goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Lenae is passionate about supporting and encouraging the middle school students in her programs. She is intentional about cultivating strong relationships with her students and their families. With her bright and inspiring energy, Lenae is able to keep her students engaged and excited about learning.

Marquez Moore

Marquez Moore, 22, is the founder of Weirdly Gifted, a clothing line for allies of and those with mental illness. Stylish designs that shine a light on mental health, Marquez’s clothing line encourages survivors, like himself, to take pride in their unique experience.

Nehe-Miah Scarborough

Nehe-Miah, 23, is a reading specialist at Edmonson Elementary Academy who gives back to her community through the power of education.

She is an advocate for early literacy and social emotional learning. Nehe-Miah uses techniques that she has learned through her education, but she also has come up with innovative sounding-out tools that she has developed on her own to get her young readers to the next level.

Oluwaseyi “Seyi” Akintoroye

Oluwaseyi, 20, is a photographer and painter who is painting a true picture of Detroit, one that showcases all the beauty her city has to offer.

Described as having a “heart of gold” Seyi mentors and supports other creative youth in the city. She has led the Mint Creative Summer Jobs program and Creative Calm art therapy program at Mint Artists Guild. Seyi is also a member of the Urban Photo Council for Darkroom Detroit.

Ov’var’shia Gray-Woods

Ov’var’shia, 24, is a former foster child who is giving back to her community by way of leading in the Empowering Foster Youth Through Technology (EFyTECH), a youth advocacy group.

Ov’var’shia’s leadership in the group has been instrumental in connecting foster youth to pandemic resources and championing numerous efforts to advance education reform and systemic change in how youth in foster care are served.

Robyn “Rosie” White

Rosie, 7, is described as a light in her community. Known as @go_rosie_grow on Instagram, Rosie has been highlighting African American icons such as Rosa Parks, Stevie Wonder, and Michelle Obama during Black History Month since the age of 4. Her creative skits and history lessons on various social media platforms are known to empower, encourage, and increase education in Black history around the world.

Tenia Squires

Tenia Squires, 21, wears many hats. She is a youth mentor, a business major at the HBCU Central State University, two-time team captain of her university’s dance team, and a 2022 Detroit Youth Empowerment awardee. Tenia uses her passions to fuel her community.

Since she was a junior in high school Tenia has shared her gift of dance with youth ages 3 to 17 through Just Speak, Inc. She uses dance to improve students’ emotional development and build their motivation, courage, joy, and community.

William Gregory

William, 22, is a champion for neighborhood revitalization and an advocate for a greener Detroit. He served three terms under AmeriCorps and Eco-Works Detroit in the Youth Energy Squad program and worked under former City Council President Brenda Jones.

William is a soon to be graduate of Central State University. He has been a long-term mentor to many Detroit children and has even coached some through the college application process.

Zarye Simmons

Zarye, 6, is a young detective who isn’t leaving anyone behind. Zarye has a passion for finding missing persons and she leaves no stone unturned. As part of her strategy, Zarye makes custom signs and displays them around the city. She wants justice for all people, especially youth, who go missing.

Zayd Walid

Zayd, 18, plays many crucial roles in his community. He helps preserve the city’s Black Muslim History as a historian in Dream of Detroit’s “Detroit Muslim Storytelling Project.” In his work as an Environmental Health & Safety intern for Thermal Detroit, Zayd helps to provide clean steam energy to the city. He has helped promote academic success as a Youth Developer with Wellspring’s Detroit-based Youth Development Program. He is also a first-year student at Wayne State University.

Do you know any young Black Detroiters making history? Share their stories in the comments below.

The Skillman Foundation

The Skillman Foundation is a grantmaking organization established in 1960 by Rose Skillman. We have granted out more than $730 million and have served as a vocal advocate to strengthen K-12 education, afterschool programming, child-centered neighborhoods, youth and community leadership, and racial equity and justice.

We are in the process of developing a new strategic framework, co-designed with Detroit youth and their champions.

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