Introducing The Skillman Visionary Awards

2023 Skillman BMe Vanguard

Video production and graphic design by Porter Media Group, communications agency founded by Skillman BMe Vanguard alumnus Ken Porter

We are honored to announce the launch of the fourth Skillman BMe Vanguard and warmly welcome ten remarkable Detroit residents in their 20s into the BMe and Skillman Foundation communities.

Recognizing the immense influence of young people as drivers of cultural, social, and political change, as well as their role in shaping the ever-evolving economy and workplace, we have deliberately tailored this year’s Skillman BMe Vanguard to this dynamic age group.

BMe Community, a national leadership community led by Black individuals, is committed to realizing the aspirations of Black people through the principles of L.O.V.E.—Live, Own, Vote, and Excel. Building upon the foundation of Black L.O.V.E., BMe strives to make the world a better place for everyone.

Video of 2023 BMe Vanguard

While the Vanguard Fellows come from diverse professional backgrounds, they are all deeply engaged in community and social change work. Throughout the fellowship program, they will participate in masterclasses covering various essential skills, including cultural competency, persuasion, self-care, personal branding, and asset framing.

“Asset framing is defining people by their aspirations and contributions before noting their challenges, so that we might invest in them for their continued benefit to society. Asset framing actually includes aspirations and challenges. It’s a whole narrative.” says BMe Community Founder and CEO Trabian Shorters.  

The Skillman BMe Vanguard program is designed to build the young leaders’ ability to communicate effectively and inclusively, fostering the creation of diverse social change coalitions within and beyond the city of Detroit. Additionally, we prioritize the cultivation of personal well-being practices among the fellows. To support their endeavors as changemakers, each participant will receive $10,000 in seed capital.

2023 Skillman BMe Vanguard

Andre Reed

Andre Reed, also known as Dreyyy, is a multidisciplinary artist and entrepreneur from Detroit, Michigan. He is a Michigan State University alumni with a bachelor’s degree and was the commencement speaker for the graduating class of 2020. Following graduation, he worked as a freelance writer for the Michigan Chronicle and as a communications and community engagement liaison for the Detroit City Council. Currently, he serves as a project manager for We Are Culture Creators and is a host of open mics throughout the city. He is a self-published author of two poetry books, Oh Sweet Melancholy (2019) and Bloom (2020), and is an international performing artist collaborating with artists from Berlin, France, and Spain.

Angelica Williams

A born and raised Detroiter, Angelica is a woman of many talents. In 2020, she graduated from Cass Technical High School with a degree in Communications and began her studies in Psychology and Linguistics at Wayne State University. As the youngest member of the L!FE Leaders leadership team, she dedicates her efforts to advocating for youth voice and opportunity, involving herself in work with various youth-led and -oriented organizations.

Outside of L!FE Leaders, Angelica has had the opportunity to work with professionals from Wayne State University to the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office, building an extensive skill set in operations and logistics that she now uses to enhance the work that L!FE Leaders does for Detroit youth. She is also a lead advocate and founding member of the Board of Police Commissioners Youth Advisory Panel, which seeks to involve youth voices in decisions affecting the Detroit Police Department.

When not working in youth advocacy and community engagement, Angelica can be found pursuing creative aspirations in writing and content creation.

Darrian Hollonquest

Darrian has a background in community organizing and education. She is currently the program manager of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program. She volunteers to facilitate a virtual support group for moms of color. When she is not working, she loves taking care of her family.

Davonte Johnson

Davonte is a youth founder at the Young Voices Action Collective. YVAC is a national Black youth led movement fighting for and supporting BIPOC youth. Their mission is to take a hands-on approach to relational organizing to elevate youth voices while meeting basic needs. Year-round, they engage with young people about community needs, social justice issues, and upcoming elections.

They also provide mutual aid directly to young people in need through food distribution, clothing, tutoring, and more. With an intentional focus on meeting the basic needs of all youth they engage.

Imani Harris

Imani Harris is a native Detroiter from the city’s East side. She started her career in activism when she was 16 years old, fighting for education justice in Detroit. Imani continues that fight at 482Forward, an education justice organization, as the organization’s communications director.

She also recently graduated from Northwestern University with her degrees in Journalism & Black Studies. She also led the Black mentorship program on Northwestern’s campus for three years. Imani has a passion for Black girls/women and focused most of her research in college around Black womanhood in contemporary America and how historical narratives and negative stereotypes still shape their experience.

She is committed to her Detroit community and the family she has created around her.

Ivy Ellington

Ivy is the dedicated program manager for Young Voices Action Collective – Michigan, where she plays a crucial role in building and maintaining programs and relationships within YVAC Michigan’s chapter. As part of this black youth-led mutual aid and restorative justice coalition, Ivy works tirelessly to uplift and empower young voices while promoting equity and justice in the community.

Outside of her organizing work, Ivy also serves as the head Volleyball coach for Detroit PAL, using her passion for sports to mentor and inspire young athletes.

Jack Williams III

Hailing from Detroit, MI, Jack Williams III is a vocalist and teaching artist specializing in music genres ranging from jazz to classical. While attending Renaissance High School, Jack received awards and recognition for his vocal ability, including being a Michigan Youth Arts Distinguished Scholar and winning the Detroit Jazz Festival Youth Vocal Jazz Competition.

Jack is also an alumnus of Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, which provided him with numerous performance opportunities nationally and internationally. He has graced prestigious stages such as the Apollo Theatre, Carnegie Hall, and The Public Theater in New York. Notably, Jack has collaborated with the rock band Foreigner on a live album and toured alongside Josh Groban. He has also competed in the 2012 World Choir Games in Cincinnati, OH and the 2014 World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia.

Recently, Jack graduated from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance with a degree in Choral Music Education. During his time at the university, he lent his voice to the renowned University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and Chamber Choir under the direction of Eugene Rogers. Additionally, Jack served as the assistant director of the BlueNote Vocal Jazz Ensemble. He was actively involved in Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Epsilon Chapter.

Jack resides in Detroit, where he shares his passion for music as a dedicated music teacher at Detroit International Academy for Young Women and a teaching artist at Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.

Jalyn Baity

Jalyn is a filmmaker and writer born and raised in Detroit. He discovered a love for image-making and storytelling very early in life. The concept of capturing moments in time, sharing art or ideas that will live forever, and re-envisioning the world around you, felt worth exploring further.

For the last several years, he has been completing work on several narrative short films, scaling a production company, and mentoring youth in the Metro Detroit area through the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and the visual storytelling & mentoring nonprofit Capturing Belief.

In 2021, he graduated from College for Creative Studies with a B.F.A. in Digital Film, a minor in Advertising, and a Business concentration. Since then, he’s been honing his craft as a director & producer and working hands-on with students to produce films that fully intersect with the ethos of his own work.

Jelani Stowers

Jelani Stowers is a Wayne State University Alumni, Film Griot’s founder, and Critical Youth Theory’s Co-Founder. In 2020, the shock of the pandemic and the sudden shift to virtual learning tanked Jelani’s grades, nearly losing him his scholarship. His relationship with The Network, a learning community comprised of Black male staff and students, inspired him to adapt and keep going.

This community support model inspired Jelani’s life philosophy and is the through line that runs through all his work. He co-founded Critical Youth Theory, the intentional development of truly long-lasting and ethical impact by building pathways for more young people to hold positions of power. A Critical Youth Theorist believes that working alongside people younger than yourself is the best way to ensure a strong legacy and the only way to fully serve the world because the job is too big for just one generation.

In addition, Jelani hosts community discussions around hyper-local and foreign films to inspire those in his community to build international communities and movements. He aims to inspire those in his community to study, visit, and even expatriate to other countries, thus fostering a greater understanding and love for the international community. Jelani works as a bipartisan community organizer around youth advocacy and within the cultural-political space.

Justin Onwenu

Justin is currently a Columbia Law School student. He previously served as a Detroit, Michigan-based community organizer, fighting for clean air, affordable water, and public health protections for all communities. This included securing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state’s only refinery to protect school children from poor air quality, building emergency response efforts in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and leading efforts to write and pass the Detroit River Protection Ordinance, legislation that protects vital drinking water sources.

He currently serves as the youngest member of the inaugural Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice and Black Leadership Advisory Council, both under the direction of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Justin has also served as a convention delegate and appointee to the D.N.C.’s Environment and Climate Crisis Council, where he helped draft policy recommendations for the 2020 democratic platform.

His work and op-eds have been featured in The New York Times, The Hill, NPR, Bloomberg, The Guardian, and The Detroit News. He holds a B.A. in International Health and Policy from Rice University, where he served as student body president and helped lead Houston-based emergency response efforts in the face of Hurricane Harvey.

View the 2019 Skillman BMe Vanguard Fellows 

View the 2020 Skillman BMe Vanguard Fellows 

View the 2022 Skillman BMe Vanguard Fellows

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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