Kalamazoo College Selects Winners of Its Inaugural Global Prize for Collaborative Social Justice Leadership


Four social justice leadership keynote discussion panelists

The Global Prize weekend included a keynote panel discussion on social justice leadership with (l-r) Arcus Center Executive Director Jaime Grant and jurors Angela Y. Davis, Cary Alan Johnson, and shea howell.

Kalamazoo College has announced the winners of its inaugural Global Prize for Collaborative Social Justice Leadership, a juried competition that attracted 188 entries from across the United States and 22 other countries. Instead of awarding one Global Prize for $25,000, as had been planned, jurors awarded three Global Prizes for $10,000 each.
Jurors also awarded a $5,000 Regional Prize for a project originating in Southwest Michigan.
Sharing the top Global Prize (with links to their brief video entries) are:

  • Dalia Association: The Road toward Palestinian Self-Determination. Based in Ramallah, Palestine, Dalia Association is a Palestinian-led community foundation dedicated to civil society development, accountability and self determination through awarding local grants and eliminating reliance on international aid.
  • Language Partners. Based in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, Language Partners is a prisoner-created and led bilingual educational program that develops language, leadership, and job skills post incarceration in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Building Power for Restaurant Workers. Based in New York City and with national impact, Building Power is a restaurant worker-driven wage justice project founded by workers displaced by the 2001 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.

Winners were announced by Kalamazoo College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran on May 11 at the end of a three-day social justice leadership weekend where 18 Global and Regional finalists presented their project strategies and visions to jurors and an audience of campus and community members.

“You are all winners,” she said to the finalists, “because of what you do every day and by how you inspire us to believe that the just world we all seek is within our grasp.”

Longtime social justice activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis, who served as a juror, explained the jury’s decision to depart from the plan to award one $25,000 Global Prize. “We had no idea it would be so difficult to choose one winner” from among so many inspiring finalists. “We came down to three and asked if it would be possible to split the prize three ways for $10,000 each.”

Welcoming Michigan, a regional partnership that seeks to educate and organize across immigrant and U.S.-born communities throughout Michigan, earned the $5,000 Regional Prize. Based in Kalamazoo at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Welcoming Michigan carries out its work across the state with an emphasis on Southwest and Southeast Michigan. Its message—“When Michigan welcomes immigrants, Michigan thrives”—can be spotted on billboards and in other media region-wide.

The biennial Global Prize competition honors innovative and collaborative leadership projects in the pursuit of social justice and human rights around the world and in Southwest Michigan. Leadership teams submitted 8- to 10-minute video entries by a March 8 deadline. Fifteen global and three regional finalists were selected. More information about the Kalamazoo College Global Prize competition and video entries of all finalists is available via www.kzoo.edu/socialjustice and K Facebook.

In addition to Davis, jurors included former Executive Director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Cary Alan Johnson and lifelong scholar/activist shea howell, whose work has focused on social justice education and grassroots empowerment in Detroit.

Several Kalamazoo College students, faculty, staff, and community partners also served as jurors.

The Global Prize competition was administered by the College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, launched in 2009 with support from the Arcus Foundation (www.arcusfoundation.org), including a $23 million endowment grant in January 2012. Supporting Kalamazoo College’s mission to prepare its graduates to better understand, live successfully within, and provide enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world, the ACSJL will develop new leaders and sustain existing leaders in the field of human rights and social justice.

Kalamazoo College (www.kzoo.edu) was founded in 1833 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, located midway between Detroit and Chicago. K is a nationally recognized liberal arts college and the creator of the K-Plan that emphasizes rigorous scholarship, experiential learning, leadership development, and international and intercultural engagement. Kalamazoo College does more in four years so students can do more in a lifetime.

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About Andy Brown

As the Director of Media Relations and Online Content, Andy shares the stories that distinguish Kalamazoo College through social media, the Web and the news media. Contact him at abrown@kzoo.edu.