2023 Social Justice Youth Award Winners
Published on January 18, 2023
On January 17, the City Commission recognized eight extraordinary youth for their achievements and leadership towards racial and social justice. The Social Justice Youth Awards are given annually as part of Kalamazoo’s celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These young leaders exemplify Dr. King’s values through their community service and volunteerism.
The awards are presented by each of the program’s sponsors: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Consumers Energy, Fifth Third Bank, Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War, Life EMS, Lodge-Dennis, and Schupan & Sons. Additionally, one award this year was sponsored by the CSM Group and presented by Dr. Lewis Walker, a trailblazer for the progression of racial equity in Kalamazoo.
A recording of the awards presentation is available on the City of Kalamazoo’s YouTube Channel.
Congratulations to this year’s award recipients! Read about their accomplishments below (listed in order of presentation):
Ms. Jaliyah Harris
award presented by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, lota Sigma Omega
Jaliyah Harris’s community service is motivated by a strong sense of social justice, which she informs through a nuanced and sophisticated understanding of historical trends and events. She shows leadership through her willingness to put herself out there and be relatable and reliable to her peers. Her kind, friendly and her tenacious attitude are some of the great attributes that make her an excellent leader. Jaliyah mentors youth transitioning into middle school and has volunteered with Kairos Dwelling for the terminally ill, Mt. Zion Baptist Church and the Douglass Community Center. She is one to embrace all the ways that someone is unique, the diversity that is seen, not seen, said and unsaid. She reflects on her own experiences and uses that to empathize and relate to others. She never retreats to simple answers or explanations but is comfortable dealing with ambiguity.
Mr. Adrian Ryan
award presented by Consumers Energy
Adrian is an inspiring young leader in our community. He excels in academics, athletics, and the arts, while also volunteering and tutoring peers. He has stood out as a leader on his athletic teams, community service projects and volunteer opportunities such as the Action Matters Northside Community Clean Up, Counting to One Ministries, Peep Summer Book Program, Gospel Mission, Kalamazoo YMCA, Kalamazoo Black Arts Festival, Flint- Jackson-Benton Harbor Water Drives, Peer Mentor/Tutor, and Community Walks, as well as the media team at Galilee and a representative of the Men and Youth Ministries. Adrian was a part of the NAACP Collaboration March for the John Lewis Voters Rights Act, working to end voter suppression, stating he “realized how important the vote is. Everyone must exercise the right to vote, individuals died for voting rights because they saw the importance of voting to implement change in the world.” In October 2022 he was the recipient of the NAACP Dr. Warfield Youth Community Service award.
Mr. Thomas Clark
award presented by Fifth Third Bank
Tom stands out with his commitment to youth mentorship. His leadership within the Link Leader program at Loy Norrix was instrumental in assisting freshman students during their transition to the high school environment. Providing a positive role model and mentorship for those younger than him is a key example of Tom’s dedication to help others. Tom stood out for his ability to balance the challenges of athletic participation (tennis, basketball), academic excellence, and youth volunteerism. Each of these areas of focus present their own independent challenges for our youth today, but Tom has figured out how to be successful in each.
After a negative racial experience on the basketball court last year, Tom’s response was something we can all be proud of. Rather than responding with aggression and anger, he sent a well-written communication to the appropriate leadership of those involved which led to positive change.
Mr. Turab Alam
award presented by Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War (KNOW)
Turab has been involved in a number of justice-related activities. He heads the Boys Islamic Youth Group at the mosque he attends. The group’s members strive to grow as Muslims and give back to the local community through service such as assisting at food pantries and holding food drives. As an entrepreneur, he started Avail clothing LLC, which raises awareness for Muslim refugees (his awareness of the needs of refugees grew when his family welcomed refugees into their home). His business has a diverse student staff that designs and markets the products. He contributes a portion of his company’s profits to charities for Muslim refugees coming to the US. Turab demonstrates an understanding and respect for diverse backgrounds in his commitment to supporting refugees and hiring a diverse employee team in his business.
He is described as helping his classmates understand the Islam religion and the variety of ways that religion is lived out. Most recently he has participated in KRESA’s youth social justice leadership council and he works to involve students in expressing their ideas and feedback about diversity, inclusion, justice, and equity to administration at Portage Northern. In addition to these actions, Turab was elected as Student Council Treasurer and plays varsity soccer.
Ms. Eliza Crouse
award presented by Life EMS
Eliza Crouse is a compassionate young leader with an outstanding focus on community service, believing in a larger goal of bringing about cultural and political understanding regarding the situation in Palestine. Being of Palestinian heritage, she developed a presentation to the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion or “JEDI” group to educate her peers on this often-misunderstood topic and has taken a stand against racism through her participation in the Portage Kids Peaceful Protest Vigil.
Eliza stood and encouraged her classmates to take part in the Black Lives Matter protest and was instrumental in developing promotional materials for the “From Kalamazoo to Palestine Festival of Solidarity” which was held in Bronson Park during the summers of 2021 and 2022. She selected and performed poetry readings at these events and used her artistic skills to create a photographic exhibition to show the humanity of Palestinians, which are a people often denied of their basic human rights.
Eliza embraces diversity through her unique position in having both Jewish and Palestinian ancestry and through her membership in JEDI where she ensures that all voices have a chance to express their opinions. Volunteering for the Portage Kids Peaceful Protests allows her yet another platform from which to educate others about the diaspora of oppressed nationalities. Eliza understands in her heart, and shows through her actions, that as a society must not accept anything less than equality for all.
Mr. Amady Mboup
award presented by Lodge-Dennis
Amady is a definite leader in his school and our community. He is a part of Loy Norrix’s Student Advisory Committee, Executive Board for the class of 2023, and a member of the Loy Norrix marching and symphonic bands. He is a founding member of the Loy Norrix Black Student Union, serves on the KPS Equity Task Force and the Loy Norrix High School Leadership (School Improvement) Team. He is also active in several groups including the Loy Norrix National Honor Society (volunteering in their blood drive and blanket drive), Loy Norrix DECA Chapter, Co-Chair of the Loy Norrix Student Senate, and is the Drum Major for the Loy Norrix Marching Band. As a member of the Loy Norrix Student Senate, he is a vocal proponent who ensures all voices in the school are heard and represented.
Ms. Aija Hodges
award presented by Schupan & Sons
Aija is an active youth ambassador in our community and works hard at being a champion for different events in the Kalamazoo community. She is an active participant in the Turn 2 foundation meetings and discussions, working well with her peers and adults alike. Her leadership skills are highlighted during these interactions and she is respected by her peers.
Creative by nature, Aija creates poetry pieces and write plays pertaining to social justice issues. She speaks out against injustices she observes in the Kalamazoo area and the world. Aija keeps herself informed about different opportunities and events so she and her peers can attend and grow.Aija was a State of Michigan finalist and national competitor in the True Colors Monologue Competition and also performed at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum play about Henrietta Lacks, considered the Mother of Modern Medicine.
Mr. Percy Gordon
award presented by Dr. Lewis Walker and sponsored by CSM Group
Percy's accomplishments demonstrate that he has a vision of a world in which everyone can thrive, a world where the ideals of equity, justice, and liberation are a reality for all people, and that world includes people with various disabilities. Percy is an authentic advocate for youth and he is committed to anti-racism, and the marginalized community. He is well-known throughout the Kalamazoo community as a person who doesn’t just talk about inequities, he takes action. His actions are carried out with passion, grace, integrity, optimism, and a strong commitment to Kalamazoo. At such a young age, he has already proven himself to be a shaker and mover of good causes in the city. For example:
- As a volunteer, Percy helped to create the Youth Mobility Program/Ambassadors. This is a group of Kalamazoo youth, who advocated for a transportation program to support KPS high school students who have unmet transportation needs.
- As a member of the Youth Leadership Affinity Group (YLAG), Percy participated in a youth leadership retreat in March of 2022, at which time they identified mental health as the number one issue facing youth in Kalamazoo. He has also helped to create an action plan that will be unveiled to the community this month, January 2023.
- Powered by Youth: Percy is one of ten local youths identified to participate in this program funded by the Mott Foundation. The winning groups will split over $100,000 to implement their ideas. Percy has played an instrumental role in this group's work over the past six months, redesigning the out-of-school time sector (OST Sector) so that it is more youth driven.
- “In-person by Percy Podcast”. This podcast is streamed live on YouTube every other Monday from the Kalamazoo Promise's podcast room. Percy invites guests and facilitates important conversations with young people about their experiences in an effort to create a community where all youth can thrive.