Eleven young leaders emerge

By Crystal A. Proxmire

DETROIT -

Eleven young people of color are the first wave of graduates of the new KICK LEAD program, which stands for Learn, Educate, Advocate and Drive. They were recognized in a graduation ceremony on Saturday.

Brandon Gleaton, Ronald Morris, LaShonda Windham, Kiana Miller, Victor Harrell, Marlin Colyer, Hank Martin, Alfredo Smith, Bre' Campbell, John Trimble and Rhiannon Chester met every Saturday morning for six weeks to get an in-depth lesson in leadership from some of the area's top LGBT advocates.

Educators for the LEAD project included Johnny Jenkins, Jr., program director of Affirmations, Emily Dievendorf, policy director of Equality Michigan, Dr. Louis Graham, fellow at the University of Michigan, Tiffany Buchanan, president of KICK and Philasean Benjamin, program coordinator of KICK.

"The students walked into the program as strangers and came out comrades," said KICK Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb. "They spent time together after each class in dialogue on how to work further together."

Marlin Colyer was among the graduates. The 29-year-old Chicago native moved to Detroit last year in hopes of going to school for psychology and developing a career in poetry and other writing. "The LEAD program overall was a magnificent experience. Stand out lessons would include community building and conflict management. These lessons stood out most to me because it helped me to understand some of the things that I should expect when joining the ranks of activism."

Colyer points to his mother and to Lipscomb as leaders to look up to. "My mom has always encouraged me to be the best that I can be in all of my endeavors. I have no idea where I would be without her love. Curtis Lipscomb is someone that I look up to majorly. He is such a mover and shaker in our community, and defines the very meaning of leadership."

In the time that Bre' Campbell has been connecting with the KICK community, she has blossomed into a natural leader. She recently joined the KICK Board of Directors and serves as the Trans Ambassador for the group. She is also an HIV Prevention specialist at The Horizons Project. The KICK LEAD program has given her the opportunity to learn even more and connect with other young leaders. "The thing that stands out to me was the relationship building that happened between myself and the other participants. We are not just another group, we are family," Campbell said. "My fellow LEAD members are leaders also. To be dedicated and come to class every week was a hard task, but we were there every week ready to learn. I can't wait to see the growth in our group both individually and collectively."

LaShonda Windham said she enrolled in the KICK LEAD program because she wants to become part of the LGBT African American movement. "I want to make the community more visible," she said. "I was able to spend six weeks with the new leaders of the movement and I am most grateful to KICK for giving me this opportunity. All I can say is that everyone should watch out because we are Leaders who are Educated, and are going to Advocate for our community because we have a powerful Drive."

There will be another six weeks course of LEAD in the fall, where another 11 young people will be trained. Graduates are eligible to become members of KICK's newly-developed Young Adult Board of Advisors, and their voice will be integral to the direction of that board.

The graduates are expected to continue their work in the LGBT community and beyond. "The students will be active at Motor City Pride and Hotter than July for the 'Don't Change Yourself, Change the Law' campaign and other youth empowerment activities," Lipscomb said. "I hope the Unity Michigan Coalition Partners - Affirmations, Equality Michigan, Ruth Ellis Center, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion and the ACLU of Michigan - will take full advantage of the energy the students have as their internships begin this summer."

Enrollment for the fall course for students age 18-30 begins on Monday, September 10. For more information check out http://www.e-kick.org or call 313-285-9733.

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