Detroit Regional Chamber > Racial Justice & Economic Equity > Michigan Founders Fund Announces Inaugural Community Trailblazer Awardees, Recognizing Black Leaders Advancing Racial Justice

Michigan Founders Fund Announces Inaugural Community Trailblazer Awardees, Recognizing Black Leaders Advancing Racial Justice

December 1, 2022

Black Enterprise
Nov. 30, 2022

Michigan Founders Fund (MFF), a nonprofit that provides startup programming and support to high-growth entrepreneurs, has awarded its first statewide effort in philanthropy for Black trailblazers advancing racial justice.

MFF members are tech founders and investors who have pledged 1% of equity, carry or profit into a fund for Michigan-based grantmaking, according to a press release.

MFF made the announcement on Giving Tuesday to encourage other business leaders to make contributions to the three awardees. This year’s awardees are:

  • Dr. Shakara Tyler, Jerry Hebron, Tepfirah Rushdan, Erin Johnson and Danielle Daguio, co-stewards of the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, who provide grants and technical assistance to Black farmers to purchase the land they farm.
  • Courtney Smith, Detroit Phoenix Center, who is meeting the critical and emergent needs of minority youth at risk or currently experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.
  • Leon Al-Alamin, MADE Institute, who provides comprehensive services to Flint citizens returning to the community from the criminal justice system.

Awardees will have the opportunity to engage with the MFF network in ways that can help further their mission–from working alongside Detroit Black farmers on service days to advising formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs on business growth strategies.

“I personally know the impact of not having access to quality resources and mentors,” said Leon Al-Alamin, Founder of Made Institute, who was also formerly incarcerated.”

“At MADE Institute, we keep people from falling through the cracks and need to collaborate with leaders across Michigan who can provide tools, mentorship, resources, and financial support to help others succeed. My team and I are looking forward to collaborating with MFF and seeing where the opportunities take the organization and the people we work with.”

MFF’s grant fund grows as founders and investors who have made the 1% Michigan Pledge make financial contributions upon the completion of a liquidity event. To make this year’s award possible, Bank of Ann Arbor is a title sponsor.

“We are honored to be part of this initiative as we know how important it is to advance racial justice in our state,” said Michael Cole, Bank of Ann Arbor Group President.

“These three trailblazers are doing invaluable work and we are looking forward to collaborating with them over the next year to further advance their efforts.”

This program was led by an advisory council of leaders who have expertise in racial justice and grantmaking. Members of the council include: Erika Block, MFF Pledged Member and Sticky Lab’s Principal, Mark Greer II, Transforming Power Fund’s Co-Executive Director, Jamila Martin, Movement Voter Project’s Michigan State Advisor, and Alisha Opperman, Michigan Community Resources’s Chief Program Officer.

“Our members are trailblazers in entrepreneurship who believe, collectively, we can make positive impacts on the broader community,” said Sarah Craft, MFF Community Director.

This is also a call to action to all tech leaders across Michigan to look within this Giving Tuesday and do what you can to contribute, not just today, but all year.”

“It’s everyone’s role to ensure that Michigan is a place where all people have access to a safe, successful, and high quality life.”

To make direct contributions to the three awardees, visit their websites:

High-growth founders who are interested in getting engaged can learn more at