DETROIT PROJECT UNDERSTANDING SUMMIT
In May 2022, JCRC/AJC Detroit ACCESS and the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity hosted the inaugural Detroit Project Understanding for Emerging Leaders.
Detroit Project Understanding was a unique opportunity for young leaders in the Black and/or Jewish communities to continue the legacy of our historical relationship through meaningful exercises, thoughtful conversation, and professional networking opportunities. Participants were encouraged to have open and honest discussion about issues that affect each of their respective communities, as well as those that affect both. Together, they explored how shared understanding, friendship and allyship, and advocacy between the Black and Jewish communities can create valuable progress in Detroit and beyond.
Black and/or Jewish professionals residing in the Detroit Metropolitan area, between the ages of 25-39, were eligible to apply.
Meet your Detroit Project Understanding team!
Detroit Project Understanding Co-Chairs
Chinonye Akunne, MPH, is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, natural skincare expert, and business development leader. She has successfully built, and runs, two companies: ILERA Apothecary, a luxury body and skincare company that uses plant-based ingredients to create a range of practical, gender-neutral products, and ILERA Labs, a contract manufacturing company that works closely with small and medium enterprises to bring their product line to life while delivering exceptional quality that makes their brand stand out. Currently, Chinonye simultaneously holds the position of Board of Director for the Michigan Industrial Hygiene Society and The Stratford Festival. She has been recognized for her service in the community and advanced research in healthcare access. Under her direction, ILERA Apothecary has been recognized as a top sustainable brand, contributing to integrating environmental sustainability and technology in the beauty industry. Chinonye’s hobbies include global travel, reading, visiting art museums, and volunteering to make the world a better place for all. Chinonye has been featured by Vogue, ELLE, Marie Claire, Essence, The Huffington Post, and more.
Aramis Hinds began pastoring in March of 2002, at the age of 22 years old. Being the child of a pastor, he has served in a multitude of ministry positions. Aramis has a well-rounded background in ministry service which has translated into his pastoral commitment to “servant leadership.” He has taken his message of revival to many congregations in the Detroit area and has been requested both nationally and internationally. He has emerged as one the foremost voices of transformational ministry and reconciliation in the metropolitan Detroit area. He serves as a facilitator for “Detroit Regional Interfaith Voice for Equity,” a collaborative effort of over 50 Metro Detroit religious organizations, committed to empowering all citizens and engaging the community in meaningful development. Aramis has been privileged to serve in many leadership positions and currently serves on the Board of Central Detroit Christian, Transformation Breakthrough Ministries International among others. In addition, Pastor Aramis and Breakers Covenant Church International serve as a model for innovation, cross cultural collaboration, and ethnic, economic and denominational reconciliation. In 2015, Beth El Community Transformation Center was launched toward that end.
Jacob Evan Smith is a Detroit-based entrepreneur, tech ecosystem builder, and community organizer. He is a lifelong Michigander who grew up in West Bloomfield, graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has lived in Detroit since 2012.
In his role as Community Director (Detroit) for Altimetrik, a global software services firm headquartered in Michigan, he runs a community hub for software engineers called The Collider in downtown Detroit. Jacob produces and/or hosts a number of recurring community projects, including The Returning Citizen podcast, a success storytelling platform for the formerly incarcerated; the Coalition Series, a pop-up dinner experience that connects outstanding Black and Jewish Detroiters over delicious food; and various panels and workshops encouraging productively uncomfortable conversations within the Metro-Detroit community. He is also a Board Member of JCRC/AJC and NEXTGen Detroit.
Shane Sperling is a member of the Metro Detroit Jewish community, representing the small minority of Jews of color in West Bloomfield. This is his first year on the executive board for JCRC/AJC. Shane finds himself often trying to find the balance between his racial identity and religious identity. He is excited for this event to help begin the conversation internally and externally, as well as help be a bridge in addition to being a member of the bridge between the Black and Jewish communities.
Detroit Project Understanding Staff
Ashira Solomon joined JCRC/AJC as Community Associate in January 2021. In this position, she works to build and enhance JCRC/AJC’s initiatives in unity, diversity, equity and inclusion. Ashira staffs the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity and heads up the KOLOT initiative, promoting racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in synagogue congregations and in the Jewish community at large. Prior to joining the organization, Ashira was co-chair for the first founding Diversity Council at Berkley High School. She served as a peer mediator for the Peers Making Peace program and was a peer leader on high school retreats. Since then, she has worked for and with Jewish nonprofits in support and project management, being instrumental in the overarching vision and success of the organizations. Identifying as a multiracial, Jewish woman, Ashira’s joy is in bringing good people together and creating safe spaces for powerful discussions. Ashira is a member of the JFNA Moed Leadership Board, and is an advisor and columnist at Nu?Detroit Magazine.
Leaders for Tomorrow
Today’s high school students are tomorrow’s Jewish leaders. In Fall of 2021, AJC convened its second Leaders For Tomorrow (LFT) program in Detroit, which empowers young Jews to speak up for Israel and the Jewish people.
AJC’s unique cohort experience helps high school students develop a strong Jewish identity, trains them as advocates for Israel, and to be voices against antisemitism. LFT gives students the tools to talk about the issues impacting world Jewry today, and the confidence to stand up for these issues in college and throughout their lives, no matter how difficult the situation.
With focus on education, advocacy training, and action, the program consisted of seven monthly sessions over the 2021-2022 school year. The LFT experience also will include a trip to Washington D.C. to join the 12 other LFT cohorts nationwide for AJC’s LFT Advocacy Day. The cost of this trip is fully covered by AJC.*
This program is open to students in their sophomore and junior years.
*Please note that this year’s trip to Washington D.C. will be contingent on current public health recommendations and travel restrictions in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
ACCESS Detroit, JCRC/AJC’s young professional division, empowers Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s to advocate on behalf of critical domestic and global issues facing the Jewish community:
- Combating antisemitism at home and abroad
- Advocating for Israel’s legitimate place in the world
- Promoting pluralism and democratic values
What we do:
ACCESS leaders move the needle on what really matters and shape the dialogue on global Jewish advocacy. When you join ACCESS you will:
- Engage in strategic diplomatic outreach to diplomats, civic leaders, elected officials, and influencers
- Build relationships with intergroup and interreligious partners in Detroit and around the globe
- Travel the world on exclusive ACCESS advocacy missions
- Develop life-long leadership skills