Project Understanding

Detroit Project Understanding is a unique opportunity for young leaders in the Black and/or Jewish communities to continue the legacy of our historic relationship through meaningful exercises, thoughtful conversation, and professional networking opportunities. Participants are encouraged to have open and honest discussions about issues that affect each of their respective communities, as well as those that affect both. Together, they explore 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 Metro Detroit area, between the ages of 25-39, are eligible to apply.

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Meet your Detroit Project Understanding Team!

Detroit Project Understanding Co-Chairs

Chinonye Akunne

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 Detroit Institute of Arts Founders Junior Council and The Stratford Festival. She has been recognized for her service in the community and advanced research in healthcare access. Chinonye’s hobbies include global travel, reading, visiting art museums, and volunteering to make the world a better place for all.

Aramis Hinds

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

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

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.

Shawn Young

Shawn Young, Paramedic/BS Physiology, aspires to use his Science and Medical background to build and acquire successful companies that not only make money, but make a difference.

For example, Max M. Fisher was an extremely successful businessman who used his vast wealth and connections, to advocate for Jewish People throughout the world (the Headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit is named after Mr Fisher).

As such, inspired by powerful leaders like Mr Fisher, Shawn seeks to achieve similar success in business, politics and advocacy (hence Shawn’s volunteer work for The Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity).

Detroit Project Understanding Staff

Tamara Lopes

Tamara Lopes joined JCRC/AJC as its Community Associate in December 2022. In this position, she focuses on building relationships with the Black and Jewish communities by working with the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity. She also works on a variety of interfaith initiatives, such as Student-to-Student, and Project Understanding.

Tamara has a broad background in the medical industry, ranging from Certified Medical Assistant, Licensed Phlebotomist, and Human Resources Coordinator for a critical care hospital.