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“Phenom” Wins Brother Mike Award

  • Sana Jafri

On November 2, 2019, “Phenom” won the inaugural Brother Mike Award—a new $5,000 no-string attached award to recognize the contributions of mentors in the out-of-school (OST) time space.

During his acceptance speech, Phenom, a mentor and teaching artist with Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and POETREE Chicago, said “I feel honored to be recognized but I also don’t like competition because we are all winners. We are all supporting, loving, and mentoring our youth. With this award, I would like to collaborate with all the nominees on a project.”

The Brother Mike Award honors the legacy of Brother Mike Hawkins, who was a Chicago-based mentor, poet, and a member of the Chicago Learning Exchange community. The award is filling a much needed gap in Chicago.

Youth spend more than 60 percent of their time outside of school and mentors play an important role yet there is very little recognition.

Similar to the Golden Apple Foundation award for in-school educators, Leaders for a New Chicago recognizing nonprofit leadership, and other honors, the Brother Mike Award recognizes excellence and impact — in this case, the important role that mentors play in a young person’s life.

In all, 23 mentors from the Chicago Learning Exchange (CLX) network were nominated for the award. See a full list of all the amazing nominees here.

CLX, Digital Youth Network (DYN) at Northwestern University, and Chicago Public Library (CPL), who were also deeply connected to Brother Mike, teamed up Chance the Rapper’s non-profit organization, SocialWorks to create and issue the new annual award.

The evening award celebration took place at Little Black Pearl, a youth development space and school where Brother Mike started his career. Phenom closed the evening— he’s proud to build on Brother Mike’s legacy and will continue to support mentorship.

He added, “Being spiritually rooted puts us in the position to be watered, so that you can provide the best fruit for our future.”