The 2023 Esteem Awards Finalist

avery r. young Photo by: Sulyiman Stokes

Chicago, March 15, 2023 – Today, we’re excited to announce eleven individuals and two organizations have been selected to be honored during this year’s 16th Annual Esteem Awards. Our Outstanding Social Services/CBO and Special Recognition honorees will be announced later. We’re happy to report two new awards will be given to two healthcare professionals for their outstanding service to the community.

The Esteem Awards is a 501c3 organization. A committee of past finalists, with input from the public, has chosen this year’s recipients.

Award finalists will be celebrated at an in-person event on Saturday, July 1, at Sidetrack 3349 N. Halsted in Chicago from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend. To support our Go Fund Me Campaign click here.

Following is a list of Esteem Awards finalist:

Outstanding Service, Male: Joel D. Jackson, works in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, part of the Urban Health Initiative at UChicago Medicine. He is the Director of Inclusion and Equity Strategies.

Outstanding Service, Female: Chicago Foundation for Women. Since 1985, CFW has led the movement to achieve fundamental rights and equal opportunities, investing in women and girls as catalysts in building stronger communities for all.

Outstanding Service, Transgender: Jae Rice (he/him) is a trans-masculine public figure fighting for the liberation of oppressed communities daily. Jae is the Interim CEO at Brave Space Alliance.

Future Leaders: Dion Alexander McNeal is an HIV Advocate, Community Co-Chair, and digital designer. He is the Manager/Founder of Hopeful in Victory LLC.

Institutional Award: Pride in The Pews. The organization is a grassroots nationwide nonprofit building bridge and creating solutions that empower the Black LGBTQ+ community to thrive in the pew, the pulpit, and the public square.

Artistic Expression: avery r. young. Chicago’s 1st Poet Laureate, interdisciplinary artist and educator avery r. young [him, him, his] is a Leader for a New Chicago 2022 awardee, a Cave Canem fellow and a co-director of The Floating Museum.   His poetry and prose have been featured in BreakBeat Poets, Teaching Black, Poetry Magazine and alongside images in photographer Cecil McDonald Jr’s, In The Company of Black.  He is the composer and librettist for a new commissioned work from The Lyrics Opera of Chicago titled safronia.  HIs full-length recording tubman. is the soundtrack to his collection of poetry, neckbone: visual verses.

Outstanding Healthcare Professional: Dr. Maurice Brownlee. Dr. Brownlee is a wellness & health services provider with broad expertise in internal medicine and treating infectious diseases. He is the Chief Wellness Officer & Medical Director of Wellness Homes in Chicago.

Outstanding Service, Male: Dr. David Johns. David is an experienced policy expert and entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of leading teams in work that is both meaningful and measurable. Strong business development professional skilled in nonprofit and grassroots
organizing. He is the Executive Director of the Washington, DC-based National Black Justice Coalition.

Outstanding Service, Female: Stacey Stevenson. Stacey is an LGBTQ+ advocate, author, and speaker. For the past 20 years, she has dedicated herself to leadership. Stacey is the CEO of New York-based Family Equality.

Outstanding Service, Transgender: Edward Cameron Pizarro III, (aka E.C.) Activist, Entrepreneur. E.C. is the Executive Director of TransTech Social Enterprises.

Future Leaders: Deondre B. Moore. Deondre is an activist, community engagement expert, and public speaker. He is currently the Sr. Director of Advocacy & Partnerships at U=U plus.

Artistic Expression: Alan Sharpe. Alan is a writer/director of the LGBTQ+ stage and film. In the 90s, he started a theater company that became the African American Collective (ACT). He has written and directed over 150 plays, short films, and two web series showcasing the mosaic of African American LGBTQ+ culture and experiences.

Outstanding Healthcare Professional: Stephaun Elite Wallace, Ph.D. Dr. Wallace is a public health/social justice leader with more than 20 years of sexual/public health experience with diverse populations. He is Principal Staff Scientist for Seattle-based Fred Hutch.


Since 2007,’s Esteem Awards has honored local and national organizations and individuals for their continued support of African American and LGBTQ+ communities in entertainment, media, civil rights, business, and art. is an online entertainment portal for the African American and LGBTQ+ communities. It features profiles of activists, authors, club promoters, filmmakers, performance artists, conferences, support groups, and health & wellness resources.