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Tiana Carruthers Honored Sunday for Aiding Children in Shooting

A recent image of Kalamazoo shooting Tiana Carruthers, projected on a screen at Borgess Medical Center. (Edited for clarity)
Rebecca Thiele, WMUK
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A longtime educational organization will honor Kalamazoo shooting survivor Tiana Carruthers this Sunday. For almost two decades, Ujima Enterprises Incorporated has given awards to outstanding community members during its Juneteenth celebration of African-American history. Carruthers, who was the first of eight people that a gunman shot in February, has made national headlines for protecting her 7-year-old daughter and other children. She told them to run from the Richland Township playground they were in when she saw the gun.

Ujima Enterprises Founder Jeanne Baraka calls Carruthers “a young lady who proved herself strong.”

“She has been a public shield for children who are in danger of being shot," says Baraka, during an interview with WMUK's Earlene McMichael that aired today. "She stood between them and took the bullets."

jeanne_baraka_1.jpg
Credit Earlene McMichael / WMUK
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WMUK interviewed Jeanne Baraka, founder of Kalamazoo's long-running Juneteenth program, in her home on Wednesday.

The children escaped harm in the Feb. 20 incident, but Carruthers was shot four times by Uber driver Jason Dalton. 

So in addition to giving her an award, Baraka says her Kalamazoo-based organization plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to Carruthers’ recovery fund.

Juneteenth will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Dalton Center Recital Hall at Western Michigan University (click on the live link for ticket information). In her interview, Baraka talked about why she started Ujima Enterprises Incorporated and about its efforts to keep Juneteenth alive in Kalamazoo. 

A highlight of this year's program will be "Waiting on Freedom to Come," a specially commissioned  reader's theater production detailing the history of Juneteenth, a 150-year-old African-American tradition that arose from the jubilation over the end of slavery. 

Each year, two awards are given -- one to an educator and another to an individual who's shown commitment to the community, Baraka says. Carruthers will be given the latter award.

In May, Carrruthers was honored by CBS' The Steve Harvey Show. She was named a "Harvey's Hero" and given $1,000 for "her heroic act that protected a playground full of children."

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Earlene McMichael was WMUK's local host of NPR's Morning Edition from August 2012 through October 2021. A former, long-time Kalamazoo Gazette editor, reporter, and columnist, she was a news anchor at WHCU-FM when it was owned by Cornell University, her alma mater.