MLK 2017 Distinguished Individual Leadership Award Finalists

Emmai Alaquiva

Emmai Alaquiva is an Emmy Award-winning film director, composer and mentor known for his impact across mix-media art platforms. Once homeless, Alaquiva now holds multiple prominent positions in the field of media including: Filmmaker, Photographer and Music Composer & Arranger. Today, Alaquiva is the proud CEO of Ya Momz House, Inc., a full-service multimedia company, director for CBS Sports Network’s TV Show “Game Changers,” as well as the founder of the award-winning arts education program, Hip Hop On L.O.C.K. Alaquiva’s work can be seen and heard across the world through media giant’s from CBS, NBC, PBS to celebrities such as Wiz Khalifa, Martha Stewart, The Roots, the late Dr. Maya Angelou and more. This 5-Time Telly Award-winner has been recognized as Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 under 40, The New Pittsburgh Courier’s FAB 40, Whirl Magazine’s “50 Finest” along with a proclamation from City of Pittsburgh Mayor, Bill Peduto. Alaquiva was recently awarded as a 2016 national BMe Community Leader recognized by President Barack Obama.


Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is CEO and Co-Founder of 412 Food Rescue. She has a 15-year track record of leadership positions with global corporations and nonprofits. Leah received her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University, graduating with Highest Distinction, and is an advocate for healthy food accessibility, food safety policy and sustainability. She has also trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and received her Certification in Plant-based Nutrition from Cornell University. She began her career as a product manager in Southeast Asia, working in consumer packaged goods and technology before moving on to her passion in food and health advocacy. She is interested in social innovation and technology and mines her experience launching startups as she works to establish 412 Food Rescue. Leah wrote an award-winning weekly food column for Pittsburgh Magazine online and is Editor-at-Large for NEXTpittsburgh. Leah’s work has been featured in print and online publications including MSN’s Re:Discover Series, NPR,, GOOD Magazine online. The Brazen Kitchen, Leah’s blog, won the 2013 National City & Regional Magazine Awards. In April 2014, she gave the TEDx Talk “Why the Farm Is Not Getting to the Table.”


Dr. John M. Wallace

John M. Wallace Jr. earned his PhD and master’s degree in sociology from the University of Michigan and his BA in sociology from the University of Chicago. He is the principal investigator on the University of Pittsburgh Center on Race and Social Problems’ Comm-Univer-City of Pittsburgh Project, an integrated program of research, teaching, and service designed to investigate and ameliorate social problems that disproportionately impact economically disadvantaged children, families, and communities. This program includes the Homewood Children’s Village, of which he is a co-founder. His recent research examines comprehensive community revitalization initiatives, racial and ethnic disparities in social and economic well-being, the impact of crime on clergy and congregations, and adolescent problem behaviors including violence and substance abuse. His work has appeared in numerous professional journals, books and monographs. In addition to being a professor and a father, he pastors a church in Pittsburgh’s Homewood-Brushton neighborhood.