Dr. Sokoni Karanja the founder of Centers for New Horizons, recently stepped down from his role there as President and CEO to begin a new endeavor as President of 2016 MA'AT. He has founded this new organization with the belief that people who better know and understand each other are less likely to become violent towards each other. 2016 MA'AT then, will focus on the moderation and eventual elimination of violence by forging and strengthening unity in Chicago’s neighborhoods of color. Its mission, in a word, is "peace."
Dr. Karanja is married to Loyola University professor Ayana Karanja, Ph.D. and is the father of seven. A native of Topeka, Kansas, Dr. Karanja, in his formative years, was witness to the grassroots strategy meeting that led to Brown vs. the Board of Education, and began his first organizing experience by galvanizing support for desegregating his neighborhood movie theater. Dr. Karanja holds three master’s degrees (psychology, social work, and community development), and earned his Ph.D. in urban planning from Brandeis University.
Over the years Dr. Karanja has organized community groups and built alliances with “downtown” philanthropies and businesses that have leveraged the facelift of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive; drove activity resulting in improvements in school facilities and curricula; and helped cause the “discovery” of the South Side by financial institutions. Dr. Karanja’s community building leadership has, in short, helped fuel the current renaissance underway on the South Side.
As a well-regarded civic leader, Dr. Karanja presently chairs the Trinity Senior Housing Board and is a member of the Imani Village Executive Board. He has served on the Education Committee of the Museum of Science and Industry, the Housing Committee and CHA Subcommittee of the Metropolitan Planning Council, and sat on the board of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. He has also served on the boards of the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Woodstock Institute, chaired a citywide Poverty Intervention Task Force, and participated actively in committees of the Metropolitan Planning Council, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and the national Alliance for Children and Families.
Dr. Karanja has been the recipient of numerous awards for program and management excellence, including the Sara Lee Spirit Award, the James Brown IV Award of the Chicago Community Trust, the Bank of America Foundation’s Neighborhood Builders Award (2005), and has been named Chicagoan of the Year on two occasions by Chicago Magazine. In 1993 Dr. Karanja, for his community service and civic leadership, received a MacArthur Genius Award as a Child and Family Development Specialist.
"MA'AT is a peacemaking tool which pulls people back to their humanity through the practice of truth, justice, righteousness, balance, order, propriety and harmony.”