Janis Lane-Ewart named next KRSM Radio station manager

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Pillsbury United Communities has named Janis Lane-Ewart as the next Station Manager of KRSM Radio.

Lane-Ewart is an award-winning cultural activist who has been working to strengthen and enrich Minnesota with her commitment to the arts and arts education since 1989. She was Executive Director of KFAI Fresh Air Community Radio for 12 years, where she also produced the longstanding jazz show, The Collective Eye. Since 2014, she has served as Development Officer for jazz station KBEM – Jazz88. She has served as a board member of Intermedia Arts, Ananya Dance Theatre, and American Composers Forum.

In November 2019, Lane-Ewart was honored with a Sally Award at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. The Sallys are based on the First Trust Award given in 1986 to Sally Ordway Irvine. Winners are nominated by the arts community – people whose lives they have directly affected. Lane-Ewart’s award was for commitment.

“We are delighted to welcome Janis to the team. Janis shares our passion for amplifying the voices, stories, cultures, and conversations happening in our neighborhoods,” said Adair Mosley, president and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities.

“I am honored to have been selected to lead the station into the future,” Lane-Ewart said. “Brendan [Kelly] and the whole KRSM team have built a powerful platform for change.”

KRSM Radio is a low-power FM radio station based out of the Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis, broadcasting at 98.9 FM across South Minneapolis, and streaming live at krsmradio.org. It is an independently operated social enterprise of Pillsbury United Communities. Its mission is to provide a platform for elevating the voices, narratives, and cultures of those communities with a history of being marginalized, misrepresented, and erased by traditional media and to serve as an on-ramp to jobs in the fields of broadcast media.

“Reimagine Public Safety” teaser video released

George Floyd memorial outside Cup Foods

We’ve been here before. But out of our pain rises the stories of how to heal, how to evolve, and how to build.

Coming later this summer, Pillsbury United Communities will be releasing the first installment of “Reimagine Public Safety,” a new docuseries exploring policing in the city of Minneapolis, and the possibilities that exist to reimagine and transform our systems of public safety. This series is one of the first initiatives from our new Policy & Advocacy team.

Don’t forget to connect with us on Facebook to see future installments and continue the conversation with our Policy & Advocacy team.

We’ve always figured out a way through. It’s time to find a way forward.

Harry Colbert, Jr. named next North News editor

Headshot of Harry Colbert, new North News editor

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Pillsbury United Communities has named Harry Colbert, Jr. as the next editor of North News.

Colbert is an award-winning journalist, has contributed as a reporter, columnist/commentator and editor for such outlets as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s The Village, Suburban Journals (St. Louis), St. Louis American, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joplin Globe (Mo.), Metro Networks (St. Louis) and KDHX (St. Louis).

Colbert joined Insight News in Minneapolis as a contributing writer in 2010. While at Insight, he has covered Barack Obama on multiple occasions during his presidency, interviewed countless dignitaries and celebrities and won awards for writing and photography. In June of 2016, Colbert was named Insight’s managing editor.

Colbert’s journalistic accolades include four Minnesota Newspaper Association awards (first place for General Reporting, two second place for Columnist and one third place for General Excellence), three National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Merit Awards (2018 Best Column, third place, 2017 Best Special Edition, second place [as both writer and managing editor] for an edition dedicated to the passing of Prince and 2016 Best Use of Photography, third place, for his coverage of the North Minneapolis uprising following the killing of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police officers) and three National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence nominations (two for Best Commentary [2018, 2019] and one for Best Business Reporting [2019]).

“We are ecstatic to welcome Harry to our team. Harry intersects a deep commitment and passion for the North Minneapolis community, and we believe he will continue to authentically tell the stories of this resilient place,” said Adair Mosley.

“I’m both humbled and honored to have been selected to lead North News in its next phase of news gathering and sharing,” Colbert said. “Kenzie [O’Keefe] has done an outstanding job piloting the ship in its inaugural phase under Pillsbury United.”

Colbert will begin officially in his role May 11.

Colbert is a proud resident of the Cleveland neighborhood of North Minneapolis.

Colbert replaces Kenzie O’Keefe who will now lead Pillsbury’s policy and advocacy work.

North News is a grassroots print and digital community news source and youth journalism training program in North Minneapolis. It is an independently operated social enterprise of Pillsbury United Communities. North News seeks to deepen understanding, empathy, and appreciation for the Northside through its coverage, expanding perceptions of a place often reduced to a single, negative narrative.

North News creates hyperlocal, youth-powered journalism

Attendees and staff at Greater>Together 2018

Many residents of North Minneapolis may be aware of North News through its monthly print paper and digital platforms, elevating honest and nuanced narratives about the Northside that aren’t represented in the institutional media. What they may not realize is that in addition to its quality hyperlocal reporting, North News is also working to lift up the next generation of Northside youth voices. 

Through classroom programs and internship opportunities overseen by North News staff, youth throughout North Minneapolis are learning to tell their community’s stories and gain experience that will prepare them for careers in mass media and communications. This need is especially critical in the Northside community. “We are the only journalism education program most of our young people have access to,” said Kenzie O’Keefe, editor-in-chief of North News. O’Keefe also co-teaches the North News journalism class at North High School and expects to lead a similar program at Patrick Henry High School later this fall. 

Working under Kenzie and being a proud intern for North News over the last three years taught me the skills I needed to become a great journalist,” said former intern Daija Triplett, currently serving at Pillsbury United Communities through the Public Allies program. After the conclusion of her term, she plans to major in communications and media studies at Stetson University in the spring. “I’ve learned so much about how journalism can help connect people to their neighbors in the community.” 

Blessing Kasongoma, currently majoring in communications studies at Augsburg University, concurs: “Interning as a student reporter at North News helped me find myself as a journalist. But she said the true benefits of the North News youth program are even bigger than that. “As a person, I became bolder when it came to approaching people for an interview. I grew that way. This skill is not just for interviewing, but for everyday life. I learned to be more confident as a person.” 

The North News team has high hopes for their youth program over the long-term. “Our plan is to build on our successes, grow the capacity of our newsroom, and keep our news platforms strong,” said O’Keefe. By formalizing additional pathways between North News and the media industry, O’Keefe said, North News can ensure that all young people in North Minneapolis have the tools and resources to pursue a career in mass media. With that crucial support for emerging community voices, she said, “We envision that North Minneapolis will one day be known as the birthplace of nationally respected journalists.” 

By cultivating young people’s skills as journalists, writers, and storytellers, North News is making a vital contribution to the Northside community. When everyday people are empowered to raise their voices and influence the narrative, real change can begin. 

South High School’s All Nations Program take to the air

Intercultural event at Waite House

One of our social enterprises in South Minneapolis, KRSM Radio, is a platform for voices not often present in traditional media. That includes youth. Student-Powered Radio, a show done in partnership with students and teachers in Middle and High School around South Minneapolis, was created to bring these voices and stories to the air.

On June 12th, one large project that our Youth Media Coordinator, Michel B., has been working on was released to the airwaves. Via Student-Powered Radio, listeners were able to hear 9 recordings made by the All Nations Program in South High School. Students talked about everything from video games and music to historical trauma, community healing, and relatives who they’ve lost to the opioid epidemic. Plus, Michel interviewed the program’s lead teacher and recorded the Pow Wow the students led on South High’s field (including the moment the graduating seniors are presented with their eagle feathers!).

Though the program has already aired, we will have the recordings available on our website soon. Check back here for updates.

KRSM is a low-power FM radio station based out of the Phillips neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Broadcasting at 98.9 FM, this is a hyper-local platform for amplifying the voices, stories, cultures, and conversations happening in our neighborhoods. Our focus is on communities that are marginalized, misrepresented, and erased by traditional media. For example, our schedule features shows in 6 different languages (English, Spanish, Somali, Ojibwe, Hmong, and Haitian Creole), and we air 10 hours of programming each week by Indigenous hosts.

Public Allies volunteer to help raise youth voices

Public Alies participants in ideation session

On March 30, 2019 the Minnesota Youth Council hosted the first of its kind, Youth in Educational Leadership Summit at Patrick Henry High School. The Minnesota Youth Council is a group of youth and adults working together to empower and mobilize young people across the state to use the power of their voices to address issues affecting youth. The event featured many young speakers. Janaan Ahmed spoke about advocacy and leadership and Maddy Fernands spoke about climate justice. Edie Weinstein, a young author, spoke about her book and connecting with people with dementia. More than 200 students, parents, mentors, and teachers participated in the event.

A team of Public Allies volunteered at the event.  They did everything from provide childcare to take photos while not participating in workshops. “As a Public Ally, the experience at YELS was refreshing.” said second year Public Allies fellow You Lee. “Many times, youth voices are pushed aside to make space for adults or professionals in the room. So, it was cool to see youth-led presentations and overall coordination of the conference. I can see that the conference was a good experience for youth as they continue their work in the future.” 

Public Allies is a national movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging and activating the leadership capacities of our young people. Since 1992, Public Allies has helped thousands of underrepresented young leaders serve our country, get on successful pathways to higher education and careers, and bring communities together to work for the common good. Public Allies seeks to find and cultivate young community leaders and connect them to the issues and causes that ignite their passion to create last change. Allies are placed with a nonprofit organization where they help address critical community needs such as youth development, education, workforce development, environmental issues, arts programming and community health.

Sisterhood Boutique celebrates diversity with style

Models at the Sisterhood Boutique fashion show

On March 5, 2019 Sisterhood Boutique celebrated its fifth anniversary with a fashion show. The boutique was started by Somali and east African girls as safe space to learn skills like financial literacy, leadership and sewing by running their own business selling secondhand clothes.

“We do a lot of things and the fashion show is a way to show the community what we’ve been doing. We’ve had over 200 people go through the process,” said store manager Amal Muse.

The fashion show is part birthday party, part fundraiser and features models of all shapes and sizes wearing looks designed by students from the University of St. Catherine’s Advanced Construction Class to reflect the diversity found in the West Bank neighborhood where the boutique is located.

“We have women wearing traditional hijabs and burkas; there’s everything. It really runs the gamut of what you would see walking around in a very fashionable Minneapolis,” said Julie Graves, Director of Career & Future Readiness.

For some of the girls involved with store, the show is a chance to strike a pose, while for others, it’s one more example that the Sisterhood Boutique lives up to its name.

“It’s very family-like. You feel like you are part of a sister family. I don’t have sisters, so I gained sisters,” Ali said.

Pillsbury House Theatre amplifies the stories of older adults

Public memoir reading at Pillsbury House + Theatre

In 2018, Pillsbury House Theatre received a grant to run Centerstage, a series of free memoir writing classes for residents of local Augustana Care buildings. Teaching Artist Jen Scott taught three separate 8-week courses, culminating in a reception at Pillsbury House Theatre in which participants and professional actors read their stories out loud. It was a joyful occasion punctuated with laughter, a few tears, and even music; one of the participants played the harp as she told her story!

This year, Pillsbury House Theatre is doing it again, this time hosting three free eight-week classes for adults 55 and up in their building on Chicago Avenue. The first class, Intro to Memoir, taught by Jen Scott, is wrapping up this month. The second class, Advanced Memoir, will be taught by Dr. Louis Porter starting in June, with a third class to follow later in the summer.

Centerstage is not just about teaching people how to write in the form of memoir. More than that, it’s about empowering people with the knowledge that everyone has a story to be told, and that telling those stories both grounds us in ourselves and connects us to one another.

Plays on the political divide, by and for women at Pillsbury House Theatre

Performance at Pillsbury House + Theatre

Every year since the spring of 2017, Pillsbury House Theatre has produced a series of new 10-minute plays called The Great Divide. Featuring five brand-new 10-minute plays by local playwrights, The Great Divide is a response to the deeply partisan political climate that has become our new normal.

For this year’s installment, titled She Persists: The Great Divide III, Pillsbury House Theatre focused on women’s stories, commissioning plays from local playwrights Cristina Florencia Castro, Casey Llewellyn, Oya Mae Duchess-Davis, Philana Omorotionmwan and Aamera Siddiqui. In addition to the playwrighting cohort, She Persists also featured an all-woman production team and cast, starring Ashawnti Sakina Ford, Audrey Park, Nora Montañez & Sara Richardson.

“These are really politically driven shows, and a few of them deal with the future,” said actress Nora Montañez. “These women, these playwrights took in the theme, and then they went with it, and it’s absolutely gorgeous how different each of these plays are, and how it affects the audience seeing what currently is happening and what could possibly happen in the future.”

Written and performed by and for women, She Persists was a powerful, intersectional look at the place where womanhood and politics collide. To learn about Pillsbury House Theatre’s current season, visit http://pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org/mainstage/

New star emerges at Chicago Avenue Project performance

Chicago Avenue Project performance

Each spring, kids and their adult acting mentors star in plays written just for them by adult playwrights, and each winter, kids and their adult playwriting mentors write plays to be performed by adult actors. The most recent CAP show, Fortune Favors the Bold, was performed by kids and their adult acting mentors on April 22nd and 23rd. Among other stories, the plays included a robot uprising, a wolf directing a nature documentary, and a couple of cartoon characters having an existential crisis!

One of the CAP stars, 8-year-old Deparis, made his acting debut in Fortune Favors the Bold. He played a DJ named Mr. Peep who was on his way to the biggest show of his career, along with his trusty sidekick, Donkey. “I’ve been watching CAP since I was three years old,” he said. “I always wanted to do CAP, and now I have the opportunity, which I’m very excited about… I love CAP because I finally get to let out all my energy and I get to make things that just express me.”

Since 1996, the Chicago Avenue Project (CAP) has brought local youth together with the Twin Cities’ best adult playwrights, actors, and directors to create and produce original theatre that is heartwarming, hilarious, and infused with the brilliance of young minds.

To learn more about the Chicago Avenue Project, visit http://pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org/chicago-avenue-project/.

The authentic voice of the Northside

North News reporter

Minneapolis’s Northside is a community with a rich history and a bright future. But a full and nuanced account of this neighborhood is seldom told. Instead, perceptions of North Minneapolis and its people are often reduced to a single, negative narrative: one of crime, poverty, blight, and disparity. That storyline feeds a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as policy makers, law enforcement, and community members subscribe to that narrative, little can be done to change it.

This is where community media can make a tremendous difference. By empowering people to tell their own story, community newspapers and other hyper-local media reveal the truth of a place to the wider public — and, crucially, to the community itself.

That’s the role of North News. Relaunched in 2016 by Pillsbury United Communities,  North News is a grassroots print and digital news source that works to deepen empathy and appreciation for North Minneapolis. Each monthly issue delivers original reporting and insightful stories about people and events shaping our neighborhoods, all told from a Northside perspective.

North News editors and journalists work to capture voices that get left out of the dominant media narratives. In 2018, the paper published stories about mistreatment within the housing system, life after prison, and environmental injustice on the Northside. In the paper’s groundbreaking Trauma Trooper series, journalists captured the trauma-related realities facing youth in North Minneapolis — a vital step in persuading the community and city professionals to respond.

At the same time North News opens minds, it also opens doors. The content is made possible by young writers and reporters in North High School’s daily journalism classes. 58 students have participated since the paper’s relaunch in 2016 — brainstorming ideas, choosing angles for their stories, and identifying their own experts. In the process, they grow their job skills and ambitions and become visible leaders in their community.

In the two years since its relaunch, North News has become the neighborhood’s indispensable voice, with a print circulation of 10,000 papers and online stories and Facebook posts that typically reach thousands of readers each month.

We recognize a key social issue facing Minneapolis is the lack of empathy and understanding of one another’s experiences. By painting a full and vivid picture of a dynamic community — its triumphs as well as its struggles — North News nurtures a foundation for real, inclusive change. We’re helping people tell the story they see and live, not the same old one they’ve always been told.

“I’ve learned first hand how journalists can connect to their communities and the value of the work they do. North News gives us the power and the responsibility to represent our neighborhood.” — Daija, North High alumna and former North News Intern

BY THE NUMBERS

10,000 monthly print circulation

400 public bulk drop sites and home subscriptions

58 student journalists engaged since the paper’s relaunch in 2016

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