When Minneapolis last hosted the Super Bowl in 1992, there was little or no diverse presence among key organizers or those who worked behind the scenes. Several years ago, after the Twin Cities was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl, the organizers made assurances that a similar lack of diversity would not occur this time around.
“We have 18 people on our committee, and I’d say at least half of them [are people of color],” said Dana Nelson, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee’s vice-president of legacy and community partnership. This week we feature a few of the faces of color who were involved in a small or big way in this year’s Super Bowl.
Captain of thousands
Last year, Alisha Stansil answered the Host Committee’s call for at least 10,000 volunteers who would welcome fans and others to downtown Minneapolis for Super Bowl 52. A football fan, Stansil said, “I wanted to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” She told the MSR that the interviewing process included a background check; she later interviewed other applicants as a volunteer captain.
Since last spring, “I helped interview over 10,000 volunteers. I [also] did the orientation night when we had over 12,000 people there, cheering the revealing of our uniforms,” recalled the Northsider, who works as a bank officer.
Stansil, however, expressed disappointment that she couldn’t convince more of her friends to join up. She estimated that “maybe 20 percent” of the people interviewed were Black. “I had two ladies that came and are general volunteers. Another woman was denied.”
Thus far, Stansil estimates she has logged in at least 100 hours for the Super Bowl. “I talked to a lot of people in my community, [and] when I explain all the things I have done for the Super Bowl they say, ‘You doing all of this for free? Girl, you crazy! I got kids. I can’t sacrifice [that much time].’”
As captain, she was scheduled to work three 10-hour shifts last week. Stansil said she also was scheduled to work a game-day tailgating event at The Depot. “Hopefully, I will be able to watch the game [on television], peek in and out and have some fun.”
“It’s been a very amazing experience,” Stansil said. “It’s sad to me that a lot of my people can’t come out and experience these kinds of things without worry about the money. I don’t make a lot of money [at her employment]. It’s about sacrifice and what you are willing to sacrifice.”
Ball logo designer
D J Bryant helped design the Super Bowl commemorative football logo.
“I took a lot of notes and collaborated back and forth with the client in the process of making the logo,” Bryant told the MSR. “The [logo design] process took about three or four weeks, maybe a month.”
As a young Black man, seeing his Super Bowl 52 logo prominently affixed to footballs has been both exciting and humbling, he pointed out. “Being a person of color and being involved with the NFL shows that we are represented, and people of color have the ability to impact the world as well. Being able to work with the Super Bowl Host Committee, something that big, and me being who I am, I never had this opportunity [before]; people like me don’t have opportunities like this.
“Two or three years ago I was doing life drawings in this space,” Bryant said at Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), a youth-oriented nonprofit visual arts center in North Minneapolis. “I am incredibly blessed. I couldn’t have gotten here by myself. It wasn’t just me but all of JXTA who supported me throughout the process.”
In January, the organization received one of 52 Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund grants designated to help improve the health and wellness of Minnesota youth. It is part of the Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program, which annually takes a $1 million contribution from the NFL Foundation and is matched by the Host Committee.
JXTA was awarded $50,000 to build the North Side’s first-ever skate park.
“We didn’t want to build a typical skate park. We want to have something bigger and better,” Tatyanna Gross, one of a group of young people who will design the park, declared. “We want to focus on safety… We want someplace safe for people to hang out.”
“JXTA is at the heart of what goes on” in North Minneapolis, added Nelson, a JXTA board member. “I think it is going to be the best skate park in the country.”
Youth of color will completely design it, said JXTA co-founder and executive director DeAnna Cummings. She added that the new park should be constructed by late summer or early fall this year.
Setting an example
Natalie Morrow considers this year’s event “very diverse” compared to the 1992 NFL game. “You got some key players in high positions that are very diverse that are helping with this. I think it’s very organized.”
The Morrow Group, her marketing and PR firm, worked the Super Bowl for the first time. “We are making sure that we meet the needs of the city to have it [be] the best it can be,” Morrow stressed. “It was a real big opportunity” for her company to land a contract to handle PR and other duties for four scheduled Super Bowl-related events last week.
“I think it is super important to do it…and to do it well. Hopefully, this will encourage others…that you don’t have to be a guy. We have a lot of young people of color — men and women — in marketing and PR,” she stressed.
“It’s been fun, but I also want to set an example for others,” said Morrow.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com