Kwame McDonald recognized for leadership promoting girls and women in sport

AnotherViewsquareThere are only a precious few people in these twin towns who just the mere mention of their first name is enough identification: Kirby. Prince. Dessa. Maya.

Kwame.

“He had a presence when he walked into events. He wasn’t looking for the attention, but because of the way he carried himself and the way he approached people, he lit up the room and people were really happy to be in his

Kwame McDonald
Kwame McDonald

presence,” notes Sara Eisenhauer of the Minnesota Coalition of Women in Athletic Leadership. Her group next Wednesday, Feb. 4 will twice honor Kwame McDonald, the late MSR senior columnist, with their annual media award at a noontime ceremony at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

McDonald, who died in 2011, is among 18 individuals and one program receiving awards in seven categories at the 29th annual Minnesota Girls and Women in Sports Day (MGWSD). The award recipients are nominated by schools, community organizations, rec centers, and amateur and professional sports organizations. It is part of the annual National Girls and Women in Sports day celebrated nationwide.

Eisenhauer, the St. Catherine University sports information director, says she didn’t know McDonald but points out, “We started talking to people who knew him and had great things to say about him.”

People such as Minnesota State High School League Associate Director Lisa Lissimore and Jennifer Jacobs, a former St. Paul prep star and coach now at Augsburg College as an assistant volleyball coach and assistant athletic director.

“It was nice to learn about an individual who emerged as doing something [for women and girls in sport],” continues Eisenhauer.

“Kwame spent his adult life advocating, supporting and promoting sports participation for girls and women at every level of sport,” adds Lissimore.

“He was always a person who just wanted to help no matter what,” says his son Mitchell, the MSR prep sportswriter and photographer. His father pledged that women athletes should get balanced media coverage and “have equal access to opportunities as men had,” recalls Mitchell.

After Mitchell accepts his father’s posthumous award, Kwame will be permanently honored. “We thought it will be a real nice way to first honor him with the media award for the work he did as a media member,” explains Eisenhauer, “and then renaming the award after him for all the future [award winners].”

Henceforth, the Kwame McDonald Girls’ and Women’s Sports in the Media Award joins the Wilma Rudolph Award for Courage and Inspiration as the two awards MGWSD annually gives out that’s named for a Black individual.

Shortly after his death, Concordia University renamed its home men’s and women’s basketball player-of-the-game award after Kwame, and beginning next week the MGWSD media award. It’s way past time for the other sport entities in these towns to step up as well:

The Twins? All Kwame did was help find housing for their Black players in their early days after relocating from Washington, D.C.

The Gophers? All Kwame did was help counsel Black youth, convincing them to stay home and attend the state’s largest university. Or help convince out-of-town Black youth to stay after being recruited and arriving only to find themselves on an unwelcoming campus.

The Wolves and Lynx? All Kwame did was lend his ear and listen to many of their Black players, offering sage advice when asked.

Besides the perfunctory Black History Month minute-long recognitions during timeouts at sports events, these teams and programs could instead do something more lasting, more meaningful, more tribute-fitting for Kwame, who was well-known and well-loved on both sides of the Mississippi and elsewhere.

“He had an impact on everybody he met. It’s very rare to have a media member do that,” concludes Eisenhauer. “We are really excited to be able to do something and honor somebody who is definitely well deserving.”

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokes man-recorder.com.