Sustaining a free Black press is surely something worth celebrating.
The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) kicked off its 85th year as a beacon of press freedom for the state’s Black community. That calls for an all-out party — on a boat.
MSR staff, including CEO/Publisher Tracey Williams-Dillard, and supporters from the Black community and greater readership, kicked off the milestone year with a cruise down the St. Croix River Aug. 3.
MSR founder and first editor Cecil E. Newman’s dream of a vital Black voice in the Twin Cities became reality on August 10, 1934. He walked so that MSR and its supporters could sail.
The 2019 Legacy Boat Cruise, the fifth annual, specially commemorated the 85th anniversary. Aboard the Majestic Star leaving the St. Croix Boat and Packet docks on the sunny, humid, late-summer day, was a diverse array of revelers who enjoyed four floors of entertainment.
Live music was performed by Wenso Ashby who set a lively jazzy lounge scene on the first floor. Up a level was an all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken, lasagna, salads and other sides and cake for dessert. Also included on the second floor were games and prizes, courtesy of event sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield MN and The Minneapolis Foundation, and a vendor marketplace showcasing some of the Twin Cities’ finest Black entrepreneurs.
KMOJ’s Walter “Q Bear” Banks kept the dancefloor on the third-floor poppin’ with line dance-inducing soul and funk. “Do the ladies run this motha?” Q Bear instinctively asked, looking into the dancefloor powered by Black women freely dancing the afternoon away. “Hell yeah!” the women hollered back. Most of the time, Q Bear knew better than to even ask if the men ran that motha.
The top floor, which had music pumping from the DJ booth was perfect for sitting, basking in the sun, and sipping drinks from the bar as the yacht slowly churned passed smaller vessels, fishing boats, darting jet skis and the verdant bluffs lining the calm dark waters on the picturesque summer day.
The celebration did not stop once the boat docked — and the work of the Black press can never relent. The cruise is the first honorarium in a series that will continue with print stories for the rest of the year, telling the history of the Black community as chronicled by MSR, the history of the newspaper, and its leaders, like Newman.
Here’s to 85 more years of a free, Black Minnesotan press.
Solomon Gustavo was a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.