Two of the most influential Black women in South Minneapolis in the 1980s and ’90s were Launa Q. Newman, affectionately known as Ms. Newman, and Clarissa Rogers Walker. Both now have six-block stretches named for them.
The City adopted a resolution on November 8 stating in part, “The Mayor and City Council do hereby honor Clarissa Rogers Walker and Launa Q. Newman for their outstanding contributions to the South Minneapolis community and residents of Minneapolis and that they are forever remembered on the 38th Street corridor.”
Clarissa Rogers Walker Way will stretch from 36th to 42nd Street on 3rd Avenue South in Minneapolis, while Launa Q. Newman Way will run from East 36th Street to East 42nd Street along 4th Avenue South in Minneapolis.
Ms. Newman and Ms. Walker were powerhouses. Walker saw that Sabathani Community Center provided as many services social and economic as possible. In the 1990s, practically every social justice organization was housed in the building along with a daycare, food and clothing shelves and senior programs.
Walker organized the Sabathani Family Resource Center, which provided a food shelf, clothing shelf and emergency help to those in need of shelter and other necessities. She worked tirelessly to make sure that the shelves were fully stocked for families in need and that the clothes being given away were presentable. She worked to ensure that everyone was treated with dignity.
Walker always had a ready smile for anyone she met. She really was the community’s mom. She was a true believer in the idea that it takes a village as she lived out that ideal. Her family told stories of how when they were young their mother would get out of her bed to help someone in need in the middle of the night.
Walker, like many Twin Citians at the time, was a transplant having arrived here in the 1950s from Kansas City. After arriving in Minneapolis she became a social worker, eventually landing at Sabathani Community Center.
When Cecil E. Newman died, there was concern about how the two longest-running African American newspapers serving Minneapolis and St. Paul would stay afloat. The concerns were unwarranted because Ms. Newman simply picked up where Cecil left off, failing to miss a beat.
Launa Q. Newman was a native of Iowa and moved to the Twin Cities in 1958, eventually meeting and marrying Cecil Newman. Together they were a Black dynamic duo advocating for a just and fair, non-racist Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The Minneapolis Spokesman and St. Paul Recorder soldiered on, printing all the news that was fit to print, so to speak, about any and everything going on in the Twin Cities Black community. The two papers merged into what is now known as the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR).
Newman and the Spokesman helped launch the writing careers of many aspiring journalists and photographers while filling the need for Blacks to have their stories told from their perspective. The institution is celebrating its 85th year, and it owes its continued existence in no small part to Ms. Newman, who, like Cecil E. Newman before her, now has a commemorative street sign dedicated to her.
“I feel honored to be part of the history and seeing this all come together,” said current MSR Publisher/CEO Tracey Williams-Dillard, the granddaughter of Cecil and Launa Newman. “I’m just elated.”
Williams-Dillard warmly regarded her grandmother’s “steady hand on the wheel” and guidance. “She prepped me in becoming the next publisher. She paved a trail for me so the MSR can continue the tradition of amplifying and championing underserved voices and important stories in the community.”