New Black Strib columnist promises ‘a platform for the voiceless’

That includes Duluth’s voices of dissent

Fourth in a series

Photo courtesy of Facebook Myron Medcalf

George Floyd’s death sparked an unprecedented racial awakening in this country as the half-year global pandemic still rages all around us. Day and night, demands to finally address racial inequalities and social justice issues took over U.S. cities and towns for several weeks. What was then out front and under the spotlight seems now to have returned to the shadows. 

The MSR sat in on numerous virtual discussions during the summer of 2020 where the panelists talked race unfiltered, uninhibited and reflective, looking at current events as well as toward the future. This multi-part series will examine some of the topics discussed on these Zoom sessions.

    This week: Are we still talking change?

Now that fall has arrived and the leaves start turning colors, have we reached a moment like a Simon and Garfunkel’s song—the sounds of silence? It’s been quiet of late, as if the talking, the protesting, the open demands for change have taken a migratory turn and gone south. 

ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf has noticed this, too. “I already see how many people who were talking in May [when George Floyd was killed] aren’t talking as much now about the things they were going to do after George Floyd,” he said last week in an MSR phone interview.

“You don’t hear as much chatter [now],” Medcalf pointed out. “Part of that is we are in the middle of a pandemic and everybody’s life has gone haywire,”

We talked with Malcolm McLin a couple of days after he was among an estimated several hundred folk in the Sept. 17 protest march at University of Minnesota Duluth. He told us during a phone interview that it might have been the first of its kind on the UMD campus.

“We want more diversity here,” said McLin, a UMD assistant football coach. “The [Black] students here faced racism and faced microagression. You go in places [and] you get the impression that you don’t belong.”

Both men reiterated that it’s not time to stop demanding change, or talking about it, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

Medcalf, a Milwaukee native and Minnesota State Mankato mass communications grad, still resides in the Twin Cities. In October he will begin writing a twice-monthly Sunday column for the Star Tribune metro section.

He began his professional journalism career at the Minneapolis paper after an internship while in college, covering the police, city hall, and eventually Gophers men’s hoops before leaving for ESPN in 2011. 

“I don’t believe minorities have a voice at the Star Tribune,” said Medcalf, the first Metro Black male columnist and second overall.

Medcalf will add his new writing duties to his current work at ESPN covering college basketball and hosting two weekend shows on ESPN Radio.

“I was debating it, thinking about it, mediating and praying about it,” recalled the proud father of two growing daughters. When the Star Tribune folk approached him earlier this summer, he asked himself, “Do I really want to add anything more to my plate?”

Then he thought about former Milwaukee columnist Eugene Kane, who for nearly 30 years wrote his “Raising Kane” column for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel focused on, among many other topics, race, politics and business. 

“He didn’t change everything, but he made people think,” said Medcalf of Kane, who died in April at age 63. “I met Eugene in high school. He inspired me and encouraged me” to go into journalism, he noted. 

Medcalf hopes his new Sunday column can do something like Kane’s, providing a platform for the voiceless. “I feel like in this moment, we got to keep talking,” he said. “We got to continue to keep the spotlight on some of these things that we cried about six months ago.

“This isn’t about me elevating my voice. This isn’t my column. I hope it’s the people’s column,” pledged Medcalf, saying he will help keep the talking alive in Duluth, whether on campus or in the predominately White city. 

“We want things to be better for ourselves and everyone of color,” he said. “We want our voices to continue to be heard. We don’t want it to be a hashtag [on social media].”