K’Lynn Lewis was beaming with pride when talking about the fellowship she recently received. “I was so happy when I found out,” she said while enjoying an ice cream cone at 2 Scoops in St. Paul’s Summit University neighborhood. “I seriously wanted to give back to the African American community.”
Lewis, a former St. Agnes High School athlete and current member of the St. Olaf College women’s basketball team, was named the 2021-22 recipient of the George Floyd Fellowship for Social Change by the St. Olaf College Taylor Center for Social Change.
The fellowship was established in honor of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, and to support initiatives that relate directly to the development of the African American community.
A junior majoring in exercise science with concentrations in race and ethnic studies and management studies, Lewis originally came to St. Olaf to play basketball at the collegiate level while getting a college education. Now it seems as if the script has flipped.
The goal is now to complete her studies and fulfill her commitments to the fellowship while playing basketball. “I love playing basketball and always will,” she said, “but I’m also looking forward to graduating and contributing to my community.”
Lewis has reasons to love basketball. The sport has been good to her and she, in turn, has been good to the sport. She started playing in elementary school for the Summit University Girls Athletic Association (SUGGA) AAU team.
“I learned everything about basketball, team and sportsmanship there,” Lewis explained. “That’s where I got my start.”
From there it was on to St. Agnes, where she had an exceptional five-year varsity basketball career and excelled at the varsity level in volleyball (four years), softball (two-years), and track and field (one year).
After graduating in 2018, Lewis was the female recipient of the Winfield Awards, a yearly award named in honor of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and St. Paul Central alum Dave Winfield honoring the top student senior athletes of color in St. Paul. She finished as St. Agnes’ all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball.
As a freshman on St. Olaf’s women’s basketball team Lewis was an immediate contributor, averaging 13.8 points per game and earning MIAC Co-Rookie of the Year for the 2018-19 season, leading to an exceptional three-year career.
It remains to be seen if the rising senior plans to continue her basketball career, as she has other goals to reach in the coming school year. Through the fellowship, Lewis plans to develop a yearlong project she calls “Lovin the Skin I’m In.”
“I want to produce a fashion show featuring Black models and designers,” she said with excitement.” In addition to emphasizing the involvement of Black makeup artists and stylists, Lewis acknowledged the importance of self-love in the community.
“Our skin is beautiful,” she said with emphasis. “That is the focus of the project. We as Black people are beautiful, and it’s important that we love ourselves as well as each other.”
Lewis realizes as a George Floyd Fellow that she is also a role model for young Black women and women in general. It’s a role she takes seriously. “I want them to see Black women making a difference and realize that they can make a difference as well,” she said.
Two Scoops, the place where this interview took place, is owned by former Cretin Derham
Hall and North Dakota State University football standout Brian White. It was a place that Lewis
“It’s one of my favorite places,” she said smiling.
“Why?” this columnist asked.
“It has the best ice cream.”
Lewis then added her most telling reason for liking 2 Scoops: “It’s in the community.”
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.