Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder ushers in 88 years of serving the community (photos)

Marks the event with 8th Annual Legacy Boat Ride

It’s not every day that you see a business survive for 88 years, let alone a Black-owned business. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder (MSR) has achieved this feat, sometimes painstakingly, but successfully. 

Founded on August 10, 1934, MSR this year officially marks the beginning of its 88th year of operations. Under the fourth-generation leadership of Tracey Williams-Dillard, the MSR is a business model worthy of emulation. “It’s been a historic and eventful 88 years,” said Williams-Dillard, the proud publisher/CEO of one of the nation’s oldest Black businesses.

“When my grandfather opened these doors in 1934, he had hopes of becoming a news beacon for the Black community. Undoubtedly, times were extremely challenging for our people,” said Williams-Dillard. “But yet he pressed on, gained the trust of our community, and showed how important it was to build relationships, including the power chambers of the state legislature. 

“And those who followed him, namely my beloved grandmother Launa Q. Newman, mother Norma Jean Williams, uncle Wallace Jack Jackman, and I, all added to Mr. Newman’s incredible legacy to lead us to this point in time. But none of this is possible without a supportive community. And to them, we say, thank you.”

The MSR celebrated 88 years of existence Saturday, August 6 by inviting the community and its many supporters to sail along the St. Croix River in Stillwater. Not even the threat of rain would dampen the evening as a large crowd came on board for the historic media company’s annual Legacy Boat Cruise.  

The event, one of the Black community’s prime social outings, featured marketing opportunities for vendors, prize drawings, great food, live jazz by Wenso Ashby and company on the first deck, and DJ Bakeshow Baker, mixing up old and contemporary sounds on the third deck. 

A deliciously healthy meal was also included. “We are so thankful to create and host a first-class social event for our community and sponsors, who this year included Hue-MAN and Rae Mackenzie Group,” Williams-Dillard said.

The cruise epitomized unity and fun but more importantly celebrated a Black media company that enjoys a living legacy. This was an event attended by family, where old friends were reacquainted, where a community said, “Thank you for serving us.” Many attendees said they can’t wait to come back next year. 

“I love the warmth, the music and dancing, being able to come out and mingle with people from all walks of life up close and personal,” said Ankhet Hesi-Ra, a travel professional who plans on attending next year. “But what I especially liked was that we are celebrating 88 years of excellence for the MSR.”

Joeann Rembert, a St. Paul master baker, lauded the energy of attendees and the food. She is another who is “absolutely returning” next year. 

“Man, I had so much fun on this celebration cruise. I enjoyed myself immensely,” said Harold Brooks. Even the vendors had a nice time. Jackie with JAFRA Cosmetics echoed a consensus from attendees throughout the night. “This event was about happiness, joy, celebration, and community,” she said, while cheerfully affirming she will “absolutely” return next year. 

From the ambiance to the choice of music and food or simply networking in a relaxing environment, the crowd couldn’t have asked for a better evening to celebrate 88 years of Black journalistic excellence. 

See more photo highlights below by Steve Floyd.