‘50 Over 50’ event recognizes diverse leaders from across Minnesota

AARP MN Director Cathy Corkill McLeer, KMOJ General Manager Freddie Bell, and MSR Publisher/CEO Tracey Williams-Dillard

Age milestones tend to trigger quips and quotes, oftentimes meant to soften the dawn of a new decade and possibly hide the fact we are all aging. And while “40 is the new 30” or “age is just a number” are adages typically shared with a wink, they do overlook the reality of aging’s upside—wisdom, experience, and the inner power to make change. Just ask the hundreds of guests and honorees who attended the 50 over 50 event at Quincy Hall in Minneapolis.

Sponsored by AARP and Pollen, a nonprofit dedicated to helping society become more free, just and loving, last week’s event celebrated and recognized 50 Minnesotans who are making an enormous impact in their communities. Ranging from artists to media professionals to nonprofit superheroes, these changemakers are blazing trails for the next generation. 

“Disruptors come in all sizes and shapes. Some are quiet, and some are loud,” said Wokie Weah, co-emcee and a recent 50 over 50 recipient. She added, “They do what they need to do, whether it is running towards risk or feeding on failure, disruptors understand true community exists in the heart of its people.”

Each year since 2016, a small selection committee reviews hundreds of nominations to determine 10 honorees within five distinct categories: arts, business, community, disruptors and nonprofit. 

One of this year’s honorees in the business category was the MSR’s Publisher and CEO Tracey Williams Dillard. Founded by her grandfather Cecil E. Newman in 1934, the MSR is now heading down a digital-first strategy thanks to Dillard’s leadership. “Tracey knows that her work is about more than just the printed word,” said Dr. Antony Stately, co-emcee and executive officer and president of Native American Community Clinic. 

Stately, a 2020 recipient of 50 over 50, added, “The MSR has been a trusted source for health information for the Black community during the pandemic.” Stately also recognized the significance of Williams-Dillard founding Sister Spokesman, a monthly event where women of color meet to build their networks, encourage each other, and strengthen their bonds.

In addition to being recognized, honorees received handmade ceramic awards from Juxtaposition Arts, a youth-staffed art and designer center, gallery, retail shop and artists’ studio space located on West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis. 

  • 50 Over 50 2022

Ceramic Lab apprentices Ceci Andrade-Vital, Chloe Vreeland and Isiah Hunger designed and produced the colorful mementos. Diane Jarvi, a 2020 Arts honoree and singer, songwriter and poet, added a special reading of her original poem and ode to the power of aging, “Dream the Garden.”

The evening capped off with a social hour, bringing together leaders from across the state, but not before Julie Cohen, engagement and advancement director at Pollen Midwest, shared some final thoughts: “It is not every day that people from diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate. That’s what tonight is all about.” 

Cohen added, “The real work happens at the local level, where things get done.”

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