Ninth Ward Award Winners Announced!

At Breakfast with Gary on January 27th, the 9th annual Ninth Ward Awards
were handed out.

Leader of the Year – Hannah Lieder, Minneapolis Swims

Swimming is a civil rights issue. Each day in the United States, 10 people drown. The Minnesota Safety Council Humans are born with no innate swimming ability – we must be taught how to swim. Drowning is preventable and learning to swim is the best first step to becoming safer in the water. Minneapolis Swims is working to save, renovate and revive the Phillips Community Swimming Pool (formerly Boys and Girls Club) in South Minneapolis.

Project of the Year – Friends of the Cemetery Benefit Concert

On Saturday, October 8, the historic Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery was host to a hoard of hipsters, indie rockers, and fans of the local music scene who gathered to hear Jeremy Messersmith perform. The concert was organized by Friends of the Cemetery, with benefits going to help with restoration and preservation of the cemetery. There was no performer better suited to this event than Messersmith, whose most recent album, The Reluctant Graveyard gave a nod to the cemetery and many of its residents, such as Touissant Grey, believed to have been the first African American child born in Minneapolis. Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles also performed and concertgoers who came early were treated to a smartphone history hunt, which revealed highlights of the cemetery's rich legacy and its prominent place in local history. Thanks to Sue Hunter Weir and also Nancy Benson for this great event.

 Block Club of the Year – 3400 block 19th Avenue South

This block club was nominated by Eric Gustafson who noted that they inspired and led efforts to design and install the first pavement mural in Minneapolis this past August, which you'll hear more about in the next category, Neighborhood Project of the Year, and might have seen Phillip O'Toole's video prior to the start of the awards this morning. This block club also worked together to strip a slumlord's license ( in the 3400 block of 20th Ave S) and resolve other nuisance issues on the block. The block club supplements its regular face-to-face interactions and meetings, including a regular Friday happy hour event, with interaction on Facebook. Melanie Casiday, Eric Lindberg, Sheila Foster,  Eric Silva Brenneman, and Lisa Barajas each share a leadership role in making this one of the strongest blocks in Corcoran.

 Youth Leaders of the Year – Ka Joog

This past year, when Somalia was hit by the most severe famine on Earth since 1984, members of Ka Joog, a youth focused non-profit, stepped up to help. In August, Abdifatah Farah, one of the  founders of the organization, traveled to Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world, located in northern Kenya. Abdifatah had lived here for five years before coming to the United States, and was returning to record the stories of Somali refugees suffering from the devastating famine that killed thousands of children. He went believing in the power of their voices to bring change. "You look at the media and you just see statistics," the 24-year-old Farah said. "A lot of these people's voices
are taken away because of the issues they are going through. … We want them to be heard." In October, Ka Joog sponsored a benefit event at the Cedar Cultural Center to raise money for famine relief in Somalia. Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, and while the community has sometimes had negative news about gang violence or losing youth returning to Somalia to fight, Ka Joog is working to promote positive messages, encouraging youth to pursue college and reach their maximum potential. They hope these latest projects will help promote the overall goal: peace in Somalia. They are already inspiring others in Minneapolis and beyond.