The sunrise ceremony marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day is an event I’ve always wanted to photograph, but I never seem to be in town for it. This year, I made this a priority to photograph. Driving through the cities in the early morning and experiencing how peaceful it is was such a joy.
It was bitterly cold this morning, but I don’t think anyone would have guessed that, given how warm the sun and community made everything look at Bde Maka Ska.
Aida Shahghasemi is an Iranian American singer whose story resonated with me. I had the opportunity to listen to her practice inside her home in south Minneapolis before an upcoming show this past fall. We both have similar stories of moving to Minnesota at young ages, and the struggles that come with being away from home.
3. The Somerville family is shredding their way across the Twin Cities’ skateparks. The family of seven cheer each other on as dad and five siblings rack up new tricks, wins, and video clips.
I heard about the Somerville family’s story through Reggie LeFlore, a mural artist who featured Ayan Somerville in a mural for the 2021 X Games—https://hennepintheatretrust.org/art-activations/murals/x-marks-the-spot-minneapolis-mural-by-reggie-leflore/.
I had wanted to do a skateboarding story, as I used to skateboard with my family when I was a teenager. I started to follow the Somervilles’ skateboarding journey online and was inspired by not only their dedication, but their support of one another.
4. Entrepreneur Juan Mejia persevered as banks turned him down for loans. Recent research says people of color disproportionately face challenges accessing credit.
Juan Meija was beaming with pride when he showed us his truck, which he uses for deliveries at his store, Los Michoacanos, in Willmar, Minnesota. We were interviewing Meija about the challenges business owners of color face obtaining credit, and asked to see his new truck after hearing that his previous vehicle had no heat.
Meija purchased the new truck with a loan he had obtained after struggling for years to get credit to run his business.
Maria Isa and I met at a park in St. Paul overlooking the city earlier this year after she announced that she was running for the Minnesota Legislature. I had put up a backdrop just in case. It ended up working out better than we had planned. I loved the way the sun filtered through the trees, even if the backdrop made it seem more formal.
6. Parents and students rallied to save Newport Elementary. Then, in a packed meeting, the South Washington County school board voted 6–1 to close the school and proceed with a massive building plan.
I noticed these three young girls’ friendship almost immediately when Sahan reporter Becky Dernbach and I arrived at Newport Elementary School. They played and ran through the community event, created posters together, and later joined a school board meeting about the potential closure of their school.
Sahan reporter Hibah Ansari and I were paired up for election night coverage this year. We arrived at Representative Ilhan Omar’s election night watch party and patiently watched as results came in. As journalists, I don’t think we can ever fully imagine what election night will bring, but I’m glad I was there to capture such a joyous moment in community as Omar danced with her supporters to celebrate her reelection.
8. Strikeblog! All the latest news on the Minneapolis teacher strike: rallies, negotiations, and another day without classes
Our former multimedia reporter Ben Hovland and I both covered the Minneapolis Public Schools strike almost every day.
It was an all-hands-on-deck experience covering the story. This photograph stands out to me, as I believe it tells a story about why educators went on strike for several days, demanding better pay and mental health support for students, among other issues.
9. Talking to trees, the cool April air, and frogs: Michelle Defoe and her three daughters share the ancient Ojibwe tradition of tapping maple trees for syrup.
One thing that I think often gets overlooked when covering Indigenous communities is the vast diversity of Indigenous communities, and the way they each are in relation to the land. I had heard of sugarbushing, but it wasn’t something I was familiar with.
Michelle Defoe and her daughters, who are Ojibwe, hold their own relationship to the land through the act of sugarbushing, which involves collecting sap from maple trees to boil down into syrup. I knew I wanted this photoshoot to be collaborative, so I invited Michelle and her daughters to take their own photographs in collaboration with my own.
We sent them disposable cameras and invited them to show us how they create and make maple sugar in their own words and through their own eyes.
10. Two years ago, Qorsho Hassan became the first Somali American to win Minnesota Teacher of the Year. In June, Qorsho announced she’s leaving the classroom. What happened?
Education reporter Becky Dernbach and I have been covering Qorsho Hassan’s story since 2020, when she was named Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year. I remember meeting up with Becky in St. Paul a few years ago before Qorsho was given the prestigious award, and meeting with and photographing Qorsho many times after that.
This portrait for a story about Qorsho quitting her profession felt both like an ending and a beginning to the next stage of Qorsho’s story.