Minneapolis African American civil rights leaders honored in ‘History Makers at Home’

A group has been honored as part of the History Makers at Home program - a special honor from the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

Minneapolis African American leaders and change-makers are taking home a special honor from the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

The group was honored as part of the History Makers at Home program, and the woman who started honoring "history makers at home" eight years ago is today a recipient.

Velma Korbel is the former director of the civil rights department and now a vice president at the API group. 

"I’m so full from being in the same room with people that for me are my touchstones – they were the shoulders on which I stood," Kobel said. "To be here in the same space with them being honored at the same time is just an amazing experience." 

Twelve others also received the honor including Lisa Clemons, who started the outreach group, "A Mother’s Love."

Clemons reflected on when she first started her activist work saying, "What was hard was getting people to see the need to have black women, black mothers, sitting at tables talking about our children." 

Spike Moss was also honored – an activist fighting for civil rights since the 1960s.

Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner was also recognized with the honor, but took note of the others in the room with him, saying "a lot of you have accomplished a lot over many years – I feel like I’m just getting into position to accomplish the things I want to accomplish."

Also in line for the award was North High School Polars basketball coach, founder of the Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association and youth mentor Larry Mckenzie.

"One of the things I live by is this quote, ‘fortunate is the person that sees a need, recognizes the responsibility and actively pursues becoming the answer,’" McKenzie said. Korbel told FOX 9, "If we don’t know about our past we don’t know what the future holds for us."

History Makers at Home

The entire list of history makers includes: 

  • Deborah Watts, co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation
  • Dr. Yohuru Williams, distinguished university chair, history professor and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas
  • Dr. Rachel Hardeman, reproductive health equity researcher and associate professor in the division of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health
  • Minneapolis Fire Chief Bryan Tyner, the second black chief in the department’s history and a 25-year veteran of the department
  • Mohammed Lawal, CEO and principal architect of Lawal Scott Erickson Architects, Inc., a Minneapolis-based architecture, interior design, and planning firm
  • Mel Reeves, a Minneapolis civil rights activist and journalist for the Minnesota spokesman-recorder who died Jan. 6
  • Harry "Spike" Moss, longtime civil rights activist
  • Walter "q-bear" Banks, DJ and operations manager at KMOJ Community Radio station for more than 40 years
  • Velma Korbel, former Minneapolis civil rights director and vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at API group
  • Lisa Clemons, founder and director of a Mothers Love Initiative and former Minneapolis police officer
  • Dr. Sharon Cook, artistic director and owner of Les Jolies Petites school of dance in north Minneapolis for 25 years
  • Sharon Sayles Belton, the first woman and African American to serve as mayor of Minneapolis and vice president of community relations and government affairs for Thomson Reuters
  • Larry Mckenzie, Minnesota Black Basketball Coaches Association (MBBCA), which launched the inaugural George Floyd basketball classic on Dec. 28, 2021