MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase on Aug. 9 to Celebrate Inclusion, Innovation, and Impact in Twin Cities Community
In collaboration with Minnesota United and Black Players for Change, Major League Soccer Will Honor Four Local Impact Leaders in Education, Mental Health, Social Justice, and Food Security at Historic Saint Paul Union Station
New York, N.Y (August 4, 2022) – As part of League’s ongoing efforts to amplify and celebrate inclusion and equity, Major League Soccer, Minnesota United, and Black Players for Change (BPC) will host the inaugural MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase on Tuesday, Aug. 9 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. at historic Saint Paul Union Station.
The private event will acknowledge and celebrate the work of four diverse, innovative, and impactful leaders making positive change in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul communities in four key areas – education, mental health, food security, and social justice. The leader organizations will each receive a $15,000 grant in addition to a suite of promotional assets from MLS to elevate their work and community impact. The MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase will feature a panel discussion moderated by Norman Seawright, Minnesota’s local WCCO sports anchor, and will spotlight the four leaders.
“It is in the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness that Major League Soccer honors this inaugural cohort of exceptional and inspiring individuals and organizations in the Twin Cities,” said Sola Winley, EVP Commissioner’s Office, and MLS Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. “I would like to thank the members of the selection committee for their thoughtful work, as well as acknowledge all the deserving Heroes throughout the Twin Cities who wake up every day to build bridges and bring healing and hope to the individuals and communities they serve.”
The Hometown Heroes were selected by a committee consisting of Twin Cities community leaders Tony Sanneh (an MLS Great and founder of The Sanneh Foundation), Sara Lueben (Minneapolis Foundation) and Tiffany Kong (Saint Paul Foundation); Minnesota United FC/Black Players for Change athletes Niko Hansen, Jacori Hayes, Nabilai “Nabi” Kibunguchy, and Dayne St. Clair; Minnesota United FC stakeholders that included CEO Shari Ballard; and MLS stakeholders that included EVP, Commissioner’s Office and Chief DEI Officer Sola Winley.
“It is an honor to be highlighting these Heroes of the community and impactful organizations in the Twin Cities. The time and wealth of thoughtfulness the selection committee dedicated to reviewing a diverse range of impactful local leaders is energizing,” said Quincy Amarikwa, BPC Founder & Executive Director. “Black Players For Change is thankful for this opportunity to continue to build bridges and highlight members of the community who have been working purposefully to advance culture without distraction or deterrence from the greater good of humanity.”
Among the criteria for selection was the primary leader of the organization must be from one of the following underrepresented groups: Asian or Pacific Islander, Arab or Middle Eastern, Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, Native American, or People with disabilities, and have a record of community impact in one of the four areas of focus serving the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area.
The MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase is part of the League’s schedule of events in the lead-up to the highly anticipated All-Star Game between MLS and LIGA MX on Wednesday, Aug. 10 at Allianz Field. The initiatives harness the power of our soccer community to continue reaching our goals of building sustainable, equitable and inclusive communities, that includes providing meals to those experiencing food insecurity, unveiling a new soccer mini-pitch for youth, targeted grants and donations, and highlighting environmental sustainability practices that will leave a legacy.
For more information on the 2022 MLS All-Star Game and fan festivities, visit mlssoccer.com/all-star.
2022 MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Honorees
SOCIAL JUSTICE: Muhammad Abdul-Ahad – Founder and CEO of T.O.U.C.H Outreach (Teaching Our Urban Communities Hope)
T.0.U.C.H works to transform community safety in Minneapolis through a variety of strategies focused on youth development and community security. T.0.U.C.H provides expertise in the areas of employment, mentoring, and youth services. The program utilizes street patrols to build relationships and de-escalate conflicts before they lead to violence. Outreach team members and leadership are credible messengers for this work, as people who have experienced street violence directly and understand the impact violence has on communities. They are trusted figures with strong relationships in the community.
MENTAL HEALTH: Marisa Miakonda Cummings – President and CEO of Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center
The Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC) is a non-profit social and mental health services organization committed to traditional ways of being and support of Native women and their families. Founded in 1984, MIWRC provides a broad range of programs designed to educate and empower Native women and their families, and to inform and assist those who work providing services to the community. MIWRC is located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, which has the third largest urban American Indian population in the U.S.
EDUCATION: Braxton Haulcy – Executive Director of Walker West Music Academy
Walker West Music Academy is a music school provides instruction from infants/pre-k through early childhood to adults including elders/seniors, even including a dementia-friendly choir called the Amazing Grace Chorus. The non-profit community music school teaches all styles of music, including classical, but is especially well-known for teaching jazz, gospel and other styles of improvisational music. It is also noted for developing a caring community of music students and educators. The organization provides affordable, quality music instruction rooted in the African American cultural experience to young people and adults. Walker West is thought to be the oldest community music school in the nation founded by African American musicians.
FOOD SECURITY: Ekta Prakash – CEO of CAPI
The nonprofit CAPI is an organization that helps the newest Minnesotans navigate social services and has offered a culturally specific food shelf in Brooklyn Center for over 30 years. For immigrants or refugees facing hardships, finding food that caters to their culture can be even harder. From jasmine rice and Asian noodles to curry powder and even bamboo shoots, CAPI offers cultural must-haves that typically wouldn’t be found at a local food shelf. The nonprofit has since expanded to serve all immigrants, refugees, and communities of color in the Twin Cities.
2022 MLS All-Star Honorary Hometown Hero
Honorary Hero: Tony Sanneh – Founder of The Sanneh Foundation
MLS Great, Tony Sanneh is being recognized as an Honorary Hero for his integral support of the inaugural Hometown Hero program and commitment to positively impacting the local community through soccer. The Sanneh Foundation’s mission is to empower youth by supporting and promoting educational attainment through in-school and after-school support, improve lives by providing programs that strengthen physical health and social & emotional development, and unite communities by advancing diversity, equity, and community well-being.
What Hometown Heroes Are Saying:
“A hometown hero doesn’t always have to wear a cape, badge or carry a gun, but is someone who looks just like you that sacrifice their life for their community to become a safer and better place,” said Muhammad Abdul-Ahad, Founder and CEO of T.O.U.C.H Outreach.
“I am both humbled and honored that the work of the employees at Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center is being recognized by an organization such as Major League Soccer,” said Marisa Miakonda Cummings, President and CEO of Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center. “Our employees go above and beyond to serve the community on many different levels of need, from behavioral and mental health to sexual assault outreach and unsheltered work. At MIWRC, we center around culture and identity development at the foundation of our work. Much of the work we do is service to community healing generations of trauma. To be recognized for this work of service is an honor for our entire team.”
“It’s not just about me, it’s about the community. It’s about the work that our Founders (Rev. Walker and Grant West) started,” said Braxton Haulcy, Executive Director of Walker West Music Academy. “I’m glad to be a hometown hero, it’s truly an honor –but I always want it to be known that it’s not just what I’ve done. All of us working together, our staff, our faculty, our board, that’s how we’ll continue to share the healing power of music.”
“CAPI’s entire team is thrilled to be named as the “Hometown Hero,” said Ekta Prakash CEO of CAPI. “It‘s a great honor and this recognition is an outcome of the great work CAPI does in the community; and it amplifies that our work is making a difference with a positive impact in the lives of refugees, immigrants and BIPOC communities.”
What MLS’ Honorary Hometown Hero Is Saying:
“I am honored to be recognized for my work with The Sanneh Foundation. It is very rewarding to highlight the community I live in and celebrate our work within the global soccer community,” said Tony Sanneh, MLS Great and Founder of The Sanneh Foundation.
ABOUT MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer — celebrating its 27th season in 2022 — features 29 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, including 2022 expansion team Charlotte FC and St. Louis CITY SC, which debuts in 2023. Starting in 2023, the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com.
ABOUT BLACK PLAYERS FOR CHANGE:
Black Players for Change (BPC) is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization consisting of over 170+ Black players, coaches and staff from MLS, working to bridge the racial equality gap that exists in society. BPC is committed to tackling the racial injustices that have limited Black people from having an equitable stake in the game of soccer and society. Among the many goals, the organization strives to advance the attention on human rights inequalities from protests to programs, partnerships, and policies that address systemic discrimination. For more information visit www.BlackPlayersForChange.org.
For Black Players for Change