Community comes together for Kirk Washington Jr. Day

Photo by Cirien Saadeh

Photo by Cirien Saadeh

By Cirien Saadeh | Staff Reporter

When Kirk E. Washington Jr. was killed in a car accident in 2016, the community lost an essential artist, activist, and leader. A family lost a beloved part of itself.

Now, a year and a half later, the City has proclaimed Washington's birthday, May 9, “Kirk Washington Jr. Day” in Minneapolis.

Friends and colleagues of Washington's, along with elected officials, gathered for the proclamation and to celebrate his life at Harrison Recreation Center on Monday night. They were joined by Washington's family, including his wife Astor Nebro and their daughters Azalea and Keah.

Nebro spoke for a few minutes at the end of the event, thanking gatherers and inviting them to eat cake and celebrate Washington and his life.

“As long as I work with the City, I want this to happen every year,” said Nebro.

"What I love about Kirk is that he was willing to do the work with every one of us and he was self-sacrificing. He would say 'yes,' even if there was nothing in it for him, as long as it served the people," said Shauen Pearce, the former Executive Director of the Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA) and Director of Economic Development and Inclusion Policy for the City of Minneapolis. 

Washington was a Northsider and fourth generation resident of Minneapolis concerned with what Frey called "the culturally wise evolution of Minneapolis."

He was honored at the event by his daughters who performed a poem written by Washington as well as a song, a dozen community members who spoke up in tribute to his work, members of Washington's family, and Councilmembers Andrea Jenkins and Jeremiah Ellison. 

Photo by Cirien Saadeh

Photo by Cirien Saadeh

"You're a Northsider and that matters. That's what he told me," said Ellison who had worked with Washington, “A few days before he died, I was walking along the road. Everybody who knows me knows I walk everywhere or take the bus, and he drove up along[side] me. He told me to get in the car, but I told him I would walk. I finally got in the car and he u-turned because he wasn't even going in the same direction as me. We were talking and he said, 'you're a Northsider and that matters.’ And that was one of the last conversations we had."

Community members discussed Washington's life and work in the Northsider calling him a bridge-builder who worked to push people and the community forward. Following his death Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) announced the Kirk E. Washington Northsider Promise Award - a scholarship given to Northsiders interested in attending MCTC. Several recipients of that award were on hand during the May 9 event to pay tribute to Washington. 

"I'll carry Kirk with me to the graduation stage," said Ebony Walker, an award recipient graduating from MCTC next year.

Kenzie O'Keefe