Youth Voices Rising

Please join Youthprise, in partnership with the Ordway Center for Performing Arts, on April 12, 2022, for Youth Voices Rising. The dynamic event will celebrate Youthprise’s 10th anniversary and the organization’s ongoing commitment to amplifying the collective voice of Minnesota’s youth. The celebration will spotlight performances by Minneapolis’ next-generation alternative pop artists, NUNNABOVE; local activist and celebrated spoken-word artist, Brittany Delaney; and a featured performance by internationally acclaimed composer and Grammy-nominated vocalist, Somi. An activist and humanitarian, Somi uses her artistry to build bridges that connect people of African Descent, both within the African continent and throughout the Diaspora. Through song and personal reflections, Somi will honor and celebrate the transformative and revolutionary contributions of young people and artists to the global movement for racial equity and justice.

Watch "Youth Voices Rising" Below:

To view our virtual event program, click here.
To learn more about the Youthprise Journey to Equity, click here.

Meet Our Featured Artists

Our celebration included performances by next-generation alternative pop artists, a local activist and celebrated spoken-word artist, and an internationally acclaimed composer and Grammy-nominated vocalist.

Photo: Chris Schwagga

Born in Illinois, Somi Kakoma is a vocalist, composer, playwright, and actor of Rwandan and Ugandan descent.  Known simply as ‘Somi’ in the music world, she has been widely honored for both her artistry and her activism as a Soros Equality Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, a USA Doris Duke Fellow, a 2021 GRAMMY nominee, and a recipient of two NAACP Image Awards. Mentored by legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, The New York Times hailed Somi for her “supple jazz singing and compassionate social consciousness.”  Recently venturing into theater making, Somi was named a Sundance Theatre Fellow for her original play Dreaming Zenzile about the great South African singer Miriam Makeba, which piece premiered at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis this fall and will open Off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop this summer.  Somi recently released her new studio album called Zenzile: The Reimagination of Miriam Makeba as a companion project to the play.  She is the founder of Salon Africana, a boutique record label and cultural agency for contemporary African musicians and writers.  She holds undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and African studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  She is currently pursuing her PhD in Creative Practice & Critical Inquiry at Harvard University as a Graduate Prize Fellow  In her heart of hearts, she is an East African Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom.


NUNNABOVE is a four-sibling band from the Twin Cities. They weave popular styles with beautiful soulful harmonies. NUNNABOVE is the next generation of the Minneapolis sound. They were featured on Season 13 of America’s Got Talent. Terry Lewis said they have “many years of music ahead of them.” They have performed in Twins Stadium, The Armory and the Minneapolis Convention Center as well as with some of the Twin Cities’ superstars, Sounds of Blackness and Jearlyn Steele. They released their 1st album, Season 1 in November 2019. NUNNABOVE is: Cadence (21) lead singer and bass player; Mattie (19) keyboardist and musical director; Bennett (18) guitarist; and Wisdom (16) drummer. Musically skilled on their respective instruments, Facebook | Instagram | Twitter @nunnabove


Brittany Delaney is a Spoken Word Artist/Arts Educator born and raised in Minnesota. She has been performing on the scene for 19 years after getting her start in Slam Poetry. Brittany has participated in Spoken Word groups such as The Minnesota Spoken Word Association, Quest for the Voice, Brave New Voices (HBO), Teens Rock the Mic, and various Slam organizations. She’s facilitated poetry workshops in K-12 schools and university-based establishments across the country and worked as a Curriculum Consultant for different school districts in the US for the last seven years, promoting literacy, inclusion, and safe space learning environments through culturally responsive (and responsible) curriculum and practices. She is currently serving as the Executive Director for Black Table Arts Cooperative in Minneapolis, MN.

More about Youth Voices Rising

Recent events in the Twin Cities region underscore the need to amplify the voices and influence of youth and elevate leadership among members of Minnesota’s Black diasporic community. This population is profoundly underrepresented among nonprofits, philanthropy, education, and other sectors. This event will celebrate Black leadership locally, including recognition of the Ordway’s first-ever Black president and CEO, Chris Harrington, who joined the organization on late last year. Respected local educator and advocate Robin Hickman-Winfield, CEO and Executive Producer of SoulTouch Productions, and Director of Taking Our Place Centerstage at the Ordway will serve as emcee, along with Cole Stevens, Vice President of Bridgemakers.

Youth Voices Rising will also honor the legacy of our Founding President, Wokie Weah, who retired at the end of last year. Youthprise achieved significant milestones and success under Wokie’s capable direction at such a critical time in Minnesota’s history. These accomplishments are most evident in the youth-led efforts Youthprise has catalyzed – efforts that are positively impacting thousands of youth statewide.  During Wokie’s tenure, Youthprise has provided over $45 million in funding to improve the lives of Minnesota’s racially and ethnically diverse youth. Over the past decade, the organization has also been a fierce advocate on behalf of youth and created opportunities for young people to lead policy reform efforts. Perhaps one of the most impactful results of Youthprise’s efforts to amplify youth voice involved providing essential support to a youth-led advocacy campaign and legal action against the state. These actions successfully reversed the state’s decision to deny high school students the right to collect federally funded pandemic unemployment assistance.  These efforts opened access to over $30M in unemployment payments to Minnesota’s youth.

An esteemed and treasured trailblazer in creating equitable leadership opportunities for Minnesota’s youth, Wokie continues to inspire a new generation of emerging leaders. Her legacy will continue at Youthprise through her mentee and protégé, Marcus Pope, who became Youthprise’s president upon Wokie’s retirement.

Thank you for joining us for this timely celebration of excellence in Black Leadership!

Meet Our Event Co-Chairs

We are honored to introduce Tonya Allen (McKnight Foundation, President) and James C. Burroughs II (Children's Minnesota) as our event co-chairs! Get to know more about them below.

Photo: Shawn Lee

Tonya Allen is president of the McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation that advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. The Foundation grants approximately $120 million annually in support of equitable communities, transitioning to a clean energy economy, transforming food systems globally, catalyzing artists and culture bearers, and supporting innovative neuroscience research. Allen heads an all-women, majority people-of-color senior leadership team and a diverse team of about 60.

Previously Allen served as president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, and co-founded Detroit Parent Network and Detroit Children’s Fund. She is currently board chair for the Council on Foundations, co-chair for the Executives’ Alliance for boys and Men of Color, and serves as a board member of the GHR Foundation, WPO Minnesota, and Greater MSP. Allen has been lauded for her results-driven and highly influential collaborative approach by the Chronicle of Philanthropy (Five Nonprofit Innovators to Watch), the Funders Network (Nicholas P. Bollman Award), Detroit News (Michiganian of the Year), and Twin Cities Business (TCB 100: People to Know in 2022). Her opinion pieces on topics including climate change, agroecology, and asset-based framing have appeared in Newsweek, The Hill, Inside Philanthropy, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Allen holds a master’s degree in public health, a master’s degree in social work, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology, each from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

James Burroughs joined Children’s Minnesota as the first chief equity and inclusion officer in January 2019, and is now vice president and chief equity and inclusion officer, responsible for advancing equity and inclusion in all parts of the organization. This includes delivering equitable, quality care for patients and their families, fostering a culture of inclusion in which all employees can be their full selves and ensuring that community members from all walks of life feel like valued partners.

James’ key focus areas include patient quality initiatives, employee recruitment and retention strategies, and organizational culture. His work also focuses on increasing financial investment and spend with diverse businesses and supporting initiatives that address the social determinants of health for patients and families.

James has more than 25 years of experience in the areas of nonprofit management, equity, diversity, inclusion, as well as employment law. He has an extensive background in developing workplace equity, diversity and inclusion training, creating policies and procedures that promote hiring and retention of employees of color, and forging robust partnerships with communities of color and other diverse demographics.

Most recently, he served in the Office of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, where he was the State of Minnesota’s first chief inclusion officer. James began his career as an attorney, holding faculty roles at Hamline University’s School of Law and the University of Minnesota’s School of Law. He practiced law at the United States Office of the Federal Defender and Dorsey & Whitney LLP. He also has a background in education, holding leadership roles at Summit Academy as the chief operating officer and general counsel, as well as Minneapolis Public Schools as the executive director for the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Event Committee Members

  • Anika Ward
  • Anita Patel
  • Brian Smith
  • Chanda Smith-Baker
  • Dana Mortenson
  • Daniel Neitz
  • Hedy Walls
  • John Bennett
  • Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson
  • Mark K Boyd
  • Muneer Karcher-Ramos
  • Pahoua Hoffman
  • Tony Sanneh

Our Sponsors

  • Best Buy
  • Cargill Foundation
  • Children’s Minnesota
  • General Mills
  • Kraus-Anderson Construction Company
  • Minneapolis Foundation
  • Redpath and Company
  • Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation
  • The Sanneh Foundation
  • Thrivent
  • US Bank Foundation
  • Wendy & Colin Smith
  • API Group
  • Foundation Technologies

About Youthprise

Youthprise’s mission is to increase equity with and for Minnesota’s Indigenous, low-income and racially diverse youth. Youthprise is a resource to youth-serving organizations and systems throughout Minnesota. We increase equity by mobilizing and investing resources, advancing knowledge and advocating for change. Our three priority areas are: learning and leadership, economic opportunity, and health and safety.