Mukhtar Ibrahim, Kenzie O'Keefe, Adrienne Broaddus
Journalists Mukhtar Ibrahim and Adrienne Broaddus are honored by ThreeSixty Journalism Director Kenzie O'Keefe (center) at the ThreeSixty Journalism 2024 Homecoming Celebration (Sai Kallur '14 / University of St. Thomas) .

ThreeSixty Journalism Honors Mukhtar Ibrahim and Adrienne Broaddus

Two award-winning journalists with local ties gave inspirational speeches during the annual fundraiser for the ThreeSixty Journalism high school program that is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Mukhtar Ibrahim, CEO-publisher and founder of the Sahan Journal, a newspaper that serves Minnesota’s immigrant community, and Adrienne Broaddus, a correspondent for NBC national news who spent seven years reporting for KARE-11, the NBC station in Minneapolis, were honored during the evening event at the Granada Theater.

Mukhtar Ibrahim
Sahan Journal Founder Mukhtar M. Ibrahim
Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas

“It took me five years after graduating from journalism school to land my first full-time reporting gig, and that was only after I'd proven myself by breaking big stories on my own and establishing a large social media following without any institutional support,” said Ibrahim, who started Sahan Journal five years ago. “So, I was determined to create a different experience for journalists from backgrounds like mine.”

Mukhtar Ibrahim and Duchesne DrewSahan Journal Founder Mukhtar Ibrahim and MPR President Duchesne Drew

The majority of the journalists on staff at Sahan Journal are people of color. Three of them – Katelyn Vue, Dymanh Chhoun and Samantha HoangLong – are graduates of the ThreeSixty Journalism program, which began in the 1970s as the Urban Journalism workshop founded by the Twin Cities Black Journalists association before moving to be housed at St. Thomas in 2002.

“Katelyn, Dymanh, and Samantha work in the kind of newsroom I wish I had when I was starting out,” Ibrahim said, adding that when he graduated college, his white peers immediately obtained staff positions in local newsrooms, covering the governor's office, education and city hall while he worked as a parking attendant. “I'd be lying if I said I wasn't envious. Why couldn't I get those opportunities? I brought a lot to the table – not least, the community perspective of a Muslim, Black, and Somali immigrant. … It didn't take long to realize that those backgrounds weren't valued enough back then. I had to deal with it.”

While Ibrahim did eventually land positions at Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune, he quickly turned to entrepreneurship to hire “some of the smartest, most innovative, and ambitious journalists I have worked with,” he said. “Our reporters grew up in the neighborhoods they cover, and they report real news about people of color with authenticity and depth.”

Sheletta Brundidge and Marquan Harper
Emcees for the evening were WCCO's Sheletta Brundidge and ThreeSixty Journalism student Marquan Harper.
Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas

Sahan Journal, a nonprofit news organization, has won numerous awards and honors in its short life, as has its founder.

ThreeSixty Journalism awarded Ibrahim its Widening the Circle Award. Adrienne Broaddus received the Opening Doors Award.

Broaddus was introduced to the podium by Dr. Yohuru Williams, founder of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas who served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences when the Opening Doors Award was created. 

Journalist Adrienne Broaddus
Adrienne Broaddus, NBC Correspondent, speaks at ThreeSixty Journalism's 2024 annual fundraiser.
Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas

In creating the award, “we wanted to highlight people like Adrienne because of the tremendous work that they do both locally and nationally,” Williams said. “Adrienne was such a tremendous part of our community when she was here. Not only was she an incredibly talented journalist, but she was such a tremendous member of our community who was deeply invested in us.

He continued: “If you watch Adrienne, then you know what it is to be informed; if you get the opportunity to follow her, then you truly know what it means to be inspired.” 

When Broaddus took the mic, she said, “You’re looking at someone who was teased as a child and called Daffy Duck because of my speech impediment. I struggled. I couldn't even say the word struggle.” But after years of speech therapy, she said, “I get to tell stories and talk every day, and they pay me to do that.” 

She said some may hear her story and not consider it successful. “Success is not one-dimensional,” she said. “Whatever makes you happy, that's what makes you successful.”

Adrienne Broaddus, NBC Correspondent, takes a selfie with a ThreeSixty Journalism student.
Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas

During her career, which included stints in smaller media markets, she said, “There's been some doors that have slammed in my face.” But she worked hard to push them open and has helped hold them open for others coming up behind her.  

She mentioned remembering when a group of ThreeSixty Journalism students visited the KARE 11 TV station in 2017 during the days when she was an MMJ – multimedia journalist and “I had to shoot my own stuff and lug around that heavy tripod, as well as edit.” 

On that particular day, Broaddus noticed a student with folded arms and a sour look on her face. Broaddus asked that student what type of journalist she wanted to become. The student responded that she didn’t want to be any type of journalist. Broaddus asked her why not, given that she was in the ThreeSixty program and visiting a news station. Broaddus said the teenager “looked at me and said ‘ain't nobody in there Black;’ She pointed back to the newsroom.” The high schooler added “'No. I don’t want to be a reporter or producer because nobody here looks like me.' I was the only person she saw who looked like her,” Broaddus said.

Adrienne Broaddus tells an inspirational story about a ThreeSixty Journalism alum named. Aaliyah Demry.

Broaddus then understood her own role even more. “I had a responsibility to pour into her what others had poured into me. I said “Aaliyah, you are the answer to the problem because what you see in this newsroom, it is a problem and the newsroom should reflect the communities we serve. Your voice can dismantle the barriers in place.”

Broaddus revealed that today, that high school student, Aaliyah Demry, is graduating from college in May with a degree in journalism. The room exploded in applause as Demry’s photo appeared on the screen behind Broaddus.

This is the power of the ThreeSixty Journalism program. That evening, donors gave more than triple the amount of the goal set for the evening. 

“We raised $90,000 for ThreeSixty and finished the night energized by all that’s possible for our students and the industry,” said ThreeSixty Director Kenzie O’Keefe. “Our program works because our community is brilliant and generous.”

ThreeSixty Journalism alumni and current students
ThreeSixty Journalism alumni and current students gather at the ThreeSixty Journalism Homecoming Celebration at the Granada Theater in Minneapolis on April 13, 2024. Alum and former board member Aisha Eady is on far right, wearing red. (Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas)
Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas

Aisha Eady, a ThreeSixty alumna and communications professional who has also served on the ThreeSixty board, said, "The evening struck an incredible balance– upbeat, fun and entertaining while unapologetically advocating for change. The event was a reminder of the need for media makers of color at all levels of media to not only reflect the communities they cover but also provide critical and valuable perspectives in an ever-changing media landscape. I left the event even more inspired by the talent, fervor and impact these young people embody."

The evening was hosted by WCOO Radio personality and comedian Sheletta Brundidge and current ThreeSixty Journalism student Marquan Harper, who is an incoming first-year student at St. Thomas planning to major in digital media arts. The event DJ was ThreeSixty student Everett Parker. St. Thomas President Rob Vischer also delivered remarks.

ThreeSixty Journalism event
Attendees gather and celebrate at the ThreeSixty Journalism Homecoming Celebration at the Granada Theater in Minneapolis on April 13, 2024.
Sai Kallur '24 / University of St. Thomas