Learning from Wokie Weah

by Michael Kleber-Diggs

If you’re talking to Wokie Weah about who she is, what she does, and what she’s passionate about, one word will appear more than any other “youth.” Weah is lively and colorful in general, and somehow she becomes livelier and more vivid — in her voice, in her expressions, in her mannerisms — when she talks about young people. 

Weah’s career focused on the power of  intergenerational partnerships. She knows very well the wonderful things that can result from partnerships between young people, who Weah calls the “keeper of dreams,” and older people, who she refers to as the “keepers of memories.” “When these two worlds collide, something magical happens,” she says.

In 2020, Weah was selected by AARP Minnesota and Pollen as a 50 Over 50 honoree. At that time, she was serving as President of Youthprise, a philanthropic nonprofit established by the McKnight Foundation that partners with young people and organizations that serve young people to advance equity for youth from marginalized communities. Weah retired from Youthprise in 2021. 

“Youthprise was very successful,” she says. “And I felt that I was leaving my cultural legacy in the strong capable hands of Marcus Pope and his team. We had a very strong team, so I did not have to worry about them building on the foundation of what I had started.” But bringing forward the next generation of leadership at Youthprise didn’t not mean Weah’s work for a more equitable world or her passion for work with young people ended.

Quite the contrary. Leaving the daily demands of leading a major nonprofit has allowed Weah time to pursue her passions in new and exciting ways. “It gave me a pause to go after what my soul loves — working with young people, leadership, faith and family, equity, football (soccer and the NFL), and Liberia.” 

In 2022, Weah combined her passions and launched Wokie Weah, LLC, an organization whose mission is to “disrupt and challenge the status quo.” They do this by, among other things, helping organizations partner with young people, operating an online store, funding social entrepreneurs, teaching Minnesotans about Africa, especially Liberia, and offering scholarships that support Liberians with educational and housing needs. As if that weren’t enough, Weah also serves on nonprofit boards and helps young people travel the world.

Weah’s work has a larger goal: a more just world, a beloved community where kindred spirits join together to create transformational change. “I think about lifting up a new vision of community that recognizes the gifts, perspectives, intellectual insights, and wisdom of the community.” Weah remains clear on the way forward too, “this post COVID moment is the perfect time to reimagine, reinvent, and recreate a justice-filled world where everyone thrives. This can be done with podcasts, writing projects, poetry slams, Tik Tok, hip hop, dance, athletics, plays and more,” she says. Then adds, “this (work) grounds me and keeps me hopeful.”

What emerges is also a vision for abundant communities. As Weah notes, “we are resource rich with foundations in Minnesota that understand true innovation begins in the hearts of the people and only happens when change is driven by the community.” 

In order to have communities where everyone has enough, where everyone has the comfort, safety, and space to dream, Weah notes that “we have to broaden our vision of community to include corporate, government, and international entities who dare to stand up to racism and stand together to protect our democracy. She sees an opportunity to “redefine, reassess, and reengineer what we mean by ‘wealth’. We have to learn how to manage our collective wealth.”

So, no. Weah never retired. She paused, then found new and impactful ways to continue her life’s work and add to her legacy. 

“The truth is I find a great deal of freedom and joy in growing old,” she says. “I love my age and the important lessons I have learned over time. I also appreciate learning is a lifelong process that requires a Thinkers Village mentality where kindred spirits can engage in conversations that can literally change the world.”

Join Us!


In-Person Decades Dinner 
Wednesday, November 15
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  

Create Catering & The Dining Studio
1121 NE Jackson St Suite #145,
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Join AARP Minnesota and Pollen Limited seats available now. On November 15, we’ll be hosting a Decades Dinner to discuss different perspectives on financial security and wealth disparities. The generation gap is often used to define and separate people, but it holds the power to strengthen communities and teach across generational lines. Your voice will be a powerful addition to this conversation, and we’re excited to extend to you an invitation to attend. We aim to have 50 people joining us from across each decade of life – from 20s to 90s. Participants will be placed with individuals from other age groups for an intimate, intergenerational conversation over dinner, moderated by acclaimed author and Emmy award winner Sheletta Brundidge.


Get Tickets

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Michael Kleber-Diggs
Michael Kleber-Diggs is a poet and essayist. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Poetry City, North Dakota Quarterly, Pollen Midwest, Paper Darts, Water~Stone Review and a few anthologies. He enjoys collaboration with visual artists. Michael is a past Fellow with the Givens Foundation for African-America Literature, a past-winner of the Loft Mentor Series in Poetry, and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Anoka County libraries. His work has been supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Michael is husband to Karen. Karen and Michael have a daughter who is an accomplished dancer.
Julie Van Grol
Julie Van Grol is an illustrator and instructor based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She earned her MFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) in 2014, and has since served as an adjunct faculty member at MCAD and St. Olaf College as well as full-time visiting faculty at MCAD. Julie has taught courses in both Liberal Arts and Design Departments, with course content including history, editorial illustration, decorative surface design, and professional practices.
In her illustration practice, Julie focuses on storytelling and the power of responsible representation. Her work spans from editorial to advertising to publishing, with clients including Quarto Publishing, AARP, St. Paul Public Library, Representative Ilhan Omar, and Minnesota Private Colleges Council.
Jerome Rankine
As Editorial Director, Jerome is the keeper of Pollen’s editorial voice and vision. He works with Pollen’s talented stable of writers to produce stories that entertain, enlighten, and invite readers to take action. Jerome spends a lot of time hunched over keyboards--either editing the latest Pollen feature, or composing music in his home studio. He’s active in local politics, less active on social media, and more active in his kitchen.