Author, teacher and mentor Alexs Pate has been named the 2021 recipient of the Kay Sexton Award, a statewide honor that goes to an individual or organization that has devoted years to literary work.

Pate is the author of eight books and is the creator of the Innocent Classroom, a program for educators that works to close the relationship gap between teachers and students of color.

He is the editor of "Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota." His books have won two Minnesota Book Awards and have been on the New York Times bestseller list.

Pate, who has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine, has taught at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, Naropa University and his alm mater.

He has served on the boards of The Givens Foundation for African American Literature and the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries, and was president of the board of the Loft Literary Center and the Great Midwestern Bookshow. He has served on the Arts Midwest censorship task force and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Committee and was Commissioner of the Minneapolis Arts Commission.

He currently is President and CEO of Innocent Technologies. More than 8,000 educators in more than 300 classrooms are using the Innocent Classroom in their work.

Pate also developed and hosted the NOMMO African American Author Series through the Givens Foundation at the University of Minnesota.

"His skills as ringmaster, provocateur, scholar, interviewer and curator, have made this series serve not only as powerful introduction for many readers to the historical Black Arts Movement, but as a kind of praxis," writer David Lawrence Grant said in a news release. "A place where the roots of that Movement could be watered and nurtured."

And Minnesota poet Bao Phi, a former student in Pate's class on the poetics of hip-hop at Macalester College, said, "It was inspiring for me to see a Black author who was not only successful, but who was shaping the discourse on how art from his community should be engaged."

Pate will be honored at the 33rd annual Minnesota Book Awards Ceremony held virtually on April 29. The event is free; registration is required at

Laurie Hertzel • @StribBooks