MINNEAPOLIS — Scrolling through photos on her phone, Keiona Cook shares a story from each photo of longtime community leader, storyteller and artist, Beverly Cottman, affectionately known to many as -
"Auntie Beverly," said Cook. "When I first met her it was in the library," she said. "I'm a former graduate at North High."
Cottman - known for sharing stories based on African and African-American folktales, fables and traditions - focused on creating a sense of pride, self-love and a celebration of culture within her community.
"Beverly was a multi-disciplinary artist before that term came about. She's a storyteller, she's a doctor, she's a community activist, she's a teacher, she's an organizer," said Ananya Chatterjea, Creative Director with Ananya Dance Theatre.
"Her soft-spoken spirit, she didn't have to say much, she just got us, and she always knew the right thing to say at the right time," said Cook.
But this week - loved ones shared the devastating news that the long-time educator for Minneapolis Public Schools died while on vacation in Egypt with friends.
Her husband, Bill, a long-time Twin Cities radio host, photographer and fellow creative also recently died back in 2021.
"Just having both of them in my life, was just really impactful, because you don't get too many elders who take you under their wings and respect you for you being your authentic self, your authentic light and in the process, them sharing their light," shared Cook.
While their beloved community is mourning this loss, they're celebrating two community pillars.
"Uncle Bill and Auntie Beverly spirit - they're not gone, we can feel their spirits, their hearts, their words will always be there to uplift and encourage my energy when I get down or when I feel like what I'm doing isn't enough," said Cook.
With a kind-spirit and big heart. "Showing us how to be positive leaders for the future generations to come, they're the perfect ancestors," said Cook.
"She's a generational artist and she's touched so many
Leaving behind a legacy in their daughter, grandchildren, and a host of others who Cook says now hold the memories of Auntie Beverly and Uncle Bill in their hearts.
"They are together, they found each other, there is no way they are not together," said Cook. "They are a complete heart that could never be broken a part."