Longfellow Community Council (LCC) has bid farewell to its longest serving and only African American executive director.
Melanie Majors' last day was June 18, 2021. She had been at the helm of the 26-year-old organization for 14 years.
“Melanie has been a fierce and tireless advocate for the residents and businesses in Greater Longfellow,” stated LCC board member Lisa Boyd. “She is simply great at building community connections.”
LCC board member Beverly Conerton agreed. “Melanie is an experienced leader with a deep understanding of the important role of neighborhood organizations as an advocate for community involvement, engagement, and empowerment,” she said. “Under her leadership, LCC has continued to advocate for meaningful participation by residents and businesses in issues that affect the community.”
An asset-rich community
Majors began her career in housing. She was with the Corporation for Supportive Housing for seven years, director of the Southside Housing Resource Center for two years, and then director of the former Lyndale Neighborhood Development Corporation for two years, which was co-located with the neighborhood association. “I found the work of the neighborhood organization was broader and more mission driven. I wanted to have more direct contact with people and work on community projects,” Majors recalled.
She credits the relationships she has with members of the community as the reason she stayed at LCC for so long.
“I have always thought of Greater Longfellow as asset rich. This neighborhood could be its own small town based on what it has to offer. There are so many businesses, parks, schools, churches, natural resources, etc. You can take care of all of your needs without leaving this community. The people in Greater Longfellow are a generational and ideological mix. They value relationships with their neighbors and they take a lot of pride in the place that they live,” said Majors.
“Ultimately, I truly believe in the strength and power of residents to create and sustain the kind of community they want to live in.”
‘Gold standard’ neighborhood organization
LCC Board Vice President Patrick Santelli gives Majors credit for developing Longfellow Community Council into one of the gold standard neighborhood organizations.
“She has been responsive to an ever evolving community and has ensured that the community is given an opportunity to weigh in on what is happening,” he stated.
Majors emphasized that all of LCC’s programs, projects, activities and events be based on priorities determined by the board members representing their individual communities.
“One of my longstanding goals at LCC was to make it a fun and welcoming environment for new board members, new staff and residents in general,” said Majors.
When she arrived, LCC was more formal and protocol driven. She knew from experience that most people participated for two main reasons: something fun is going on or something bad has happened. “I wanted to place more emphasis on fun so that people would want to join the board and make friends, and people would bring their families out for events and activities. That helped to cultivate the relationships to keep people engaged when something bad or challenging was happening.
“At this moment in time, LCC will have to change to strengthen our community engagement, outreach to underrepresented communities and to view our work through a more equitable lens.”
Ten years ago, LCC and other neighborhood organizations were facing the sunset of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) and the emergence of a new city program – Neighborhood and Community Relations (NCR). “Melanie helped us navigate a changing relationship with city government and protected resources for our community so that LCC could continue to provide excellent programs and services for the neighborhood,” stated Boyd.
When housing and mixed-used developments along the Hiawatha/Metro Blue Line corridor began to emerge a few years ago, Majors built the capacity of LCC through staff and volunteers, pointed out Boyd. She ensured that robust community engagement happened, in part through establishing strong partnerships between LCC and other non-profits, business organizations, neighborhood organizations and cultural community organizations.
“Over the past year and a half, Melanie has worked on behalf of the residents to build a more resilient Longfellow that is accessible to all,” said Santelli. The organization offered “Stay Calm and Carryout” signs at the beginning of the pandemic for local business, and the “Open Citation and Emergency Funding” grant program to assist homeowners to make emergency repairs.
“LCC has become the go-to resource for residents and businesses looking to learn what is happening in the community, including proposed development, environmental protection activities, and community connections,” said Santelli.
Majors will once again be working full-time for an organization that focuses on housing, this time across the state.
“Leaving LCC is bittersweet,” remarked Majors. “I worry that the city of Minneapolis is moving further and further away from supporting neighborhood organizations and destroying a longstanding and beneficial system that engages, unites, and serves the people of this great city. I’m leaving LCC, but not my commitment to neighborhoods. I have genuinely loved working for LCC, and my greatest wish is that there will be well deserved recognition of the value of neighborhood associations.”
She will keep connected with neighborhoods through her volunteer work as secretary of her neighborhood board, Ventura Village.
What’s next for LCC?
LCC has appointed an interim director, Amy Brugh, to bridge the transition between Majors and a new executive director.
“All neighborhood organizations – and LCC is not exempt – have difficult funding decisions to make in the coming years due to changing priorities at the city of Minneapolis. While Council Members Andrew Johnson and Cam Gordon have been supporters of LCC, the reception by other council members has been less warm,” pointed out Santelli. “The new director will ensure that LCC can continue to operate at a high level and provide a service to residents of Longfellow.”
“LCC will continue to work hard for this community, including new initiatives like the Equitable Housing Committee. We encourage any residents or business leaders in Longfellow to participate in this new committee or any of LCC’s programs,” said LCC Board President Marya Johnston-McIntosh.
She urges people to follow what LCC is doing through the weekly email newsletter or social media. Sign up for the weekly e-newsletter by e-mailing email@example.com.