The new executive director of the Longfellow Community Council has a passion for driving progressive social change to impact people’s lives for the better and help them see their own power.
Rachel Boeke’s path brought her from southern Minnesota to earn a degree in management, communications and public relations from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
She previously served as the executive director for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, managing social and environmental justice campaigns. She currently volunteers as a state legislative lead for Moms Demand Action – engaging citizens and legislators “to end the public health crisis of gun violence.”
Most recently, Boeke worked as the executive director for the Stevens Square Community Organization. While there, she diversified the board of directors to better represent the neighborhood, and expanded programming to support low-income residents.
She also re-imagined Red Hot Art to provide culturally diverse and accessible arts programming to communities coping with the isolating and challenging conditions of life in an ongoing pandemic, actively prioritizing the needs of underrepresented patrons and artists alike.
“Neighborhood organizations play an important role within the community,” Boeke observed. “LCC serves greater Longfellow by connecting neighbors to each other and to resources. We provide space for community identification of issues and solutions. We also organize residents to use their collective voice, building power and influence with those making decisions that impact daily lives across the community.”
Boeke has lived in neighborhoods across Minneapolis (Phillips, Seward, Cedar/Riverside, Central, Victory, South Uptown, Lyndale, University, Marcy Holmes) since moving here from Mankato to attend college. She currently lives in the greater Minneapolis area with her three children: Aggie (14, she/her), Grey (10, they/them) and Elliot (7, she/her).
“While I haven’t lived in the Greater Longfellow neighborhoods, my best friends live in Howe and Hiawatha so I feel at home here,” she said. “My favorite thing to do in Longfellow is sitting on my best friend’s deck for happy hour (in the Howe neighborhood).”
Hear more from Boeke:
What drew you to Longfellow and this position?
Boeke: To me, the concept of home is tied directly to our well-being. I believe home is more than a place, building, or address – it is a sense of belonging – it is community, connections and relationships. I also believe that family is more than the people we share blood with – it is the people we surround ourselves with who bring us joy and fill our daily lives. This includes our neighbors, at least hopefully. It includes the people we see regularly – at the coffee shop, hardware store, corner market, etc. These connections are more important than ever in this time of an extended, isolating pandemic compounded by the impacts to our mental and emotional health from months and months of unrest as our city struggles to acknowledge and address our history of racial injustices across all parts of life.
Serving as the Executive Director of LCC provides me the opportunity to build love, hope and unity throughout the community by listening to the needs of our residents and creating the programming, events, and resources they need most.
Working with neighborhoods connects everything I love – direct action organizing, meeting new people and learning their stores, developing programming and events that can immediately impact people’s lives for the better, and building that sense of home and belonging between people and their communities.
What strengths do you bring?
Boeke: I bring decades of experience leading teams, working with volunteers and developing community organizing campaigns. My background is in direct action organizing and the three fundamental principles of that will always guide my work: concrete improvements in people’s lives, making people aware of their own power and building leadership, and altering relations of power between people and decision makers.
Coming to LCC from Stevens Square Community Organization, I understand the function of neighborhood organizations within the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations Department and already have established relationships with people across city departments.
I also bring my love of connecting with people. Whenever I do personality tests, I score 99 out of 100 on the extrovert scale. I love meeting people one-to-one, at events, during meetings, at the door, over the phone, at the bus stop… wherever, whenever. I truly want to hear everyone’s story. I want to know what community means to them. I want to know how LCC can best serve the needs of all our residents.
What issues challenges face the LCC?
Boeke: Neighborhood organizations have historically not been a true representation of the amazing diversity of their communities. Neighborhood boards have historically been composed of individuals having the time and flexibility to volunteer and sharing very similar demographics which are disproportionate to their communities – that being homeowners, residents with higher income and education levels, older residents and White residents. Changes need to be made to break down barriers, allowing members of historically under-represented populations to serve in leadership positions and make decisions impacting their community.
The LCC Board is full of dedicated and community-focused people, but we will be intentional in developing meaningful engagement strategies to create a welcoming environment for each and every resident of Greater Longfellow, as well as take into account barriers that are keeping members of our community from getting involved as we work towards board elections this spring.
Specific attention will be given to the biggest disparities between our board make-up and the community at large:
• 43% of community members are renters compared to only 8% of the board
• The community is 67% White/43% of color compared to 92% White/8% of color on the board.
• 30% of the community has an income level below $35,000 and 12% are between $35,000-$50,000. This is 42% of the community (almost half!) and we have 0% of the board within that income level.
There are also the challenges of changing funding systems, the incredible need for support of our local and small business owners – especially within the BIPOC community, the need to focus on collaborative work with other neighborhoods and community-based organizations to ensure our longevity of serving Greater Longfellow residents, and helping residents find ways to process the trauma that has been building from years of living within a pandemic and the intense impact the murder of George Floyd and the resulting unrest has had.
Connect with Boeke by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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