“If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it,” said author Zora Neale Hurston.
This quote resonates with Anika Bowie, a St. Paul native and local organizer whose passion is to inspire social and political change in her community.
At the age of 27, Bowie serves as vice president of the NAACP Minneapolis. She also ran to represent Ward 1 on the St. Paul City Council in 2019. Bowie describes herself as not only a trailblazer, but also an artist, changemaker and “social justice renegade.”
Ultimately, Bowie wants to help establish an equitable and just world for everyone.
“My involvement in politics came from a very personal place,” Bowie said.
When Bowie was a freshman at Central High School in St. Paul, her father was incarcerated. The experience was difficult for her family but also pushed her to think critically about the criminal justice system and unwarranted policing in communities of color.
“People are not always passionate about what they love; sometimes their passion comes from what they hate,” Bowie said.
Bowie grew up participating in a social justice improv troupe and was a ThreeSixty Journalism participant in high school. Both activities nurtured her curiosity and love of storytelling. They also helped Bowie develop her voice to be able to speak her truth.
“From there, I immersed my life into trying to answer the question of why my dad is in prison,” Bowie said. “That really was the epicenter of me searching how to change the lives of the folks who find themselves behind bars.”
Witnessing her father in prison was not only critical to her understanding of justice, but also to her healing process.
“I was going down the rabbit hole of this enormous industrial complex of the business of prisons in America, and it was very dark and very spooky. But I had to undergo it to really understand it,” Bowie said.
After graduating from Hamline University with a double major in criminal justice and social justice, Bowie continued to use her voice in the forms of social organizing activities and politics. She takes on issues such as racial equity, youth empowerment and criminal justice reform.
These experiences and others motivated Bowie to take action and run for a seat on the St. Paul City Council in 2019. Bowie was a candidate to represent Ward 1, which includes Rondo, the neighborhood she grew up in. Although Bowie gained the support of many, she lost the election. But this only added fuel to her fire.
In the future, Bowie hopes to run for other political positions at the state and national levels. Until then, Bowie continues to advocate for marginalized groups by working with organizations like the NAACP.
As a young black woman who actively uses her voice, Bowie has often been advised to be quiet and be grateful for all of her accomplishments and opportunities.
“I have experienced spaces that are not accustomed to people that look like me being in those spaces with authority and actually offering something,” she said.
Bowie said in her experience, Minnesota culture tends to approach difficult conversations in a very calm and unagitated manner. People who have held positions similar to hers have often succeeded by not ruffling too many feathers. Yet, to do that would be completely out of Bowie’s character.
“I’m a natural feather ruffler,” she laughed.
Although it isn’t always easy, Bowie loves and finds great fulfillment in her work.
“I find much joy and love and passion in what I do, because I think it empowers other people to share their voice as well,” Bowie said.