Anika Bowie’s story begins in Saint Paul. She represents the fifth generation of her family to call the Summit-University (formerly Rondo) neighborhood home. Anika is running to represent Ward 1 on the Saint Paul City Council. We spoke with her about her experience on the campaign trail, the power of a pro-choice woman majority City Council, and her vision for the future of her hometown.

Women Winning: You’ve been deeply engaged in your community for years — as a member of the Saint Paul Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission, as an organizer with Restore the Vote, and more. Why did you decide — in this moment — to run for office?

Anika Bowie, Candidate for Saint Paul City Council, Ward 1

Anika Bowie: I had been asked to run several times by stakeholders and community organizers in Saint Paul, but as a young person, as a woman, and especially as a woman of color, I was initially hesitant. I didn’t see a machine in place to help candidates like me move forward. But when I paused and looked around, I saw elected officials impacting the issues that matter to me, the issues that matter in our communities. I was inspired by their leadership and decided that I had to step in and make change. As the big sister to three little brothers, I’ve always been built to step in and lead! 

WW: You’re right, there isn’t always a machine in place to support young people, women, and people of color who run for office. Political power is often so closely held and passed down.

Anika Bowie: Institutional support is really important and organizations like Women Winning open so many doors. With Women Winning, I’ve developed skills, learned how to run a campaign and be a stronger candidate, and grown as a leader. I’ve also deepened my purpose and resolve — it’s not just the how to run, it’s also the why.

I look at Women Winning’s support and endorsement through an equity lens, knowing that women of color face additional obstacles and often do not have the same access to resources. Learning things like the nuts and bolts of fundraising can break down those barriers and it has been so helpful. I envision this experience as women reaching back and pulling each other up — further and further up the ladder. I am growing into a position where I can help other women build their power.

WW: You’ve been on the campaign trail for the better part of a year. What has been the most rewarding thing about connecting with people in Ward 1?

Anika Bowie: I’ve met so many new residents in Ward 1! Folks are coming to Saint Paul from Minneapolis or from Greater Minnesota and are deepening their roots in the neighborhood. It’s been rewarding to connect with first-time voters and people who are more actively engaging in the democratic process for the first time.

People are ready to come together and build bridges — especially with the fighting and division we’re seeing at the federal level. There is so much pain and grief around the violence we’ve seen, the diminishing of women’s rights, what’s happening at the southern border. I’m showing up to doors and having powerful conversations about what’s happening and how we can make a difference at the local level.

 WW: There is so much that can be done close to home, in our communities. When you’re elected this November, what are your top priorities?

 Anika Bowie: I’m deeply committed to creating a more inclusive public safety and will work to ensure our communities are protected. In Saint Paul, the police force is less than ten percent women and there are no African American women on the force. Zero. With more women on the force, we can make sure the department reflects the people it serves and we’ll be better prepared to decrease the use of force, address mental health concerns, and increase trust between residents and communities of color.

As a Council Member, I also pledge to be present for my constituents. We’ll have town halls, coffee talks, and closer partnership with community district councils. With my leadership, there will be so many opportunities to invite more people to the party for political change! We can reimagine the relationship between the City Council and the community. The people of Saint Paul want to be part of decision making and, as elected leaders, we need to do everything we can to make city government open and accessible.

We need a voice that understands not only the potential, but the historical and present-day disenfranchisement our community faces. Ward 1 has high rates of homelessness and a percentage of people living below the poverty rate. I am a survivor of poverty, homelessness, and the era of mass incarceration. I have witnessed the criminalization of people who believe in prosperity, but lack the legitimate tools to reach their goal. As a Council Member, I will bring a restorative justice voice that will move us forward as a city that recognizes the needs of our returning residents and their families.

WW: The Saint Paul City Council is currently comprised of a majority pro-choice women! There aren’t many cities where that’s the case — in fact, there are councils and boards across the state where there aren’t any women, period. What impact does it have when there are pro-choice women at the decision-making tables? 

Anika Bowie: When it comes to choice, Saint Paul is on the right side of history. With the pro-choice woman majority council, we have the car, we have the right people in the driver’s seat, now we can accelerate. We can establish a public health committee, support public health education, and become better partners to our community clinics.

WW: Who are the women who inspire you or who you look to for examples of leadership?

Anika Bowie: There are so many women who inspire me in different ways, because as women we wear so many different hats. Shirley Chisholm is an incredible role model and I think about her often before I speak publicly. Hers is a voice of truth and power. She didn’t compromise her vision. Her example reminds me to keep pushing forward.

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