Internship Blog Series #5: Mannie Bioh ’22

Our second-to-last internship blog post features an interview with intern Mannie Bioh ‘22. This summer Mannie interned at the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement (CLNE) in North Minneapolis, led by ELCA Pastor Kelly Chatman. St. Olaf staff member Carolyn Pierson ‘06 sat down with Mannie to learn more about the internship experience this summer.
CLNE interns (l to r): Trish Sibongile Mutsigwa ’23, Mannie Bioh ’22, Ella Panchot ’22, and Eesha Nagwani
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what drew you to CLNE and this internship.

I am a senior from Chicago and I’m really involved with the Taylor Center through multiple avenues. I also work in admissions and am part of TRIO SSS. I’m the founder and co-chair of an organization on campus called Black Ensemble, a performing arts ensemble for Black students to utilize their talents. I am a Sociology/Anthropology major with concentrations in Family Studies and Race and Ethnic Studies.

I’m a very big community person and love being involved in social justice work. So I was really excited to get involved in the Center for Leadership and Neighborhood Engagement (CLNE). It was in the Cities, the pay was lovely, the hours were flexible; everything about it on paper seemed good. So I applied, interviewed for, and got the position. Being able to see the environment they work in was very amazing. We worked mainly in person but also some work was hybrid. It was really great how during the internship we had projects where we HAD to be in the community and I got to meet great people and leaders. 

What were some of the highlights from your internship experience? 

As CLNE interns we worked on two main things: helping with current projects of the organization and working on our own projects. The majority of my work was doing a lot of the helping. For example, there was a huge civil rights conference this summer in the Twin Cities and I got to help lead and organize the entire week-long event. My team and I scribed the entire event and helped host and cater it. I got to meet some of my civil rights icons, some of the people I’ve looked up to for a long time and just heard the best stories. I also worked on a project called Jump Remix, which was a project that helped BIPOC youth endorse and elevate their talents in the performing arts. I was also doing one-to-ones with staff and outside sources. 

Other than the week of the civil rights conference, my one-to-one meetings were a highlight.  These were in-depth, interpersonal meetings with one person to get to know their passions. I had my first one with my boss, Rev. Kelly Chatman. We talked in-depth about religion and race. For a long time, I dreaded seeing myself as a leader and he gave me the push to accept myself as a leader, as a figure in the community who can create change. That was one of the best conversations I’ve ever had in my life and I’m forever grateful. 

Is there anything about your internship or about North Minneapolis that surprised you? What is one thing you learned about community development that will stick with you?

Being in Northfield you become blind of what is actually in Minnesota. Just being able to look into Minneapolis and get involved there made me realize I love Minneapolis and it is a place I call home. North Minneapolis is one of the kindest places. I realized I know so many people that view North as a war zone. But I think North Minneapolis holds more community than even St. Olaf to some extent. And I know that’s a very hot take, but from my perspective, comparing both, I very much felt at home in North because there were always people looking out for each other no matter how dangerous the neighborhoods were. They were aware of the flaws but also embraced those flaws and wanted to change. I think a lot of people have the courage and heart to change. I think it’s a very beautiful thing; you don’t catch it a lot in our society. So to be in that space was one of the biggest blessings I’ve had. 

CLNE staff pride themselves on a specific type of community work that is called asset-based work, which is looking within the community to provide for the community. For a long time I’ve thought about that but never had the language or framework to actually do the work. Just the entirety of asset-based work and activism takes away the power from any outside source and gives it back to the community. It focuses on the assets the community has in order to provide for the community. 

The Lutheran Center’s mission talks about fostering a love of neighbor and supporting interfaith and intercultural communities. How do you see your internship experience relating to the Center’s mission?

I think that was everything we did, especially with CLNE’s Lutheran connection. My boss, who is also the Director of CLNE, is a Lutheran pastor. It was working with congregations and other organizations to create a better community for the people in it. To think in more of an intercultural, interpersonal, interdisciplinary mindset about the ways we operate with each other. We did extensive training on culture, conflict, community, and different ways of innovative thinking. I learned so much about different ways to plan, to operate, and to logistically look at issues. I feel like it very much lived up to what the Lutheran Center stands for. 

Watch Mannie’s full interview: