Anika Bowie in front of the Juvenile & Family Justice Center in Saint Paul. Photo by Sarah Whiting
Anika Bowie in front of the Juvenile & Family Justice Center in Saint Paul. Photo by Sarah Whiting

In the male-dominated criminal justice field, Anika Bowie stands out. She represents the Minneapolis NAACP as co-chair of the criminal justice reform committee and is a navigator in the Juvenile Justice Re-entry education program for the Saint Paul public school system. Not only is her approach to justice different, but her lens as an African-American woman is unique. 

Her cross-sectional work has included leading a Warrant Forgiveness Day in Hennepin County, in collaboration with the ACLU, funded by a United Way grant initiative that enabled hundreds of people to resolve warrants. On May 12 this year, another Warrant Forgiveness Day will be held in Ramsey County. She explains, “Removing the financial burden of court fees and the risk of getting arrested for an active warrant can reduce tensions and build a bridge between the courts, law enforcement, and community. "

Bowie leads a coalition of 75 organizations to Restore the Vote for Minnesotans who have finished their prison sentence and are on probation or parole. She is motivated to fight against voter suppression, and restore a sense of belonging and personal agency to former inmates. In Minnesota, there are more than 50,000 citizens on probation who don’t have the right to vote. She won back her father’s right to vote by writing a formal letter to his federal judge after he served an eight-year sentence. At a Second Chance Day at the State Capitol, she challenged officials to change how they address the voter suppressed as “those people.” 

As a Juvenile Justice Navigator for St. Paul Public Schools, Bowie advocates for students who are trying to transition back into the public schools. “My responsibility as a navigator,” she says, “is to disrupt the inside of Saint Paul’s school-to-prison pipeline, and to engage students in endless opportunities to be positive leaders and contributing members to society.” 

Most of her students are young African-American boys, Bowie says. Simply being hired as the first female navigator generated “a huge discussion” with her employers. She convinced the hiring team that a female mentor — and the ability to develop healthy relationships with a woman — was in the best interests of the students. “As a woman, I believe in the theory of nurture over nature," Bowie says. "Systems don’t restore people, positive relationships do.” 

As someone who has had loved ones imprisoned, Bowie's empathy runs deep. "I have seen the trauma and burden it places on the inmates and their families. I have experienced the devastating impact of mass incarceration in communities of color," she says. "My father was a husband, entrepreneur, homeowner, loyal customer to small businesses, contributing church member, community educator, and sole provider to an extended family. When a judge sentences a person, they also sentence a community.” 


Note from the Editor

As you follow along in Minnesota Women's Press each month, you will begin to see a pattern emerge. In addition to our personal storytelling, we are focusing on topics from multiple angles and diverse voices, bringing education and awareness to issues that impact our ability to live in healthy communities. This month we return to an ongoing conversation about restorative justice that we began in the March 2018 issue, and start a dialogue about what conscious capitalism might look like.

Our voices, as always, are women change agents in Minnesota who are working to reset the default position.

As Anika Bowie indicates in the first feature story, it is not criminal justice systems that restore people — it is positive relationships that do. In our second story, Tanya Korpi Macleod says businesses will thrive in an increasingly values-based society as we allow the  collaborative nature of women leaders to build partnerships with consumers.

We are celebrating our Year of Powerful Everyday Women not only with this magazine issue, but with a special event hosted by Chowgirls at Solar Arts Building on April 25. Join us as we expand our community and conversations. See details here: