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Investing in Home

A Conversation with Malik Rucker

In this special episode, Chanda connects with her son Malik Rucker, the Director of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for V3 Sports. V3 is a North Minneapolis nonprofit that combats health and wellness inequities. Chanda and Malik talk about their love of North Minneapolis, dangerous narratives that need disruption, and bold strategies that lead to community change.

Listen to Our Episode

Souphak Kienitz  00:01

You’re listening to Conversations with Chanda, a Minneapolis Foundation podcast that unpacks the community’s grittiest most vexing problems hosted by Chanda Smith Baker.

Chanda Smith Baker  00:14

So, Malik, I really appreciate you joining Conversations with Chanda, even though you are my child, the way that actually we got to this conversation is through many people that recommended that we have a conversation around V3, something that you’ve been working on, specifically a request to have you on. And so even one of our staff members, Josh Johnson said, Hey, I think you should ask someone from V3. So, I think it’s quite a compliment. I’m not even sure Josh knows that we are related that those recommendations were coming in normally, they would be like you should have your son on. And then there’s like, Hey, there’s this guy. I know that I think you should have because of the multiple recommendations we wanted to bring you on. And I say that because I think it’s important for you to know and others to know that your leadership is being seen and validated by many people in this community. And I just appreciate you taking the time this morning to be with me in this conversation.

Malik Rucker  01:10

I appreciate y’all for having me. Shout out to Josh. I’m not even sure that we’ve met before. But appreciate all the recommendations and excited to talk with you. And you.

Chanda Smith Baker  01:21

So, Malik, can you say a little bit about who is Malik so that the listening audience can get a sense of you and what you’ve been up to?

Malik Rucker  01:29

Yeah, I mean, Malik is a son, a brother, uncle, a believer and God. I was born and raised in North Minneapolis. So I’m a lifelong North sider I still reside in the north side. Currently, I work in I call it sport business V3 sports, which is a nonprofit located in North Minneapolis. I live work play in North Minneapolis. I come from a family that’s always lived, worked and played in North Minneapolis. So, generations. So, I grew up as a three sport athlete, I play basketball, ran track, and I played football, all the way through high school, ended up getting a scholarship offer to the University of Iowa and signed there. My senior year of high school, went to the University of Iowa for about two and a half years. I transitioned out of there, I went to Western Michigan University and finished there in 2018 was a part of the 2016 13-0 team MAC champions. And you know, we did a big that year, we were the highest ranked group of five team in college football, we played in the Cotton Bowl in Jerry’s world. And in Arlington, Texas, against Wisconsin, I have one more year after that and finished up, graduated with a sports management degree moved back to Minnesota. And to add to that, I think is also very important for folks to come back to the neighborhoods that they grew up in to try to make them better places. After we are fortunate enough to go on and learn and get exposed to so much going back to our communities.

Chanda Smith Baker  03:05

When you talk about being from the north side, right? Like it’s so fraught with lots of opinions about what Northside is and what it produces. Like when you say it you say it was such a sense of pride? Has that always been the case? Like how do you how do you see the north side?

Malik Rucker  03:24

I got so much pride surrounding the north side, it’s it’s allowed me to become who I am. And when I think of the north side, I think of family I think about growing up being outside with friends running around the Minneapolis parks, playing sports, building lifelong friendships, going into the Cub and seeing my cousins and I really just think of it as a big family, you know, a community that has untapped potential. And I think we’ll see that in the next two years. So when I think I miss out, I am very prideful. And that’s because I see how it is how it was and what it can be.

Chanda Smith Baker  04:00

It also has come with some hard moments, right, like me, knowing that you came up through sports and park board and the Police Activities League. You know, I remember some of those young people that you were in sports with that have taken and taken on different tracks. And so what do you think could have been done differently or should be done differently for young people that are sort of on the margins?

Malik Rucker  04:28

Yeah, you know, I think I don’t have the answer to that. I will just say, you know, from my experience just growing up in the park system, you hit a certain age and you’re not thought of anymore. You hit 14 you get into the high school age in high schools are expected to take you on versus what you’ve known your whole life, which is the park board systems. So, for instance, if I was going to fall will park my entire life when I hit 14, because it is a small park, they might say you’re not really welcomed here. More because we got this other age group that we’re focused on. And then when you do that, and there isn’t an alternative, you just go outside the parks and Minneapolis, which you see is parks going against parks, which is neighborhoods against neighborhoods. So, you know, some people lack the guidance to transition from middle school to high school. And And with that, you know, there’s a lot of great players. You know, I always say I was never the best player on any team that I played on. But I had different resources and exposure than most, which allowed me to excel and to become who I am. I really think just that that middle school or high school age is so critical. And that if we could figure that out, I think that is really one of the most proactive ways to combat some of this community violence, and to keep some of our young folks off the streets. And right now, just thinking about the sport, youth sports world right now is growing rapidly. And traveling, travel sports is taking off, which is taken away from our parks systems on the sports side. And don’t get me wrong, there is some programming for teens, but it’s more like a come in for teen night, here and there. It’s not like every day program,

Chanda Smith Baker  06:21

I guess I’ve never thought about it that way. So, what I’m taking from what you’re saying is that you’re sort of growing up in a small place where everyone sort of knows your name, your behavior, they’re going to tell you to stop, there’s a lot of consistency in those relationships. And then when that that network of support gets shifted, they basically don’t know how to acclimate to the new way, there’s nothing that helps with that.

Malik Rucker  06:46

Yeah, there’s no transition. And then you also have to deal with the high schools, the choice is yours. So now, our kids are not necessarily going to their home schools. And I’m a product of the My Home School is North High School, and I graduated from Cooper High School. And you know, there isn’t the same support in these suburban schools, as there is in the neighborhood schools. And those are most likely the people that know your family in those schools that you that you’ve grown up around and have some respect for. And then you go to the suburban schools, and they you know, they don’t give you the same new way, they’ll talk to you to same, so you’re more on a shorter leash that you’re already from the north side. So you kind of got a bad rep. In a way, they don’t really expect much from our kids. And I’m not saying that for all. But that has been a thing. And I think that another thing about you know, just just our, our high schools, you know, to go to the choice is yours, you got to fit into free and reduced lunch and you got to be at risk and you got to be underrepresented or under-resourced. So, you know, they just put our kids and stuff so much boxes, that if they start to believe it’s hard to break out,

Chanda Smith Baker  08:02

one of the things that I always say is, and I have felt this right, folks know, I’m from the North side. And you know, I’ve said this before on the podcast, that there would be times when people would be talking about the North side. And I’m from the North side, and it wouldn’t feel familiar to me. Right? Right. Or I’m like, dang, what do I need, so I don’t end up in these bad circumstances. I mean, I remember thinking that when I was a kid, I actually remember when your brother turned 18 And we were, we were actually in the kitchen. Which brother, your older one Dominique. Okay, Dominique turned 18. And I remember you turning to him and saying, See, man, you thought you would never make it to 18. And it always stuck with me, because I’m like, why would he ever think that he would not make it to 18? Yeah. And why would you say that to him? Like, what what was that?

Malik Rucker  08:53

You know, I, I can’t really remember what exactly was going through my mind, but I could just take my myself back to those times and being you know, start start to deal with gun violence on both ends for him from, you know, friends being the victims and suspects as young as 14 years old, and just just kind of constantly being around the ruckus. And in a sense, so, you know, I think just losing friends or peers consistently could can make you think that you could be next why could why what makes you different from them? Me I grown up in the same places Yeah, go to the same place you go to the same schools playing for the same sport teams like what what makes you different from from these kids? So, you know, I really just think it came down to the environment. That was that was happening back when we were in high school, and then we lost our cousin to gun violence. And I think that was also another thing that was around the same year he turned 18.

Chanda Smith Baker  10:00

Yeah, I guess it was it was exactly. Do you think that we’re doing enough in our community to counter what you just said?

Malik Rucker  10:09

No, I don’t. I don’t at all. Since we’re on a on a podcast with the foundation and philanthropy, I think that we need transformational gifts. When the infrastructure our community has forever been under-invested in as far as infrastructure, I talked about the park board, the buildings aren’t big enough to have this wide range of kids. So, 14 is cut off. And that’s not like they want to do that is because they don’t have the capacity within their buildings. We need infrastructure, we need places to go just be healthy. And that’s where V3 comes in. So, what I do every day, and we’re building a project, which is a Community Health and Wellness Center, every community in Minnesota has a workout area, they can go they got lifetimes and LA Fitness, Planet Fitness, whatever it may be. And what do we have, we do have some boutique-style gyms don’t get me wrong. But we don’t have somewhere where we can go swim, we can go play basketball, we can run around the track, we can lift weights, you know, we got access to therapy pools, and then we also have access to community resources. And I think those, you know, those transformational projects is something that we need to really invest in, because we’re just so underinvested in that area. And then when we have those projects, and it allows us to impact past 14 years old, and then that’s the proactive way to to this community violence.

Chanda Smith Baker  11:42

Is V3, a place where multi-generational programming, I mean, I remember being at the Y with you, right? Like, it’d be like me, you grandma, we would all be at the Y at the same time. And I guess we don’t really have a lot of spaces where whole families can go is V3 gonna be a place where whole families can be together around wellness?

Malik Rucker  12:01

It’s funny that you say that, that you bring up the Y because the three started out as a swim team and triathlons and then we swim out of the lot on Broadway, and that and that Y closed down to be a youth Enrichment Center. So there was no more grandmas and moms coming in to be a part of any programming and it was more geared to view which now I think they have seniors in there. But the three kind of was born out of that. Yes, it is. It is a multi-generational approach. We will have programming for adult seniors, are you younger adults, and just a wide range of a family we are bringing in the whole family. One of our big things is to combat and drowning disparities. That’s a generational thing, right? If a parent doesn’t know how to swim, the child only has a 19% chance of learning to swim. So that’s a generational thing. And then when you think about the black community, think about the trauma that our community has gone through from jumping off ships or getting acid thrown into the pools, and the whites-only pools but we love swimming, we love the pool, we’d love to have fun in a pool. But you know, we are able to always capitalize on that, and have the most amount of fun because of this generational challenge.

Chanda Smith Baker  13:23

I’m gonna touch on that because I’ve been watching the news and reading the paper and they’ve been talking about the lifeguard shortage. Just the importance of like, it’s not just recreational, but it’s life-saving. It’s it’s a necessity safe to say more about why we should be thinking about this.

Malik Rucker  13:43

Yeah, it’s a necessity. I heard Jay Z talk about him learning to swim, Jay Z or his big age think I’m sure he’s 50 Plus or close to it. He didn’t know how to swim until he had Blue Ivy, his daughter. She was swimming one day. And he just couldn’t fathom the thought of Blue Ivy drowning, and he couldn’t do anything about it. We live in Minnesota land of 10,000 lakes. People drown all the time just trying to keep up with their friends in the lakes and the pools. And it’s really just something that you have to know for if you’re a parent if you’re a child out there trying to have fun, if you want to enjoy the lakes, if you want to enjoy the Minnesota summers, and there’s just so much water around us that in Minnesota specifically. If you don’t know how to swim, and you get yourself into a drowning situation, you know, you might not come out of that. And that’s why it’s so important for us. And then in Minnesota, just like so many other disparities. The swimming disparities are huge, and Minnesota between black and brown folks and white folks.

Chanda Smith Baker  14:49

I know families that have lost kids to drowning. I hear that and I wanted to just reinforce that point. You also talked about being an athlete you know, we’ve we’ve often talked about this especially for the young people. And I hear this narrative quite a bit when people are like, Oh, I’m gonna play football and people are like, but you got to pay attention to your academics. And don’t forget about that, because the odds of you making it are slim. And I’ve always been very challenged by that, by that argument, because I think, you know, why snatch to dream so young, and, but I want to know how you because I know people would say to you all the time when I was standing there, which also, you know, was pretty nervy of them.

Malik Rucker  15:26

I mean, you know, people put their limitations on you all the time. And that’s not just in sports. But throughout life, even though you’re a big dreamer, you know, they might not have been able to reach their dreams and they put that on you. And people parents do it. People, brothers and sisters, like the people, the people closest to the big dreamers, will kind of put down some of these people big dreams just because of them and their limitations. But I think sports regardless, you’re gonna be in a better place. After you play sports. You just learned so many life lessons, I played football, you know, I’ve always been able to work in teams, I’ve always been able to fight through adversity, I’ve been able to, to shift gears quickly, from one week to the next have different game plans, and gotta communicate, gotta be a little bit a little bit personable. You know you’ve got to work hard. So I think at the end of the day, if you don’t make it in sports, you still have those those life moments and life skills that transfer into the to the real world. You know, I think it is just from my experience from transitioning from college to a professional career, you know, I didn’t make it to the NFL, I didn’t make professionally. And I have so many teammates like me, they’re struggling with that transition.

Chanda Smith Baker  16:50

Did you want to say more about that?

Malik Rucker  16:52

I think it’s difficult transitioning in life in general. But from sports, especially as a collegiate sport player, a division one player, most likely, you’ve been playing this sport, since you were young. For me, it was about eight years old I played I play football, I play sports from eight and to 20 to 23. And I also was in in school from five till 23. So all I knew was really sports in school, that transition of I’m not doing either one now is tough. And you really just got to take time to understand who you are what you want out of life. And that took me a while to understand, but I kind of got some footing around it. And I’m thriving now in in the work that I’m doing in my personal life. Because I took that time to really reflect on myself and to grow as a person. during that transition.

Chanda Smith Baker  17:48

We’re sort of talking about what V3 would provide. But can you talk about the significance of what that means for the neighborhood, and why you decided to join that team.

Malik Rucker  17:57

I started off by saying why I started, I wanted to join that team. I was in sports working for the Minnesota Twins in community relations. So, I already had that community kind of background. But this allowed me to impact the community I’m from every day that I live in, and to work in this project of building that up, be here long pass after I’m gone. So, it was something I couldn’t pass up. And there’s a great team around it. And then when you think about the impacts our communities healthy people create healthy communities. So when we’re able to provide space to be holistically healthy at all aspects of our lives, mentally and physically, emotionally. When we have that opportunity, it allows our community to become more healthy. We’re contributing to you know, not only social transformation around health, but economic transformation, as will be a reasonable destination will create hundreds of jobs. Through construction, we’ll have about 300 to 500 construction jobs working with TRI construction on Broadway. Also working with LSE architect or lead architect Keon, you know, he graduated from North High School and grew up on 11th and James. So this is a facility that was built and ran by our community. And it’s these products of this building will allow us to bring in some big events and outside dollars into our community to circulate around and create some stability around the economics of our community will break ground in the fall 2022 And it’d be a year built for the first phase. So, we’re doing it in phases overall. It’s a $60 million project. The first phase is 20 million. And that is what we’re really trying to get in the in the ground is the Learn to Swim pool. It’s an instructional pool, we’re trying to get we’re getting that in the ground. We’re also getting in and workout areas that I spoke a lot about, we’ll have a cafe space, drop in childcare, we’ll have a hydrotherapy pool. And then we’ll have some community, event spaces in that first phase. And then the second phase is the is the bigger part, where we’ll have the Olympic pool will have the full  Courts, some additional parking, and some additional retail spaces.

Chanda Smith Baker  20:26

What kind of events do you see coming there?

Malik Rucker  20:29

So, there’ll be a wide range from athletics, to career fairs to conventions to, you know, were in talks with you know Minnesota Sports and Events, you know, we just had the women’s Final Four. And we’ll have four basketball courts at the V3 Center. And that is a direct connection to the North Minneapolis Community, and the women’s Final Four. And that’s just an example. You know, another example is our main pool was utilized to select the 2020 USA swim team. It’s a Mirtha pool, one of the best in the world. And Minnesota is bidding on the next USA swim trials. And that’s another connection point to the broader state. So, we’ll be able to host some some some national kind of regional events from from those career fairs, but also to AAU basketball tournaments, which now we don’t really have many places in North Minneapolis to do that. And you know, as an au pair, we had to drive to Hopkins, we had to drive to Eden Prairie, Maple Grove all over the place. St. Michael’s and St. Cloud, yeah, wow. And this is, this is every weekend. And we go out there and we spend money and neighborhoods and their communities, and then it circulates there. And now we had an opportunity for that to happen in our own community in North Minneapolis. And in north Commons Park. We’ll also have some, some nice courts. So, we’ll be able to do some big things in, in North Minneapolis collaborative.

Chanda Smith Baker  22:03

So, your work in community and how you show up is actually extended beyond V3. I know you sit on a couple of boards. And I’m really curious on how you why you want it to do that. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about that. And what the importance you see, and the benefit of serving beyond where you’re working, right, like a lot of the people on this that have been on this podcast, have used their platform and their leadership beyond where they’re formally situated to find other places to lead. And so, I’m curious on how you sort of landed on I want to do board service.

Malik Rucker  22:40

Yeah, so I sit on the board Appetite for Change, as well as Raise the Bar. And I’m on a committee to the Minneapolis Foundation fund for sec. But you know, I was in after I got done playing sports. After I graduated, I ended up going back to school to get my master’s you know got my MBA, and concentrated on sports entertainment management. And that took up so much time. So when I was done, I just had all this extra time. And I’m like, you know, just working a full time job. That’s, that’s, I mean, that’s a lot of time, but I don’t know, I just had an extra time. So I’m like, What can I do to continue my growth and community to continue my growth as a person and professionally, I started getting opportunities to join boards, because of where I sit in community, I think people are attracted to my age, as being a younger voice and community with a little a little bit of face value and social currency. So, you know, even though I had those opportunities, what really drove me to being a part of those is because it extends impact. For me, it allows me to grow, and to see organizations from more of a high a higher level, and being outside of organization versus being in it, but to also be able to utilize my influence and my experiences and more organizations than just the one sitting every day, which is V3. How was it raising your kids? You know, I tell people all the time. This is before I went back to school, I you know, I will say you know, I went to college before because you didn’t take the traditional route and you went to college after you had children. I’m not sure if your audience knows that. But they do now, you know, how was how was that for you? Full time? College Student full time mother and full time?

Chanda Smith Baker  24:36

Yeah, well, you know, it wasn’t a crystal stare. I can tell you that. I must gonna with a moment that I had, which was right around the time. I think you had just committed to the University of Iowa. And I was in a program at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. It was an executive leadership program. I think I told you this but it was on campus. It was right after graduation and there were a number of us that convened on that spot. And so we were in, like a bus or van or something riding through campus. And I remember being overwhelmed by emotion in that moment, like, equally as proud of you as I was sort of sad for myself with a feeling of like, loss of having that experience of living full time and having sort of that experience of only being a student, and, and envisioning what could have been. And so I’ve had a couple of moments like that. However, I also understand what I gained from the route that I took, right, you know, I would have benefited from listening to some people and doing the route without all the extra responsibilities and the weight of of making sure that I’m taking care of you all. But what I did learn was more about my grit. And I actually think that because I was parenting, while going to school, it actually focused me in a different way. Because I knew what my vision was for sort of making sure that you weren’t losing anything as a result of my decisions. What I didn’t recognize in that moment, were the people that were watching me do that. And the number of other like, single moms or whatever, that were working around me that like I went, I’m going to school now, because I’ve watched you do it, if you could do it, I could do it. And I think was beneficial. You know, I was at St. Cloud State, and you know, you were in classes with me. So, you went you and your brother, and you know, not having a sitter that night or whatever, and going to professor’s like, Yo, they’re good boys, they’re gonna sit there, they’re gonna eat these little Cheerios play with their trucks, they got to talk to each other, they don’t be quiet, there’ll be good I need to be in class. In the rear view, it makes a different level of sense that it didn’t when I was going through it, but there were lots of sleepless nights trying to figure it all out.

Malik Rucker  27:00

I bet, that rubbed off on us for sure. I remember being in college in my master’s program. And knowing that I couldn’t get anything below a B, um, I was nervous. I used to be nervous all the time. Like, I can’t get a seat. I can’t even get a seat. But in the work will be so much. I will always think like, my mom did this for kids like multiple kids, I could do this, I figure it out. And I think that was a motivational factor for me. All these years later, I got one more question for you. And that is, how is it seeing your son all the time we see each other all the time at different events, I think it’s to the point where I expect to see you at most like community events. So how is it from seeing me like as as a kid to seeing me in the same workspaces as you sometimes we end up in the same meetings, the same galas, all these different spaces?

Chanda Smith Baker  28:00

I have two thoughts on that. So one is you’ve heard me say this to you and other people like you’re the same person you were when you were little, right? Like you were like a five-year-old asking for people’s business cards. And then they’re like, Malik called me. And I’m like Malik called you. And I’m like, Malik, stop taking people’s business cards. And I’m like, Well, what did he say to you? Well, he wants to know if you went to if I went to college, and how much do I make? And was it hard? And like, you’ve always been sort of that question asker. And that networker, even when you were little still to see something that I was actually trying to manage, when you were little, to now see how that was just in you and how was actually benefited you? It’s been a good reflection point for me, because I’m like, Lord, have mercy. This kid is calling everybody, you know, like, how do I manage him? And then I think, you know, coming out of school, you know, at first I’d be like, Malik, you know, do you want to go to this with me? Or Malik Do you want to roll here? Do you want to be my plus one, to now I show up in your there, you’ve put in the work. And like I said, some people know, we’re related, and some people don’t. So, I get a lot of feedback. And I’m really proud of it. I think what I’m most proud about is you took a route that I may or may not have seen for you. Right? Like you have clarity and and part of your clarity is sometimes I’m uncertain. I’m gonna get some feedback from you. But I’m also going to be reflective on my own path. And so, I’m just very proud of, of you. And not only you but the circle of young men that you’ve had around me through your sports and others that I think are just doing amazing things in the community. Appreciate that. So, let’s talk about your friends. Right? Because all of you all have come from this neighborhood and some of your friends have encountered and had less maybe support some of them have had maybe more I don’t know, but I know some of their stories. And did you guys make like commitments to each other like what are they or is it just part of how you show up as friends? Like, did you ever express it?

Malik Rucker  30:03

Nah. So back then, you know, we were we will get into things. But at the end of the day, what was important to us was sports. And I think we just related so much to sports and wanting to get better. That that stuck with us throughout our friendships and still continues with this. So, we will go out on the field in 100 degree weather, like how was last week, we will go out. And if you I don’t know, it was 100 degrees a few days, like we will be out there all day, turf is hot cleats melting. And we would just go out there and grind. And I think just that just challenging each other, in that way, allowed us to challenge and compete, not against each other, but with each other as we navigate through life, to be the best to be the best we can be as individuals and our relationships.

Chanda Smith Baker  30:58

And I think all of you all have college degrees.

Malik Rucker  31:01

Yeah, yeah, for the ones that that want to get a college degree, we got them. And the ones that didn’t get degrees are entrepreneurs. You know, one of my friends, Dave is in the Mall of America, he has a store in the Mall of America. He’s a social entrepreneur For the Love, go check them out if you’re in the Mall of America. And then I got another friend LJ who does journey, he creates jewelry, and you know, he’s doing his thing. And that and that we’re so if I mean if college was for us, we went to college, most of us play sports in college, and that was kind of our, our entryway to secondary education. But then some of us, you know, try college and he said, Oh, no, that’s not for me, I will work for myself. And that’s what they doing and thriving in that.

Chanda Smith Baker  31:45

The reason why I think is important and tell that story, again, is like not just the stories of who exists lives and thrives in North Minneapolis. But there’s also a narrative around black men and black men success and folks around your age particularly well, for a long time, right, like the matriculation into college, and what does it look like to be successful? And how we look at it from a community perspective? Do you think it’s too narrow? Like, do we feel like college degree? Is it or you’re not successful? Like, do you think we’re narrowing and the way that we’re approaching philanthropy and the conversation? That’s not supporting people living out full dreams?

Malik Rucker  32:26

Oh, yeah, you know, college isn’t the same thing as it was for possibly you. In which your mom and dad pushed, and community was pushing before, there was, you know, different circumstances, the recession 2008 changed that a little bit, where you got a college degree and still can’t get a job. And, you know, so I think that right now, in this social media age, and just, there’s so much creativity out there, that, you know, you could, you could find a way to make some money and do it in your way, however you want to do it, you could do it in the best possible way that you know, how, and that doesn’t always need a college degree. I’m a believer in education, however, but I think that it should come with a plan. And I think when you talk about philanthropy, I think you’ve got to be you got to be open and innovative to, to how you look at how you distribute funds. A lot of a lot of philanthropy, a lot of foundations right now are going into the racial equity type lens, hopefully not in the foundations aren’t locking people in to these boxes, like I talked about earlier, you gotta have you can’t have more than this amount of money. You can’t. You got to be from this community to get these funds. And, you know, I think philanthropy can do that. But you got to be innovative in this in this work, I believe, to to really capitalize on all of the great things people are doing to, to their own businesses and to their own creativity, minus the colleges.

Chanda Smith Baker  34:10

So, as you know, maybe the last couple of questions, I want to focus on philanthropy and development. So you’re raising money for V3. That’s your role, right? Primarily?

Malik Rucker  34:20

Yeah, I wear a lot of different hats. We’re a small team. My technical role is community engagement, Director, community engagement, and partnerships. And with that, you know, fundraising is in that in development work. But you know, I also work with the architects I also work with the consultants, different funding sources out there, such as new market tax credits, I really wear multiple hats, but development is a part of those.

Chanda Smith Baker  34:49

You know, I’m constantly exploring what, what else we can do in philanthropy to support communities and now you’re on the development side where Like I was raising money differently when I was leading at Pillsbury United Communities in my various roles, this role of raising money and bringing investments into the neighborhood. What have you learned in those relationships? Like, what are you learning? As a part of that?

Malik Rucker  35:16

I think people are scared to invest in North Minneapolis. Yep. I’m gonna just throw out there, I think that people are hesitant and to invest in those, those bigger gifts. I think the programming gifts are going to come and should continue to come. But when you start talking about those, the infrastructure, as I spoke about earlier, I think there’s some hesitancy around that, when we talk about programs, and you know that there’s a lot of great programs in North Minneapolis a, there’s a ton of them, and I hope philanthropy and foundations continue to invest in those programs. But in the same breath, I do think that we need to start investing in infrastructure in our communities. And there’s a stat out there just said, you know, how if you’re so North loop and North Minneapolis are a five minute walk from each other. North Loop path, $1.2 billion invested in North Loop and commercial development. Over that same time, North Minneapolis had 13 million, I want to say 13, they don’t quote me on that. But it was around $13 million invested in commercial development, how can we thrive as a community with those types of disparities within five minutes from us? So, when I think of North Minneapolis and philanthropy, you know, I do think that people are and the ones that are able, not all foundations are able to give those, you know, infrastructure gifts and those capital gifts. But I challenged philanthropy to look into those, and to see how we can change this community, socially, and economically, through infrastructure throughout generations.

Chanda Smith Baker  37:08

So, one thing is that you’re sensing sort of the hesitation of investment infrastructure has to be part of, you can’t just think programmatically, you have to think about infrastructure programs will come and go. The infrastructure, like a whole building will go away the whole, the whole thing will go away, if we’re not making those levels of investment in earlier what I heard you say, and then it’s not keeping up with the full needs of the community. And what other lessons or learnings are you doing as you’re raising money. And I think this translates to any urban community, or any community defined as black and brown. So, I think it’s a translatable point. But what other lessons are you learning?

Malik Rucker  37:48

You know, I think that in raising money, I will say foundations or philanthropy, they think about, you know, communities of color as a whole or they try to be, you know, they try to, you know, and I think diversity and inclusion, right? And then they want to see how you’re affecting the Hmong community, the Somali community, the black community, whatever, could the white community they want to see all of these different things in one place? But then when you say, Oh, I’m about to do this for the black community, it’s not saying we’ll respond. What do you mean, it’s not the same response when you specifically single out the black community? A lot of what we talked about at V3 is disparities between the black community as well as black and brown communities. But when we say black community, African American, you know, we don’t always get the same response, you know, entrance.

Chanda Smith Baker  38:45

Okay, I’m processing what you’re saying. I see it. So, meaning that foundations are looking at inclusion, they want to put everybody under the same tent. Right? Every community has specific or nuanced needs, right. And instead of, instead of targeted, what a specific community needs, they’re trying to be inclusive instead of instead of targeted in their investments. Exactly, exactly. Well, on the philanthropy side, I guess, you know, like, there’s so many people that are just out here trying to raise money, you know, I’m in formal philanthropy. And so, you know, that’s been a transition within itself, right? Because I saw the limitations of it. On one side down working in it, it’s not like I don’t see some of the limitations, but I’m certainly working very hard at the Minneapolis Foundation and beyond, to make it easier and more accessible for our communities broadly, to to access resources and relationships. Sometimes it’s not money right away. Sometimes it’s a connection that helps you get some money. You know, part of what I know about you is you’re sort of I don’t know if aggressive is the right way, but you’re you’re intentional about being in relationship with people knowing that those Relationships transfer in a number of ways. And, you know, I think that it goes both ways. I think philanthropy acts as it does, but I also think community, because they’ve been excluded from formal philanthropy doesn’t always know how to engage in it, I guess I’m trying to say is like, you know, when you started, you were probably uncomfortable going in and making the ask for money, like, are you still uncomfortable? Like, are there other lessons that you can share for people that are maybe out here trying to start something, do something be in a development role that that you think would be useful to either the philanthropy or to the the person raising money?

Malik Rucker  40:36

Yeah, you know, when I, when I started out, I was a little bit nervous about making asks, because I’ve never done it. But now I got to the point where, you know, is much bigger than my nervousness, it’s, it’s about our community, and creating a safe place where we can be healthy. And when I think about that, that gives me the motivation to go out and make ask, even though it might be a little bit intimidating, when I say it’s intimidating, because you just don’t know the response that you’ll get. And I’m not saying about yes or no, I’m talking about, you know, you might not get a follow-up, you might not hear a reason why you didn’t get a follow-up. So, I think it, it makes you a little bit aware of the relationship when you make those. So, you know, to me, you know, I come into every meeting as myself. And I come in as authentic, you know, I come in just in a mindset of trying to actually build a shared value relationship for the betterment of our community, which I assume that’s why they’re there as well.

Chanda Smith Baker  41:48

Malik, what’s the best leadership advice that you have gotten?

Malik Rucker  41:52

You know, I think probably it is keeping the main thing, the main thing, and that’s something that I learned through football, there’s so much going on in the world, there’s so much that needs to be done, there’s so much that’s going on in the community, you want to do this, you want to do that, but you really got to take care of home, you got to take care of what your main focus is. And to keep that in mind that that end goal. So where you want to go and trust that process as a leader, knowing that people are counting on you to show up every day.

Chanda Smith Baker  42:27

And you know, we always try to provide some level of resource on the podcast. Is there a book that you’ve read or something that you watched? Or something that you go to that sort of inspires did inspire? Or does it inspire you on a on a daily basis? Like is there people you follow? Is there a book?

Malik Rucker  42:47

it’s so much I follow so many people, first of all, Instagram, that’s kind of how I use my Instagram is I follow inspirational people that I look up to. Nipsey Hussle was one that I really looked up to. And I still look up to him why he just, he just represents, he represented me, he’s I see myself and him. You know, he’s a, he’s an entrepreneur, he was young, probably, I don’t know, probably early 20s. And he was he was a rapper, but he was telling people don’t buy that jewlery reinvest that money, go buy some land, you know, he was just talking different. He was speaking a different language than the normal, the normal rapper that that I would listen to at the time. And I think just that and then just a follow up, follow him in his interviews and his career. You know, I think that that just, I looked at him as almost a mentor, but through YouTube, you know, him, Master P, Jay Z, Dame Dash, you know, people like that. But then, you know, Rick Ross is also one that I look up to, as far as, you know, people in the city, I got into the sports business kind of kind of world from the event that you invited me to. And I heard Kevin Warren speak. And that inspired me to think about sports in a different way. And to think about the business of sport, and not just the on-the-field part of sports. So that’s another person. And then, as far as books, you know, I’m just not getting into reading but no, I read, you know, seven habits of highly effective people shout out Sean. He gave me that recommendation. And I think that’s one that really kind of develop my mindset and how I and how I move on a daily basis. Sean Jensen, Sean Jensen here.

Chanda Smith Baker  44:37

So last question is going to be the sort of the importance of of mentorship because it’s one thing to sort of get inspiration. You talked about Instagram, you shared a book, you know, there’s sort of informal coaching or mentorship, like how have you approached that? Oh, yeah,

Malik Rucker  44:54

I have so many of them. I’m strategic about it at the same time, because mentorship would go very well. So how can you go wrong? You know, people could think that they’re thinking they’re helping you, or they’re doing the right thing. But that could be doing the total opposite. Like we talked about people saying, oh, you should have a backup plan, right. And that can start that could that could alter you from ultimately reaching your full potential. So I think that it could go wrong in different areas. That’s an example. I was just choosing about my mentorships. And who I bring into my life and that way, because of that, and for me, it’s been so beneficial to have people that I know I could call on, whether it’s, I need a reference on the college application, whether I need help and community when I need to reach somebody that they know that I don’t know, or just simply just talk about why, and in different in different areas of life. So, I think just just having people in your corner that you know, you can count on that want the best for you. And you can also give to them as well and help them be the best for themselves.

Chanda Smith Baker  46:03

And you do that formally and informally. You have like a formal cadence. People are what?

Malik Rucker  46:08

Yeah, so I have a mentor Jen. And we speak monthly, we work in similar fields, in sport business, we catch up on the month, pretty much and what’s ahead, you know, our relationship goes beyond that. But when we meet during that, that hour, we talk about more professional, we have our time to talk about personal outside of that, just think that’s important to just have somebody in the same field as you. And she also serves as, you know, a sponsor, she brings my name up in and rules that I’m not, you know, and different organizations that she’s a part of.

Chanda Smith Baker  46:42

Malik, I appreciate you being in this conversation with me, I feel like um, you know, I always love when we have these moments, because I feel like I learned a little bit more and get, get more insight to how you’re approaching sort of your work. You asked me for advice sometimes, but I sort of laughed about it, because you’re also very, you gather a lot of information. And, you know, I will show up and see you there, someone will say this is where I’m at. And I’m like, yo, what was that about? Like, I still feel like on the mom’s side, I started to drag some information and detail out of you. Matter of fact, you went to Liberia, so you go to Liberia, you’re on a panel in Liberia, and um, I ran into someone that you were at, and I’m like, I don’t even know why he was there. Because why he was there? Like, why? Why, you know, like, would you run a panel and like we’re gonna talk about, because I think there’s so many of us that have not been to Africa, right? Our Motherland. And what that meant to you to be there, and who you went with?

Malik Rucker  47:46

Yeah, I started off by saying who I went with, I went with Mrs. I call her auntie, Auntie Woke Weah, and her husband, Joe Weah, and also a colleague, Erica, you know, we went out there with Woke, and Joe, who are Liberian, and they really showed us an authentic view of Liberia really wasn’t like a touristy thing. You know, we went to, to experience the culture to experience Liberia and think about Liberia is just so unique, it’s a very unique piece of history and unique piece of Africa, as it was the place where the free slaves from America landed, it landed back in Africa. So, there was a you know, there was there was free slaves in America. So, we’ve asked then in America, we tired of this, we’re going back to Africa, and they settled in, in Liberia. And just that, just knowing that history going to the, to the place where they first touched down in Liberia, it just, it just moves you and it’s honestly hard to explain that feeling. But you can almost feel like your ancestors at that moment. And throughout the time that I was there. And you know, the people are great, um, the food is amazing. They have a lot of great merchandise. And, you know, there’s a lot of potential there in Liberia as as a country.

Chanda Smith Baker  49:23

Yeah. Talk about your experience with the kids there.

Malik Rucker  49:26

The kids are amazing. So, I visited two schools. One of the schools I met literally she’s a genius. She knows how to spell every word that you throw at her. She’s like eight years old, you know, she’s a star Liberia, everybody knows. So, I went to it was a private school. And it made me kind of more appreciate my education growing up knowing that you know, these kids, you know, we asked how did you get to school today. Some of them walk. Some of them rode on the KK which is like a almost like a go kart or like a moped. And then some people got dropped off. You know, I’m thinking, you know, they got on the school bus. But that’s not what that’s not how they got there. And then they’re in there and just we talked about infrastructure and buildings, everybody knows it’s hot in Africa, they got windows, and that’s it. There’s no AC, they send in their heart, which I’m sure they’re accustomed to a little bit, but just just being in that environment. And then just hearing them learn. They were just so educated, so smart. They speak English in Liberia and most of West Africa. So, we were able to have a lot of great conversations with those kids. And they also went to another school, which is a football academy, a soccer academy, which they had came to Minnesota as as a team and played in Blaine at the National Sports Center. And so we were able to have a lot of conversations about Minnesota. But these kids were just so dedicated to their academics and in soccer. It was it was amazing that the soccer team is coached by one of the best players on the national team, president of Liberia was a national team player, a great soccer player that a lot of people respected that world. So, it was just, it was just awesome. They were talkative, they were engaging. I had braids to all the girls at school, you got to have braids to the back. So we had the same hair. And, you know, we talked about that a little bit. So obviously, it was just, it was just so similar in ways that it felt like home, outside of kind of infrastructure.

Chanda Smith Baker  51:43

You were hot. It was, well, like I imagined that it was a life changing trip. And I’m glad you got to experience it was one of those times where I’m like now he’s inspired me one of the many times in what you and your siblings and others have inspired me that was certainly one to be able to see it. I found out more on this podcast. So, I’m grateful for this vehicle to learn a little bit more about what my child did in Africa. And thank you for joining us in this conversation Malik.

Malik Rucker  52:14

Yeah, for sure. Before we go, just the listeners out there anybody that’s interested in learning more about V three sports and what we’re doing in North Minneapolis, we got a website is V3 sports.or. We’re on Instagram @V3 sports and so we’re on Facebook and LinkedIn, V3 sports. So, add me on LinkedIn Malik Rucker, and yeah, look forward to connect. Thank you, mom, for having me on this podcast. It’s great to talk with you in this in this space. So we’ll have have dinner.

Chanda Smith Baker  52:46

I’m sure we will.

Souphak Kienitz  52:48

If you enjoy this show and want to learn more about what we do here at the Minneapolis Foundation, please visit us online at Minneapolis And of course, if you want to follow Chanda or the Minneapolis Foundation on Twitter or Instagram, that’s ChandaSBaker or MPLSfoundation. This is super Kienitz. Thanks for listening.

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About Our Guest

Malik Rucker

Malik Rucker serves as the Director of Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for V3 Sports. V3 Sports is a nonprofit located in North Minneapolis, Minnesota that is working to combat health and wellness inequities, reduce drowning disparities, and contribute to social and economic transformation in Minneapolis. Malik is passionate about being able to work in the community he was born and raised in as well as being a part of a vision and mission that directly serves the Minneapolis community.

Prior to joining V3, Malik held positions working in Community Relations for the Minnesota Twins and as a Program Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities.

Malik earned an MBA from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sport Management from Western Michigan University where he also played football.