When Malik Rucker pops into a zoom meeting, he’s all smiles. As the conversation begins, his energy and enthusiasm are contagious, even though we’re merely connected virtually on computer screens. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind since being named V3’s Director of Partnerships and Community Engagement. It’s been non-stop. Meetings. Getting caught up on the V3 Community Center project. Envisioning the impact V3 will on the Northside.
“Pretty busy right now, pretty busy time, but it’s all good,” he explains, cracking another smile.
If you’re reading this, Rucker wants to connect with you. His first request of us? Share his contact information with anybody and everybody (firstname.lastname@example.org)! If you’re a North-sider, there’s a good chance Mailk knows you, or your cousin or sister or father, or your good friend from around the way. If he doesn’t know you, then he wants to get to know you and learn more about you. Where are you from? What’s your passion? What can V3 bring to the community? How can we get you involved with V3’s mission and journey?
With Malik, it’s all about you, but we coaxed some information out of him, about him, for you! He glosses over his storied high school and collegiate football career, where he was an all-conference, all-metro team captain as a shutdown corner before playing at both the University of Iowa and Western Michigan University. This summer, he will also earn his MBA University of North Texas. Upon graduation, he wanted to come home to put his Sports Management degree to good use. He really couldn’t wait to come home.
We’ll let Mr. Rucker describe himself, in his own words.
On being back in North Minneapolis:
“I’m a fifth-generation North-sider. My family has been here for a very long time. I was born and raised here. My mother lives over North, my father lives over North, my aunties…. Others, just everybody. North is just so vibrant. It’s about community, it’s diverse, it’s art, it’s family, and it’s love. People come together and there are a lot of families that are connected. It’s just a beautiful, diverse place. It’s really how I see my family, my mother, my father, my brothers; they all work in the community. My elders, my other relatives, they work here in the community, so it was only right. It just wouldn’t feel the same working in another state or even, maybe, another city.”
On the excitement building around the V3 Center:
“When I was younger they used to label us “at-risk” and “underserved” but I always felt like that was kind of… they tried to box us in, you know what I mean. To be able to break out of that box and then be able to come back and share what I’ve learned as well as be part of a project like V3 (and the V3 Center) that will ultimately impact the whole Northside, not to mention the state and region? As I said before, the possibilities are just mind-blowing. It’s going to be built and run by the community. There will be ownership from the community. It’s going to be “all hands on deck” from the construction workers to the people that are working in the building to the leadership, staff, the board; there will be community felt on every level of this project, of this center. It’s just amazing. I don’t think there’s a center like this, creating those equitable experiences to make sure everybody has access to health and wellness. Top tier health and wellness. And the awareness opportunities, as well as addressing drowning and swimming disparities within the black community. I really appreciate it!”
Okay, so Malik steered the conversation back to V3. We asked what a Center like this would have meant to him as a kid growing up in North.
The impact of the V3 Center’s pools on North Minneapolis:
“My father doesn’t know how to swim. I just remember vividly going out of town with him. He was in 3 feet of water and he fell under and he panicked. ‘Bro, all you have to do is stand up!’ He didn’t get the whole swimming concept. For me, I was exposed to swimming early on in New Hope. I had to go to New Hope to learn how to swim. But if I could have just gone down the street, that would have just connected me to the community even further. It would have been a great opportunity. V3 is going to make sure there are equitable experiences in swimming and bring marquee events that will be right here on the Northside of Minneapolis. We wouldn’t get those otherwise.”
“V3 is going to make sure there are equitable experiences in swimming and bring marquee events that will be right here on the Northside of Minneapolis. We wouldn’t get those otherwise.”
— Malik Rucker
What the Center’s health and wellness opportunities would have meant back in the day:
“I would never think that something like this could be built on the Northside, that somebody wants to put this on the Northside (is amazing). When I was a kid, when I was growing up training to be an elite athlete, I had to go to Eden Prairie. I had to go to Maple Grove. I had to go all the way to the suburbs. Luckily, I had a father that believed in me and took the time to bring me to the suburbs that had these elite facilities to make sure I had the best training. Soon, these kids can catch the bus and they’ll be able to get dropped off right in front of the V3 Center. There won’t be a transportation issue.”
Okay. Let’s get back to that email address (malik@V3sports.org). V3’s Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships can’t wait to connect with you!
On his role as a connector and relationship builder to move V3’s mission forward:
“I’ll be hitting up the Northside of Minneapolis, letting people know that this is for you, and this is what it (V3 Center) will provide. We hope you will utilize it and we hope that you will support us. I’ll just be engaging the community, creating that excitement; lots of zoom calls and site tours. We need support from our leaders. (We need) our community leaders that believe in us to share what we’re doing with their networks to push for us, to show up for us, because it’s going to benefit everyone. It’s going to benefit their kids, their families, their kids’ families. The V3 Center will be in our community for a very, very long time. I think it’s in everybody’s best interest to come together and have that collective effort and just fight for what we’ve been wanting for a long time. A lot of people have been asking for something like this.”
You’ve got that email address? Here’s another link (www.v3sports.org/donate/). We’re inviting both large and small donations to fund the construction of the first phase of the V3 Center, which will include the already purchased, 25-yard instructional pool. We welcome your support!