Victoria McWane-Creek: Practicing Community

Victoria McWane-Creek; photo Sarah Whiting

Victoria McWane-Creek sat in a victim advocacy conference in 2010 with 500 women in Black and brown bodies. They were involved in a struggle to eliminate violence in their communities in all its shapes: domestic abuse, substance abuse, sexual violence, poverty, and homelessness. In the final session on the final day during a question-and-answer session, a woman approached one of the microphones positioned around the room and asked, “What about me?”

She recounted an experience of same-gender domestic violence and how it felt to lie in an emergency room hospital bed, bandaged and bruised, and watch her abuser being permitted to visit because there was no concept of a female domestic violence perpetrator. The woman said the experience made her feel invisible.

McWane-Creek has a master’s degree in Instructional Design and Human Performance Improvement from the University of North Dakota. She describes this moment as one that forever altered her approach to her work. “It completely changed how I choose to show up,” she says.

Since then, whether it is adolescents with severe emotional and behavioral disorders or her anti-poverty work with Otter Tail Wadena Community Action, McWane-Creek endeavored to make visible the invisible and to amplify the voices of the unheard. She aims to “help people close the gap between where they are and where they want to be.”

An Awakening

The middle child of three, McWane-Creek grew up in Chicago in the 1980s with her dad, brothers, and an extended family of grandparents and aunts. Her father relocated with her and her two brothers to Ironton, near Brainerd. She experienced overt racism there for the first time as an 8-year- old when a classmate called her the n-word.

In 2006, after getting a college degree and launching a professional career, McWane-Creek moved back to Minnesota so that her two children could know their grandfather. For nearly three years, she worked with Americorp Vista around anti-poverty issues. “Poverty looks different in rural communities,” she says. “Someone can own a home and have no food in their pantry.”

In 2009, she and her partner lived for a few months in Fergus Falls, where they both experienced profiling incidents. Her partner, for example, faced police for “suspicious behavior” while entering their home. The family moved to Underwood, 20 minutes away, in search of a safer environment to raise their children, and returned to Fergus Falls in 2017 after their youngest daughter graduated from high school.

With continued experiences of racism, McWane-Creek decided to put her training into action.

A Pivot Point

McWane-Creek is a facilitator with the Minnesota Campus Compact Communities of Practice and the Minnesota Council of Churches Respectful Conversations Project. The programs offer a framework to share knowledge, strategize for improvement, and hold one another accountable to grow. In short, she facilitates “depolarizing dialogue.”

During a family gathering in a park, she and her family faced a car full of raucous young men shouting racial slurs. Concerned about the Black and brown students she served in the community, she felt obligated to do something.

She wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, which sparked a public gathering to discuss the growing racially motivated abuse that was happening in Fergus Falls.

A group was formed that met regularly to “do the work.” Their year-long awareness-building campaign culminated in the “Rural Racial Equity Summit,” held in January 2020. Among the speakers in Fergus Falls was Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Making a Difference

McWane-Creek believes that recognizing and engaging with differences — instead of minimizing or ignoring them — is important. Classism, income inequality, educational access, or learning styles are all differences that tend to impact people with Black and brown bodies. If we don’t acknowledge those differences, she says, nothing changes.

People in white bodies need to use their privilege and power to create systemic change, McWane-Creek says.

She says the challenge that comes when people want to broaden their understanding of structural inequities should not be underestimated. “It can be uncomfortable,” she explained. “The work is often more internal than people want to believe.”

To drive change, McWane-Creek ran for City Council in Fergus Falls in 2020, losing to the incumbent by a few hundred votes. Her reason for running was to be able to “stand up and say, ‘this isn’t quite working for everybody and, until it does, [that means] it doesn’t work.’”

Victoria McWane-Creek says skills can be learned in raising awareness, group facilitation, and conflict resolution policy review. She designed Communities of Practice to guide progress for participants to talk about what they are learning. For information about how to launch a Communities of Practice where you live, contact Victoria at