FLINT, Michigan — Anna Mansfield grew up in Flint, one of five children and part of an extended family filled with entrepreneurs. After graduating from Flint Southwestern Academy she went off to college and spent a decade away — earning two college degrees, building her own businesses and developing her career.
She returned home to Flint a year ago, filled with life experiences and a desire to be closer to family. Mansfield, 28, found that Flint had changed.
“It was really different because just to see how much the Flint Water Crisis changed the people not only physically but mentally,” said Mansfield. “Like growing up in Flint, it seemed like it was more community-based — but then when it came back it was more individualistic.”
She also returned home with a greater understanding of how the rest of the world views Flint. She saw how the place she loves is portrayed in the media. She grew tired of the focus on Flint’s problems with little or no attention given to the other things also happening in Flint.
She knew there was so much more to Flint. And, now she is a part of telling those stories.
Mansfield is the new engagement manager for Flintside’s On the Ground program in the Civic Park neighborhood. In her role, she will build connections and relationships in the neighborhood, host community events, and ensure residents remain the driving force behind Flintside’s On the Ground coverage.
“It’s going to liberate the whole neighborhood and inspire people to get out and continue to do good work or want to do good work or even coming up with different ideas and motivate (us) to do good work,” said Mansfield.
Related story: Flintside partners with Civic Park neighborhood to launch On the Ground
Already with On the Ground, she see stories being told and people being highlighted in ways they never have been before. She sees Flintside’s focus on Civic Park sparking additional interest from other media and potentially opening up doors for residents and organizations here.
“I think it's going to impact a lot of people and generations to come,” Mansfield said.
Mansfield’s roots in Flint are deep. She grew up on Mason Street off Dupont, just a few blocks south of the Civic Park neighborhood. She remembers attending St. Mark’s preschool and Martin Luther King Elementary.
She comes from a family filled with entrepreneurs. Blessed International Homecare, Tee Essentials, Belle Beauty, Honey Bear Holdings, and Treys Landscaping are just some of the business conquests held by her mother, uncle, siblings, and cousins.
“I started working at a really young age. … My first job was probably at 4 or 5. I was selling M&M’s for the Boys and Girls Club through my grandfather.”
After graduating from Southwestern Academy, she moved to Grand Rapids where she earned an associate’s degree from Grand Rapids Community College and her bachelor’s from Ferris State University.
While still in college, she launched CareActors R'Us, a troop of traveling performers who provided educational lessons to students with special needs and disabilities through entertaining characters. Her business took her all across the country to Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Chicago.
Since moving back to Flint’s northside, Mansfield has been operating her own business serving as an independent business consultant — helping to shape the inspiration, strategy, and executions of clients' business projects.
At present, Mansfield is using her entrepreneurial prowess to further shape On the Ground outreach and strategy — starting with the upcoming Editorial Advisory Meeting set for 2 p.m. Monday, June 17 at Joy Tabernacle Church.
Related story: What stories need to be told about Flint's Civic Park neighborhood?
As engagement manager, Mansfield said she is excited to meet residents throughout the neighborhood, hear their issues and ideas, and further connect them to a project that prioritizes their stories.
“I think On the Ground is going to put Civic Park on the map,” said Mansfield.
Want to talk with Anna? She can be reached at [email protected].