'This is the moment when I have to shine'
Massene Mboup says Lake Oswego is a community filled with love. That's why he wants to be more involved at the city level: to bring more love into the city — and some change.
Mboup is one of five community members running for three open seats on the Lake Oswego City Council. And this isn't Mboup's first time running for a seat. Mboup lost by 47 votes to current Council President Jackie Manz in 2018, but he said the timing was right to try again.
"If I knew what I know now, it would have been different," Mboup said of the 2018 results. "I need to do this because now I'm a citizen. This city, contrary to what people can think or say, it's a great city and I say I'm going to be involved."
Mboup's interest in city government and politics stems back to his life in Senegal.
He said he was heavily involved in the student movement, the teacher's union, the university board where he attended college and the school of education board. He even ran for a seat on parliament a year before he came to the United States, though the campaign was unsuccessful.
"I always thought it was the only way. I have the obsession that things need to be made perfect, but it's only by being involved — you cannot wait for others to do it. I just believe in that," Mboup said.
Growing up, Mboup said his father was involved with the city and politics as well.
"My dad was who I celebrate today. He was working for the city. He retired as a city worker working on finances as a collector," Mboup said. "He worked with the city but was in the opposition and at that time, it was very hard."
Mboup remembers creating his first cartoon in fifth grade. It was a political cartoon supporting the candidate of the opposition party who eventually became president, he said.
Mboup added that he grew up in an atmosphere where students were always on strike, political heat sometimes resulted in violence and there were people fighting in the streets for democracy.
"I was very vocal in the student movement and in the political life also I was vocal," Mboup said.
"At the end we made some changes. I wasn't there when change arrived, but I contributed to that."
He said he received his "political consciousness" from his father and that he grew up in an atmosphere of fear.
"Hindsight, I think yeah, those were things that always wanted me to be curious about what was happening," Mboup said. "Those early years forged my interest in politics."
Mboup attended the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Senegal, where he received his bachelor's degree in general linguistics and phonetics and his master's in American literature and civilization.
He moved to America 22 years ago and recently received his doctorate degree in educational leadership curriculum and instruction from Portland State University. He also became a U.S. citizen the day of the solar eclipse in 2017.
When he first arrived in the United States, Mboup took a job at a French school in Portland as a kindergarten teacher. When that school closed down, he decided he wanted to open his own school — and made it happen.
He is one of the founders and the executive director of the International Leadership Academy in Lake Oswego.
"I always thought the way schooling was done was not perfect," Mboup said. "I'm not saying it was wrong, but we can have a better model of education if it's started by teachers who understand certain things."
He quickly put pen to paper and started creating curriculum, starting his school with just one student enrolled. The school now resides at Hope Community Church and is currently open for emergency care.
"We have one of the best outdoor areas in all schools. That's why we opened during COVID," Mboup said. "We try to follow the guidance and all the safety measures — temperature checks ... wearing masks, washing hands, staying as much as possible outside."
Pastor Keith Dickerson at Hope Community Church said he knows Mboup in both a professional and friendship setting.
"I believe that Massene fills the void on our council to represent from the standpoint of his ability to be fair while mediating between opposing viewpoints," Dickerson said. "I've seen that in action with him in so many different ways. I think that's always a good thing on a city council."
Dickerson said he also believes Mboup has a global viewpoint since he is progressive and has traveled the world. He added that Mboup is good at working toward solutions and deciding the appropriate timing for implementation.
In Lake Oswego, Mboup also serves on the city's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force as well as the school board's budget committee.
Mboup is married and has three boys, Daour, Mbagnick and Nathan.
"They love each other; they're brothers," he said. "If you don't love people, you should not lead them, you should not be in a position of power of any sort or of leadership … We need some love; we need to love each other unconditionally."
He said both he and his children have experienced oppression and racism — and that he wants to work together to make positive change in the community, rather than tear each other down.
"I saw a lot of love in the community in these very complicated times of COVID, of social unrest, because of racism, which is a fact something we have to face," Mboup said. "I just say I can bring something to the table because we are better together when we work together.
"This is the moment when I have to shine, show people that things can be changed, that there are problems, of course, but we have to face the problems and bring solutions."
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