Published on Jan 19, 2015
Silent Die-IN at Governor Dayton’s MLK Event . . .#SilentNoMore
Minneapolis, MN- “Today we performed a direct action at the State of Minnesota Governor’s Council on MLK Day Celebration in a silent protest to demand the leadership of the state take immediate action to institute meaningful, systemic policy solutions to address the worst racial disparities in the country. These racial disparities exist in every indicator of standards of living in our state including housing, employment, education, health, and policing. Every year Governor Dayton speaks on the legacy of Dr. King, yet has refused to comment on the racial inequities that continue to tear communities of color apart. His silence will leave a black mark on his legacy and only serves to trivialize the legacy of Dr. King. We take action today with these words from Dr. King echoing in our hearts: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’. We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” – MLK Letter From Birmingham Jail Today, we reclaim his legacy to fight for justice and equity for Black lives in our state and the country we call home. The message, “Black lives matter”, is important and needs to be expressed now more than ever. Every 28 hours police or vigilantes kill a black person in the United States and it is unacceptable.”
Click here to see the list of demands that Black Lives Matter puts forth to empower and protect our communities.
January 19, 2015
Letter from a Bloomington Jail (Metaphorically Speaking) and honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
by: Nekima Levy-Pounds
Minneapolis, MN – I have been reminded repeatedly over the last several months in watching the tragic events unfold in Ferguson, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and all across this country—laws without justice are meaningless. Throughout our history, we have experienced the debilitating effects of laws being written to lock us out of access to opportunity; the ability to be paid for our labor; and to criminalize our blackness.
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
We are tired of our black boys and men, and even our women and girls, being slain at the hands of police officers, security guards, or vigilantes, with little accountability to boot. This sense of fatigue and exasperation with the status quo is reminiscent of the seeds that sparked the birth of the Civil Rights Movement and after much marching, protesting, and bloodshed, prompted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to write his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” King’s prophetic letter was written in response to 8 white clergymen who implored the protesters to stop demonstrating and disrupting “business as usual.” King responded by saying, we cannot and we will not wait for justice and freedom and rights we are entitled to under the Constitution.
We are Not Satisified with the Status Quo
That same spirit of discontent with the status quo and the unequal treatment of African- Americans under the law is what has birthed the national movement known as #BlackLivesMatter. This movement resulted from young people of color deciding that they could no longer tolerate the gross injustices within our systems and the high tolerance for police abuse and misconduct happening throughout the country. Much like protesters during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s, participants of #BlackLivesMatter, have stood on the front lines braving arrests, police violence, surveillance, chemical weapons, and hostility from those who are comfortable with the status quo. Yet, even in the face of such adversity, the young people have demonstrated remarkable courage to continue standing, marching, and fighting for our freedom. They are standing on the right side of history.
Here in Minnesota, young people came together under the banner of #BlackLivesMpls and began organizing events in solidarity with protesters around the country. In spite of Minnesota’s reputation as being “liberal and progressive,” our state has some of the worst racial disparities in the country across health, wealth, education, employment, infant mortality rates, home ownership, and criminal justice. And we are not immune from problems between police and communities of color, with some of our most racially diverse areas experiencing high rates of racial profiling, unjust arrests, and excessive force, with little political will to address these issues. It is a national embarrassment. Yet, rather than act with fierce urgency to reverse course; we remain in a state of “donothingness” as things grow worse for our most vulnerable populations.
Photo of Taye taken at Mall of America Demonstration
In light of these concerns, #BlackLivesMpls organized a nonviolent, peaceful demonstration at the Mall of America (MOA) in Bloomington, one of the most visible locations in the country. On December 20, 2014, 3,000 people from all walks of life descended upon MOA to sing, chant, and to remind the world that #BlackLivesMatter. Rather than welcome the demonstrators into MOA, we were met by police in riot gear. In spite of the demonstration being peaceful, roughly two dozen people were arrested, stores were shut down by mall security and police, and exits were sealed. What started as a demonstration of Dr. King’s vision of the “beloved community,” became a reminder of what Dr. King warned could destroy our nation: The triple giants of racism, militarism, and extreme materialism. All three of those giants were present that day at MOA and they set out to crush the spirits of “the little guy.”
Political Prosecutions as Retaliation
In the aftermath of the demonstration, the Bloomington City Attorney, Sandra Johnson, spoke to the media about wanting to “make an example” out of the protest organizers, and that she would not only bring criminal charges, but would seek “reparations” for the cost of overtime police and security. To the average person, Sandra Johnson’s misuse of prosecutorial discretion to “punish” protest organizers is disturbing, to say the least. Two days ago, she decided to charge ten “leaders” of the demonstration with misdemeanor counts ranging from disorderly conduct, to trespass, to public nuisance, and she is seeking tens of thousands of dollars in “reparations.” Much to my surprise, I was one of the ten people who were charged. Not only was I charged, despite being a civil rights lawyer, I was one of two people with the most charges, eight misdemeanor counts in fact. I can’t help but think that my outspokenness on issues such as police accountability and calls for reform played a role in Ms. Johnson’s decision to bring charges against me in an attempt to publicly humiliate me, to silence my voice, and to curb my advocacy for justice. Even my home address was included in the complaint, with no regard for the safety of my children and family in making such a public disclosure. This amounts to political persecution and is a gross misuse of prosecutorial discretion and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Thankfully, these intimidation tactics will not be effective in shutting down our movement. Our voices will only grow stronger in the process.
We are in a Metaphorical Jail
Although neither of the ten of us were charged physically went to jail for our alleged “crimes”, in many ways, it feels as though we are locked in a metaphorical jail for our willingness to stand up for justice and equality. I posit, the metaphorical ‘Bloomington Jail’ to which we have been sentenced is a microcosm of the condition of confinement in which African Americans are subjected to in the state of Minnesota and in many places around the country due to barriers at the intersections of race, criminal justice, and socio-economic status. We can’t breathe because of the persistence of racial inequality and oppression. We can’t breathe because of the constant denial of our basic human rights and human dignity. We can’t breathe when we are being told to just sit back and tolerate these deplorable conditions. We must decide that it is time to break free from our metaphorical Bloomington jail cells and demand equal justice and equal treatment under the law, just as Dr. King and others did during the Civil Rights Movement.
I applaud the young people across the country and in Minnesota who remain steadfast in declaring that #BlackLivesMatter and who refuse to give up. I urge them to continue the fight until our change comes. And the rest of us must join them. That’s what Dr. King would have wanted and that’s how we can really honor his legacy. All else is but a shallow, anemic celebration of his life.
Nekima Levy-Pounds is an award-winning professor of law, civil rights attorney, and a nationally recognized expert on a range of civil rights and social justice issues at the intersections of race, public policy, economic justice, public education, juvenile justice and the criminal justice system and host of Real Talk with Nekima Levy-Pounds. Recently honored by MN Lawyer Magazine on its 2014 Minnesota Lawyer of the Year list, Lawyers of Color Magazine List of 50 under 50 Most Influential Law Professors of Color in the U.S., 2014 Faculty Member of the Year by the Black Law Students Association.
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Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds joins to discuss #BlackLivesMatter, her experience in #Ferguson, racial justice in 2014-2015 and her work as director of the Community Justice Project at the University of St. Thomas. Listen here: AM950 The Daily Report with Nekima Levy-Pounds
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 14, 2015
Media Contact: Gabriela Linder 702.885.8708
PRESS CONFERENCE SCHEDULED BY NEKIMA LEVY-POUNDS AT 7PM TO ADDRESS THE CRIMINAL
CHARGES FILED AGAINST HER , #BLACKLIVESMATTER ORGANIZERS AND PROTESTERS BY BLOOMINGTON CITY ATTORNEY, SANDRA JOHNSON
Minneapolis, MN – Professor of Law at the University of St. Thoms, Director of the Community Justice Project and civil rights attorney, Nekima Levy-Pounds has called a press conference this evening at 7pm to address the criminal charges filed against her, #blacklivesmatter organizers and protesters by Bloomington City Attorney, Sandra Johnson. The press conference will take place at the Sabathani Community Center located at 310 East 38th Street, 2nd floor boardroom #218, Minneapolis, MN 55409 (Directions)
About Nekima Levy-Pounds (www.nekimalevypounds.com)
Nekima Levy-Pounds is a Professor of Law and a naionally recognized expert on a wide range of civil rights and social justice issues, including, economic justice, public education, juvenile justice, and the criminal justice system. She is also the author of numerous scholarly articles and essays on structural and systemic issues that impact poor communities of color. She is the founding director of the “Community Justice Project”, an award-winning civil rights legal clinic, which focuses on intersecting issues of race, poverty, and social justice through direct advocacy, research, and writing at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Professor LevyPounds serves as the Chair of the “Minnesota State Advisory Committee” to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and is the Co-chair of “Everybody In,” a regional collaboration of 40 stakeholders across different sectors working to close the racial unemployment gaps in our region by 2020.
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