Nekima Levy Armstrong
Nekima Levy Armstrong
Levy Armstrong in 2015 at a press conference regarding the death of Jamar Clark
|President of the Minneapolis NAACP|
|Preceded by||Jerry McAfee|
|Succeeded by||Jason Sole|
June 27, 1976
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Illinois (J.D.)|
University of Southern California (B.A.)
Nekima Valdez Levy Armstrong (born Nekima Levy-Pounds, June 27, 1976) is an American lawyer, professor, activist, minister and writer. She served as president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP from 2015–2016. She also serves on and has founded a variety of organizations that focus on issues of racial equality and disparity in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area.
Levy Armstrong was an associate professor of law at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in Minneapolis from 2003 to 2016. After leaving her position at UST and concluding her term as Minneapolis NAACP president, she announced her intention to run for mayor of Minneapolis in the 2017 election, ultimately coming in fifth place. Levy Armstrong has written pieces for several local publications including the Star Tribune and MinnPost and has been recognized for her legal work, including being named 2015 Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer.
Nekima Valdez Levy Armstrong (nee Levy-Pounds) was born on June 27, 1976, in Jackson, Mississippi, the eldest sister of five. She moved to South Central Los Angeles after spending the first eight years of her life in Mississippi, and at fourteen years old was accepted to attend the Brooks School of North Andover, Massachusetts, as a boarding student. She later went on to receive her BA from the University of Southern California and her J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. Levy Armstrong lived in Los Angeles until 2003 when she moved to Minnesota.
Professorship and early projects (2003–2014)
Levy Armstrong began teaching law as an associate professor at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in Minneapolis in 2003. In her research, she has focused on the War on Drugs, incarceration, mandatory sentencing, and sentencing guidelines, primarily as they affect women and children of color, but also young black men. In 2006, Levy Armstrong founded the Community Justice Project (CJP), a partnership between UST's School of Law and the Saint Paul chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The CJP allows law students interested in working with underserved communities to gain experience through academic writing, fora, and interaction with local governments and communities.
In 2011 Levy Armstrong, along with the activist and writer Lissa Jones began fundraising for a new African American history museum to be built in South Minneapolis. Despite winning Minnesota Legacy Amendment funding and garnering large donations and loans from prominent community organizations like the Carl Pohlad Foundation, the project was ultimately shuttered with no plans to begin again.
Levy Armstrong cofounded Brotherhood Inc., an organization dedicated to helping young African American men stay away from gang activity and prison. Using what Levy Armstrong described as "a proven holistic approach to community building that employs culturally sensitive social services, educational opportunities, and on-site employment", Brotherhood began by selling a blend of coffee, Brotherhood Brew, and currently has plans to open a coffee shop in Saint Paul. She chairs the Minnesota State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and Everybody In, a nonprofit with the goal of closing race-based employment gaps in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. As a writer, Levy Armstrong has had opinions and articles published in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, MinnPost, and the Star Tribune. She formerly preached at Minneapolis's First Covenant Church every other month.
Levy Armstrong has garnered several accolades including being named one of "50 Under 50" by Lawyers of Color, Minnesota Lawyer's Attorney of the Year in 2015, and receiving the Hennepin County Bar Association's Diversity Award.
Initial Black Lives Matter work (2014–2015)
In mid-2014, Levy Armstrong participated in the anti-police brutality protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In December 2014, she took part in a Black Lives Matter protest of police brutality at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. She and ten other protesters were charged by the City of Bloomington with disorderly conduct and trespass which carries a maximum penalty of a fine up to $8,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years. Restitution charges for $40,000 against the protesters were later withdrawn by the city. In November 2015, a Hennepin County judge dismissed the charges against Levy Armstrong and the ten others charged by Bloomington.
Minneapolis NAACP presidency (2015–2016)
Jerry McAfee served as president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP until 2015, at which point Levy Armstrong decided to run. She won the election unopposed on the ballot but faced criticism from McAfee who contended that she was too focused on issues of police brutality to the neglect of concerns such as crime perpetrated against African Americans by African Americans. Levy Armstrong stated that she hoped to increase youth engagement with the NAACP during her term with the organization. She has been critical of racial disparities in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul region, citing them as some of the nation's worst.
In November 2015, following the shooting death of Jamar Clark at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Levy Armstrong was involved in a human blockade of Interstate 94. Of the approximately 40 protesters, Levy Armstrong was among the first arrested for the action. MinnPost wrote that she served as a leader in the subsequent protests against Clark's killing.
Levy Armstrong left her professorship with UST at the end of July 2016 to devote herself full-time to addressing issues of economic and racial justice. She announced in October of that year that she did not intend to seek a second term as president of the Minneapolis NAACP, but that she "plan[s] to have an even more visible presence in the community". As her successor, Levy Armstrong nominated Jason Sole, an activist and professor of criminal justice. He won the election and credited Levy Armstrong with leading the Minneapolis chapter of the organization in its support of BLM, describing Minneapolis's as "the only branch in the country to stand so closely with Black Lives Matter".
Mayoral bid (2016–2017)
On November 15, 2016, a year after the death of Jamar Clark, Levy Armstrong announced her intention to run for mayor of Minneapolis in the city's 2017 election as a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL). The announcement was held outside Minneapolis's 4th Precinct police station, where protesters had demonstrated against Clark's killing for 18 days the year before. Levy Armstrong faced incumbent mayor Betsy Hodges, also a member of the DFL, and several other candidates. Although running as a DFL member, Armstrong opted in April 2017 to forego the party nomination process, citing what she described as the "confusing and unwelcoming" nature of the Minneapolis DFL's caucuses and convention. She lost to Jacob Frey, coming in fifth overall.
Levy Armstrong lived in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, until September 2015 when she moved to north Minneapolis. She is married and has five children, two of whom are adopted. She was ordained as a minister in 2016.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2006). "Beaten by the System and Down for the Count: Why Poor Women of Color and Children Don't Stand a Chance against U.S. Drug-Sentencing Policy" (PDF). University of St. Thomas Law Journal. 3 (3): 462–495.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2007). "From the Frying Pan into the Fire: How Poor Women of Color and Children are Affected by Sentencing Guidelines and Mandatory Minimums" (PDF). Santa Clara Law Review. 47 (2): 285–346.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2010). "Can These Bones Live: A Look at the Impacts of the War on Drugs on Poor African-American Children and Families". Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal. 7: 353–380.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2013). "Going up in Smoke: The Impacts of the Drug War on Young Black Men". Albany Government Law Review. 6: 563–589.
- Regan, Sheila (June 5, 2014). "Nekima Levy-Pounds walks the walk for civil rights and social justice". Twin Cities Daily Planet. Archived from the original on June 14, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Karnowski, Steve (November 23, 2015). "Minneapolis protest leader is preacher, lawyer, '60s-style agitator". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Archived from the original on May 30, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
- Colbert, Jr., Harry (June 24, 2016). "Candid Talk From Nekima Levy-Pounds". Insight News. Archived from the original on June 25, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
- Yuan, Mina (January 2016). "The Minneapolis NAACP president, civil rights attorney, activist and law professor talks Jamar Clark, racial tension and how youth can create change" (PDF). ThreeSixty Journalism. Saint Paul, MN: University of St. Thomas. p. 16. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
Mina: To start off, I know you grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Could you tell me a little about what challenges you faced as a teenager trying to contribute to or create change? Nekima: Well, one of the things that impacted me most as a kid in South Central was the fact that one of my classmates was killed. So when I was 14, I got a scholarship to attend a boarding school in North Andover, Massachusetts, called the Brooks School. And I was there at this affluent boarding school, and then … right before spring break, my mom called me, and she told me that one of my classmates by the name of Latasha Harlins was killed. She was shot in the back of the head by a store owner.
- Du, Susan (April 27, 2015). "St. Paul Anti-Racism Leaders' Humble Roots". City Pages. Archived from the original on August 29, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
- Yuccas, Jamie (May 5, 2015). "Minnesotan To Meet: Mpls. NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds". WCCO-TV. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- "Nekima Levy-Pounds". School of Law. University of St. Thomas (Minnesota). Archived from the original on January 2, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Williams, Brandt (May 1, 2015). "Activist Levy-Pounds hopes young people energize NAACP". MPR News. Archived from the original on August 30, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2013). "Going up in Smoke: The Impacts of the Drug War on Young Black Men". Albany Government Law Review. 6: 563–589. Retrieved June 12, 2015. – via Hein Online (subscription required)
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2007). "From the Frying Pan into the Fire: How Poor Women of Color and Children are Affected by Sentencing Guidelines and Mandatory Minimums" (PDF). Santa Clara Law Review. 47 (2): 285–346. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2010). "Can These Bones Live: A Look at the Impacts of the War on Drugs on Poor African-American Children and Families". Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal. 7: 353–380. Retrieved June 12, 2015. – via Hein Online (subscription required)
- Dunlop, Sybil (February 20, 2015). "Attorneys of the Year: Nekima Levy-Pounds". Minnesota Lawyer. Archived from the original on March 24, 2015. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Golden, Erin (September 22, 2015). "After lawsuit, Minnesota African American Museum building sold at public auction". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on April 24, 2017. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Stroud, Jr., James L. (December 14, 2011). "Local law professor finds her calling in civil rights work". Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Archived from the original on June 30, 2015. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
- Norfleet, Nicole (May 4, 2015). "Black Lives Matter advocate elected to lead Minneapolis NAACP". Star Tribune. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Kimball, Joe (April 3, 2014). "St. Thomas law professor Levy-Pounds makes Lawyers of Color top list". MinnPost. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Furst, Randy (November 14, 2016). "Civil rights activist Nekima Levy-Pounds to run for Mpls. mayor". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on February 28, 2017. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- Hallman, Charles (January 21, 2015). "Mall protester Levy-Pounds vows to fight charges". Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Reinan, John; Olson, Rochelle (November 10, 2015). "Judge dismisses charges against Black Lives Matter organizers of MoA protest". Star Tribune. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- Reilly, Mark (May 4, 2015). "Nekima Levy-Pounds voted in as Minneapolis NAACP president". Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
- Roberts, Ashley (November 17, 2015). "Minneapolis NAACP President Speaks Out On I-94 Arrests". WCCO-TV. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
- Lambert, Brian (February 2, 2016). "How the Black Lives Matter movement is changing local reporting". MinnPost. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- Sawyer, Liz (May 28, 2016). "NAACP head Nekima Levy-Pounds to leave St. Thomas law school". Star Tribune. Retrieved May 28, 2016.
- Furst, Randy (October 6, 2016). "Nekima Levy-Pounds will not seek second term as Minneapolis NAACP president". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on October 7, 2016. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
- Tigue, Kristoffer (November 14, 2016). "'There are times you must agitate': a Q&A with new NAACP Minneapolis president Jason Sole". MinnPost. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
- Callaghan, Peter (February 22, 2017). "What the major Minneapolis mayor candidates' kickoff events say about their campaigns". MinnPost. Archived from the original on October 10, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
- Belz, Adam (April 4, 2017). "Nekima Levy-Pounds says she won't seek DFL endorsement in Minneapolis mayor's race". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on June 14, 2017. Retrieved November 9, 2017.
- "2017 Election Results". Star Tribune. Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
- Levy-Pounds, Nekima (2015). "Protecting our black sons: A mother's perspective on race, police abuse and effecting change". Minnesota Women's Press. Archived from the original on February 27, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2015.