Women who lead MPLS NAACP

Best of Neighborhood News 11/24: Women who lead MPLS NAACP, Fourth Precinct protest status

The Minnesota Women’s Press published a feature profiling the ways the new women leading Minneapolis’ NAACP chapter are taking a fresh approach that combines activism and policy-making. Revitalizing a venerable organization takes bulldog determination, says Nekima Levy-Pounds, the new president of the Minneapolis NAACP. That’s exactly the quality the organization’s first all- female elected board of directors has in abundance. In a special election in May – held because the Minneapolis branch had gone virtually dormant – NAACP members elected Levy-Pounds, first vice president Natonia Johnson, second vice president Cathy Jones, treasurer Helen Bassett, secretary Kerry Jo Felder, assistant treasurer Ashley Oliver and assistant secretary Bertha Daniels. The women didn’t run together as a slate. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | An open letter to the faith community: A call to action

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40We are a nation divided.Nothing illustrates that more than the cascading protests, rallies, and ardent cries for justice in the aftermath of the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Those outcries and the concurrent spirit of indifference on the part of many privileged Americans tell us all we need to know about how far we still have to go before we see each other the way God would expect.Indeed, the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, painfully reminds African Americans as a community that in spite of possessing the unsurpassable worth granted by Christ, black life is without value to the broader society.While many of us expected to hear words of comfort, hope, and a renewed call for love and justice in our respective houses of worship, instead most of us encountered a resounding immoral silence. Although this silence has been most pronounced and identifiable recently, it is not new. It has been a hallmark of our hasty acceptance of a supposedly post-racial nation, and has contributed to the suffering of the most vulnerable, and “the least of these” within our society.Poor people in general suffer from limited opportunity and access to basic necessities. However, poor boys and men of color – especially African Americans – not only suffer in ways that degrade their humanity, but they are systematically excluded from equitable participation within our society, are denied access to equal opportunity, and are blamed for conditions that have been constructed to disadvantage them.These young men are often feared, viewed with suspicion, criminalized, harassed, and treated with contempt. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | In the aftermath of Zimmerman’s acquittal, racial justice remains elusive

Let’s face it, America has not done a very good job of reconciling its ugly and painful history of racism and oppression against African Americans and other people of color. The predominant attitude seems to be that what happened in the past stays in the past and that history has little to no bearing upon current happenings within our society. Sadly, as illustrated in the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin and in the aftermath of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, this could not be further from the truth. In this case, race played a significant role in the fact that Trayvon Martin, a young African American male, was profiled and stereotyped by Zimmerman as a criminal who was “up to no good,” as he walked in the rain through a gated community in Sanford, Florida.The lingering perception of the Black man as criminal and suspicious has plagued young African American men since the days of slavery and beyond. In fact, throughout the South following the abolition of slavery, laws were created that made standard behavior by Black men a crime and led to high rates of incarceration for that segment of the population. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Public reaction to Rachel Jeantel: Evidence that race still matters

Last week, while watching the George Zimmerman murder trial, I was struck by the ways in which race, racism, and socio-economic status continue to play a key role in determining who lives and who dies and who has value and who is perceived as having little value in our society. The fact that in this day and age an African American boy could be targeted for “walking while Black” speaks volumes about the undercurrent of hazardous race relations that are ever-present, yet hidden, until an explosive situation occurs that reminds us of its clandestine and shameful existence. If anyone is under the illusion that race is no longer an issue, then one should look no further than Rachel Jeantel, and America’s response to her appearance in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Indeed, Rachel Jeantel is a 19 year old high school student, a friend of Trayvon Martin who happened to be the last person he spoke to before he was killed, and the star witness for the prosecution in this case. As a teenager, thrust into the middle of arguably one of the greatest controversies of this decade, it is not hard to imagine why Rachel Jeantel would be reluctant to come forward as a witness. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum: Not sexist, not Minnesota Nice either

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum that was held at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. The Forum was designed to carve out a unique space in which candidates for the Minneapolis Mayoral race would be called upon to bring forth specific solutions to address the growing racial disparities in the City. Unlike traditional political forums, the One Minneapolis Forum was organized by youth workers who are routinely forced to confront the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment through the eyes of the young people they serve. In addition to a specific focus on socio-economic disparities, the Forum organizers sought to ensure that racial disparities would for once be front and center in a major mayoral debate, as opposed to a peripheral issue, as is often the case in such forums. For a video replay, see http://www.theuptake.org/2013/06/06/minneapolis-mayoral-candidates-address-race-issues/.The Forum was Not “Business as Usual”The Forum attracted hundreds of young voters, concerned citizens, seasoned freedom fighters, and a large number of residents from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The energy in the overflowing auditorium was electrifying and signaled the desire for an end to a “business as usual” paradigm in political forums and ushered in the possibility of a new form of citizen engagement in political arenas.The organizers of the event decided that the forum would be highly structured in some respects and free-flowing in other respects to allow for audience participation and feedback. Continue Reading