There was only one subject on which I was able to school former Minneapolis NAACP president, civil rights attorney and uber-protest leader Nekima Levy-Pounds: legendary protest music.
She had never heard of the greatest protest song ever written, Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” — even though she is a native of Mississippi. The video of our interview begins with Levy-Pounds listening to the song.
In light of Levy-Pounds’ plan to run for mayor of Minneapolis, here is Part 2 of an interview I did with her during which we discuss Black Lives Matter and policing.
Q: When people respond to the name “Black Lives Matter” by saying all lives matter, is that an indication they don’t get it or they don’t care?
A: They don’t get it and some people really don’t care. It’s a way of deflecting from the main purpose of the movement, which is to address state-sanctioned violence against African-Americans and to make sure that those deaths are not being swept under the rug.
Q: Would it be more difficult for others to appropriate the Black Lives Matter handle if the handle was something like: Why don’t Black Lives Matter more?
A: That would be more difficult to fit in a hashtag. I honestly think no matter what we say … you’re always going to have naysayers. I believe at the core of the resistance is the notion that racism no longer exists. Of course, we know we are not living in a post-racial society.
Q: Don’t you think the Black Lives Matter protesters alienate more people by taking their protests onto interstate highways?
A: No. The strategy of shutting down a highway helps to awaken those who have attempted to ignore concerns about racial justice issues and the shooting death of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police.
Q: I’m going to make you MPD chief for a year. [She laughs when I hand her a scepter.] How are you going to reform the police in Minneapolis?
A: That’s easy. First I would call out [police union president] Bob Kroll for his conduct. I would crack down on the rank-and-file officers about who they have chosen to lead them and what that says about them. I would go through the files of all the officers under my jurisdiction and screen those out who have a number of excessive force complaints. Either relocate them or offer them a deal to leave. I would set up pipeline programs to recruit more people of color, women and people with disabilities.
Q: Are there tickets on your driving record?
A: Quite a bit of parking tickets. I tend to park and run into somewhere or stay at a meeting longer than I should. When was my last speeding ticket? I don’t get pulled over very often. One of my tickets led to my license being suspended for a short time. I had moved so I didn’t get any mail about it. I got pulled over by a police officer in Edina shortly after the occupation ended at the Fourth Precinct. I’m like, “Why am I being pulled over?” and they said, “Your license has been suspended.” When I went to the DMV and did the research I realized it was a ticket I got last September driving through Missouri. I paid the fine and got everything squared away.
Q: How many times have you been pulled over?
A: I don’t get pulled over that often. Many of my encounters happen at protests or if I witness [police] being abusive to someone and I call them out. I’ve seen them snatch black people out of car windows, like they are animals, right here on Broadway. Those are more of the run-ins I have with police when I confront them. They don’t like me. They see me as someone who talks back.
Q: You’re an uppity black woman.
A: I’m a person whose back is straight. I know who I am and I’m not going to tolerate being treated in an undignified manner because of the color of my skin.
Q: When was the first time you remember being discriminated against as a child?
A: When I was in third grade in Jackson, Mississippi, I had a teacher, Miss Powell, and she would walk by my desk and just hit me on the hand with a ruler for no reason. I felt it was because I was a dark-skinned child in her class. She was very mean. I also had white teachers who were wonderful. But Miss Powell happened to be one I feel in my heart was racist.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject.