Fifth Ward native challenges Mpls City Council incumbent
Raeisha Williams intends to officially file her Minneapolis City Council Ward 5 candidacy no later than April. “I have not made my official announcement, but I am 100 percent doing it,” declared Williams during a March 2 MSR interview. In the meantime she is listening to ward residents’ complaints and concerns.
Such was the case on February 26 at Zion Baptist Church, where nearly 20 persons discussed topics like public safety, the re-lighting and other improvements for Olson Memorial Highway (55), police reform, and homelessness among men in the seven-neighborhood Northside ward currently served by Blong Yang, reported Williams, a city native.
“We talked about things we can do now, before the campaign,” she said. “I have a vested interest in this community. I’m a fourth-generation Minnesotan, and that means a lot to me.
“I could’ve moved to the suburbs on a number of occasions, and I still could. But I chose to make the commitment to live in my community, to be a part of my community. I think it says a lot when young people see me go to work and how I conduct myself in my community so they can aspire to do the same.
“The reason why I think I am the best candidate is because I have a real, intrinsic history and current relationships,” continued Williams. “I’ve proven over and over again that I would take up the mantle on our issues and fight for them, even if that means being disruptive.”
Williams, a local marketing communications specialist, was among those who participated in the three-week Fourth Precinct occupation last November protesting the Jamar Clark shooting. Asked if that ordeal spurred her to a possible run for city council, she said, “I have been considering being a candidate for this ward for over a year.” The initial urge came after she attended a conference in St. Louis last summer for women of color.
“I left there feeling [very] much empowered and had all the tools in policymaking and running a campaign,” she pointed out. However, it was the Fourth Precinct occupation that sealed it for her.
“I knew before the occupation I was going to do it, but after the occupation, it revitalized me to do it. It reaffirmed my commitment. I had to do it. I had no choice.
Her community activism comes to her naturally from both her mother Rosemary Williams and her grandmother — both women raised her. “I think I have a lot of my mom in me, but more importantly I think I have my grandmother [in me], who was always very diplomatic and was really good at capturing both sides,” said Williams proudly.
“I have the fighter’s sprit of my mother in me, but I also have the diplomatic, calmer side of my grandmother who is open and willing to listen to all sides and make a decision based on that. There’s a lot of both those women in me.”
Her disappointment in Yang’s leadership as the ward’s city council member also ranks high among the reasons she is running for the seat he currently occupies. “He was elected by the people — big business and City Hall didn’t elect him, we did. Once he was in that elected office, whether he agrees with our actions or not, he needs to at least communicate with us. Whether he stands with us or not, there still needs to be some transparency.
“Not once did he ever hold a community meeting,” during the three-week protest, Williams continued. “He never took a real stand on whether he supported us or not. He stood with the opposition on shutting the occupation down. That’s not the leadership I want to have addressing my issues and being the voice for me at the City level.”
Asked if her involvement last year in the police station protest might have any bearing on her candidacy, Williams said, “I hope not. Am I concerned about that? No. I hope that whether you agreed with us or not that you really saw the sincerity and the commitment that I have to community. There was an injustice that happened. I think 99 percent of the city and the community can agree with that.”
If she is elected this fall she plans to have “coffee” meetings and hold weekly office hours in the community “whether at a church [or] at an eatery each month,” pledged Williams. “There is no reason why we can’t have an office in Ward 5. Not everybody can make it to City Hall.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com