New president pledges to engage and mobilize community for social justice
The new Minneapolis NAACP leadership signals “a turning point” after an historic all-women slate was elected in a special election last Saturday, May 2.
Last weekend’s event at NorthPoint Health and Wellness drew nearly 100 persons, and the lobby had a precinct caucus feel with many lobbying for St. Thomas Law Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, who announced her branch president candidacy days earlier.
Mica Grimm and Adja Gildersleve both told the MSR that they joined the NAACP in order to vote for her — only paid members were eligible to vote. “I came out here to show support for Nekima Levy-Pounds. I think she’s doing amazing work in the community,” said Grimm.
“I never thought about [joining before],”admitted Gildersleve.
Elected were Levy-Pounds, who won unopposed, Natonia Johnson (vice-president), Cathy Jones (second vice-president), Kerry Jo Felder (secretary), Bertha Daniels (assistant secretary), Helen Bassett (treasurer), Ashley Oliver (assistant treasurer), and at-large executive committee members Wintana Melekin, Shirlynn Lachappelle and Lissa Jones.
“When Nekima asked me to run, I was thrilled,” said Jones, who also won unopposed. “It’s time for the new… I am grateful to the community.”
“It’s an amazing group of leaders,” added Melekin.
The Minneapolis branch needed “new energy,” said Reva Chamblis of Brooklyn Park. This MSR reporter was asked, and agreed, to leave during the election process, which was closed to all but NAACP members. The election, however, was delayed momentarily after officials asked MSR columnist Ron Edwards, a longtime former NAACP member, to leave. He was escorted out of the building by Minneapolis police officers after he refused to leave voluntarily.
Edwards told the MSR, “This is not the NAACP property — it’s a public building… I was greatly disappointed, but [it was] not unexpected… I am perceived as persona non grata to even attend the meeting.”
The new Minneapolis NAACP president spoke exclusively to the MSR shortly after W.C. Jordan, Rochester NAACP president, announced the election results Saturday evening at NorthPoint.
“I believe it is time for a paradigm shift,” she proclaimed. “I felt I could bring my leadership and community engagement experience, and my passion for social justice to begin mobilizing the community to fight for the changes that they want to see. That’s what I intend to do.”
The all-women leadership are “go-getters, and don’t take no for an answer,” noted Levy-Pounds, who added that she expected some reluctance from the mostly male “old-guard…but that’s not a deterrent to me either.”
She recalled how former St. Paul NAACP president Nathaniel (Nick) Khaliq mentored her shortly after she relocated to the Twin Cities in 2002. “He did not discriminate against me because I was new in town, or I was young or I was a woman. He took me under his wing and showed me the ropes.
“[He] showed me how to negotiate with people with power,” Levy Pound continued, “and those in government who weren’t doing the right thing, and how to work collectively with community members who may have different opinions about what needs to be done. I was able to hone my craft and my leadership skills under his leadership.
“The old-guard leadership was not a barrier to accomplishing my goals,” continued Levy-Pounds. “I am not concerned about their push-back, because we have much bigger fish to fry than to be hindered by some people who don’t want to pass the baton or share access to power and resources with a broader group of stakeholders — whether it be women, young people, or other men in the community.”
Saturday’s “full house” special election “demonstrated that people are hungry for change,” said Levy-Pounds.
The past “12-to-18 months [of] in-fighting and back-biting I’ve seen on social media” bothered her, said Rachel Lovejoy of Golden Valley.
Most recently, leadership has been ineffective because of its unfamiliarity with the workings of the legacy organization, said Claudie Washington, Duluth NAACP president.
“Sometimes they would do things that they think is the right thing, and may have good intentions, but it’s not the way the organization runs,” added Jordan. Levy-Pounds, however, said that she recently attended NAACP leadership training and she is ready to take on the challenge of running the local branch.
Seeing an influx of young people such as Grimm and Gildersleve as members excites him, noted Washington. Gildersleve hopes that the Minneapolis NAACP will join forces with other local groups such as Black Lives Matter, leading to “a better coordination between the older folk and the young crowd.”
“That is what I would like to see,” added Grimm.
After she voted, Lisa Delgado said, “I’m not going to cancel my membership, but at some point we’ve got to get it right.” She was nominated for an executive committee spot but declined. She earlier advised the audience that she wants city members “to show up” at regularly scheduled meetings.
“I am going to show up,” pledged Lovejoy.
Jordan told the MSR after the results were certified that he is “optimistic” that the Minneapolis NAACP is now in good hands and can move the organization forward.
Levy-Pounds invites community members and others who left the NAACP unhappy or for any other reason to come back. “Hopefully they will find the change refreshing.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.