Sunrise, September 21, 1957— Sunset, January 6, 2022
Melvyn Gilbert-Reeves was born on September 21, 1957, in Opa Locka (currently known as Miami Gardens), Florida. Growing up in Miami, Mel was an avid reader and excelled in school despite dealing with poverty and bullying.
After high school, Mel felt a call to be a minister and enrolled in Miami Christian College, where he also played college basketball. Unfortunately, his encounters with racism in a supposedly Christian school led to him leaving.
After a stint at Miami Dade Community College, Mel enrolled in Northwestern College in Iowa where he majored in speech and theater. He also ran cross country and became the president of the school’s Black Student Union.
Upon graduating in 1981, Mel would move to Minneapolis where he would soon begin working to, in his words, “Stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.”
Mel was a longtime member of Zion Baptist Church where he served in social justice and youth ministries among others. He attended Bethel Seminary and soon became a licensed minister.
Mel’s passion to seek justice and freedom for the common people in his community was sparked by his experiences as a child navigating the world with few resources, and further ignited by his readings of the scriptures while studying in seminary. Mel believed the Word of God implored him to fight for what was right and seek justice for those who could not obtain it on their own.
This interpretation of the scriptures drove him to take action and continued to push him to act throughout his life. His dedication to the work of justice is the powerful legacy he leaves behind for the Twin Cities, Miami Gardens, and others his life touched nationwide.
Mel was dedicated to serving his community. A self-described “hellraiser,” Mel worked as a community organizer to bring people together on behalf of members of the community experiencing injustice at the hands of the powers that be.
Mel also served the community through his work as a community editor and journalist for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, one of the longest-serving Black-run newspapers in the nation. With his writing, Mel took on the systems that created the inequity he fought against in the streets and called attention to issues that needed attention.
With a pen in one hand, a megaphone in the other, and the Word of God in his heart, Mel worked unceasingly and passionately to center the voices of the African American community and the working class, bringing issues of equity and equality to the forefront.
A loving father and grandfather, Mel loved spending time with his family. He would take long trips to spend time with his best friend Wade Hampton and his son Kellen and his family.
“Grandpa Mel” loved playing with his grandsons, often saying that it was his job as a grandpa to get the kids “riled up,” filling the house with shouts of laughter as he wrestled, raced, and played with his grandsons.
As they grew older, Mel would encourage reading at every turn, expressing that “school provides us with the tools to learn. Real education comes at home.” Mel loved family meals, lively conversation, and following his beloved Miami Hurricanes.
Mel loved people easily, often befriending strangers with his genuine curiosity, quick wit, and hearty laughter.
Mel was preceded in death by his mother, Martha Reeves (2018); sister, Sonja Roberts (2018); and grandson, Cameron Reeves (2020). He is survived by his son, Kellen Wade (Michelle) Reeves; five grandchildren, David (25), Christopher (25), Quentin (17), Zavier Melvyn (5), and Zaire (5); and three great-grandchildren, David Jr., Kameron, and Kayden; along with numerous nieces and nephews.