Levy-Pounds leaving St. Thomas to become full-time 'freedom fighter'

Nekima Levy-Pounds
Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds spoke to reporters outside Minneapolis City Hall in March.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

Updated: 3:23 p.m. | Posted: 11:06 a.m.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, President of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP and a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement in the Twin Cities, has announced she's leaving her position as a law professor at the University of St. Thomas to further pursue her "calling as a freedom fighter and advocate for racial and social justice."

She made the announcement in a Facebook post Friday evening.

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Levy-Pounds joined the St. Thomas law faculty in 2003 at the age of 27. There she founded the award-winning civil rights legal clinic Community Justice Project.

As she approaches 40, Levy-Pounds said she has reflected on the work she wants to do in Minnesota, and decided it's time to take her work "to a new level."

"I'm going to become a more fierce advocate, particularly for people on the north side of Minneapolis," she said. "We have double digit unemployment for African Americans in the city of Minneapolis, and that's simply unacceptable," she added. "So I want to be a catalyst to help address those issues."

The shooting death last November of Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, by Minneapolis police had a "profound" impact on her, Levy-Pounds said, and contributed to her decision to leave St. Thomas.

Levy-Pounds, who now lives in north Minneapolis, played a prominent role in the protests that followed the shooting. She was arrested during a protest that shut down I-94.

"I just feel that I have a great responsibility to use my legal skills and my advocacy skills and the gifts and talents that God has given me, to make sure that Jamar Clark's death was not in vain, and to prevent this from happening to other people," she said.

As her activism has grown in the past two years, and as her work has become more "controversial," as she puts it — including being charged for her role in protests last year at the Mall of America — the University of St Thomas "has been amazing in their support of me," she said.

"I'm sure that St. Thomas received angry emails and phone calls from people," she added, "but they never let those things get to me, they protected me, they advocated for me, and they allowed me the freedom to do my work in peace."

Levy-Pounds' term as president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP expires in November. She's yet to decide whether to seek a second term.

Her last day at St. Thomas is July 31st.