Prominent Minneapolis civil rights activist reveals battle with brain tumor 

A crowd of people gather for a press conference.
Attorney and civil rights activist Nekima Levy Armstrong speaks during a press conference at Minneapolis City Hall in Februrary. In a Facebook Live video Monday, Levy Armstrong discussed a monthslong battle with a brain tumor.
Tim Evans for MPR News file

Nekima Levy Armstrong, a former Minneapolis mayoral contender and St. Thomas law school professor, says she is recovering from neurosurgery after a routine eye exam revealed a brain tumor this fall. 

Levy Armstrong came to prominence nearly a decade ago, raising questions about the Metro Gang Strike Force and other law enforcement issues. She led protests against the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police in 2015. 

She’s also been a former Minneapolis NAACP chapter president and ran for mayor in 2017. 

On Facebook on Monday evening, she revealed that she’d undergone emergency brain surgery in September. Levy Armstrong said she had been experiencing blurred vision in one eye and went in for an eye exam in July.  

After that initial exam, she was referred to an ophthalmologist at M Health Fairview. Levy Armstrong said it took weeks to get an appointment. That exam and an MRI the same day showed a brain tumor pressing on the optic nerve behind her eye. 

“I was shocked and terrified because I didn't know what would happen, what the results would be... it was just a terrifying experience,” she said in a live stream. She said she got emergency surgery days later and initial tests indicate the tumor was not cancerous.

Levy Armstrong said she’d had a long recovery and explained she hadn’t disclosed her condition because she wasn’t prepared for the response by friends and supporters. 

“I needed the time and the space to recover without having to respond to a lot of text messages and phone calls. Because of course your body's healing and recovering and so people didn't know what I was going through. So, I'm grateful for those who knew what I was experiencing who protected my privacy, who brought meals to my home and made sure that my family was good,” Levy Amstrong said. 

She said her recovery continues and the surgery explains now why she had been covering her head recently — including a black turban wrap she wore in the Facebook video on Monday. 

“I want to just let all of us know that we should definitely be grateful, for every day that we have on this earth, the breath that we breathe, the life that we have, because tomorrow is not promised,” she said. “Literally things can happen in the blink of an eye. And you just never know, you know, what you're going to go through or what someone close to you is going to go through.”