Nekima Levy-Pounds is a civil rights attorney, legal scholar, blogger, and nationally recognized expert on issues at the intersections of race, public policy, economic justice, public education, juvenile justice, and the criminal justice system. She is the author of several articles and essays focused on racial justice, poverty, incarceration, and the War on Drugs. Her work has been featured in The Associated Press, The Crisis Magazine, Huffington Post, and the Star Tribune. She has appeared on national news outlets such as CNN, PBS and Al Jazeera America.

Currently, she is co-owner and co-founder of Black Pearl, LLC, a multi-faceted company that provides business consulting, talent and media management services. In 2016, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Governor’s Commission. In 2015, she was named one of “40 Under 40” by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. In 2014, she was named a “Minnesota Attorney of the Year” by Minnesota Lawyer and recognized as one of “50 Under 50 Most Influential Law Professors of Color in the Country” by Lawyers of Color Magazine. She formerly served as a law professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School for 13 years, as president of the Minneapolis NAACP and as an advisor to Black Lives Matter Minneapolis.


“Levy-Pounds focused a significant portion of her speech on the city’s response to crime, calling for a ‘genuine model of community policing that involves community members and not just the usual suspects and shared decision making about how our police will function.'”
Source: Southwest Journal, 5/9/17

“Police have tough jobs. But there’s a dire lack of oversight to make sure their jobs are done properly. It is past time for the state to create an independent body that not only investigates police shootings but also, rather than a grand jury, determines whether those cases should be prosecuted. The legal standard for the use of deadly force in Minnesota should also be revised to better protect the public against unnecessary deaths and poor judgment calls on the part of police.”
Source: Star Trib Op Ed, 6/24/17

“No resident in the city of Minneapolis should face abuse at the hands of police.”
Source: The Uptake, 11/15/17

Levy-Pounds has worked as the President of Minneapolis’ chapter of the NAACP and as an advisor to Black Lives Matter. Levy-Pounds was arrested at a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mall of America in December 2014 as well as the blocking of Highway 94 to protest the shooting of Jamar Clark.
Source: Star Tribune, 11/16/16

“I believe that if we pass a $15 an hour minimum wage, of course no tip penalty, of course continuing to protect workers for sick and safe time, maternity leave. All those things are vitally important for us to have a healthy city.”
Source: Minneapolis Mayor Forum, 3/8/17

““When someone has a job where they can put food on the table and help support their families it gives them a stake in society. They feel like a participating member, they feel valued,” she said.

Supporting small businesses and ensuring businesses are hiring inside the community is key, along with evaluating job requirements to match appropriate levels of education. Instilling pipeline programs for students to get them on path to obtaining a job after graduation is also on her agenda. Above all, Levy-Pounds wants to ensure workers have their rights to paid sick and leave time and is a supporter of raising minimum wage to $15 per hour.”
Source: TCDP, 3/6/17

“She also criticized the mayor and other city leaders, suggesting they have put business interests ahead of the city’s low-wage workers, who are predominately people of color.

“They need to stop yielding to the voices of corporations and start yielding to the voices of workers,” she said. ”
Source: Southwest Journal, 10/15/15

She said a “holistic” response to crime would involve both police reform and increasing access to educational opportunities, employment and affordable housing while raising the minimum wage. … “The problems are a symbol of broken social systems and government neglect of our most vulnerable populations,” she said.”
Source: Southwest Journal, 5/9/17

“Part of the challenge has to do with the role that the city plays in exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. For example, how many abandoned homes right now are in various parts of the city, particularly on North Minneapolis, where there could be pressure applied to homeowners to make sure that those homes are being rented or sold? And what about the number of lots that the city owns? … The city has to be much more aggressive in making sure that they are not hanging on to a large housing stock. “
Source: Minneapolis Mayor Forum, 3/8/17

“We cannot just look at the affordable housing crisis in a vacuum. Part of the reason that people cannot afford to live in various parts of the city is because we have not put forward $15 an hour as a minimum wage for the city of Minneapolis.”
Source: Minneapolis Mayor Forum, 3/8/17

“In addition to ensuring we are a sanctuary city, I think that that needs to extend beyond instructing the police department and we need to look at our overarching infrastructure in terms of how we treat our immigrant population. … We need to look holistically.”
Source: Mayoral Forum, 4/13/17

With No. 45’s Muslim Ban and all the fear that has been created around ICE raids and deportations, think about how that fear plays a role in terms of how people conduct themselves in society… Think about the people who are afraid to go to work or go to church, which impacts our economy. It impacts the rest of especially if we’re doing business, we’re not able to get services. Rather than having an us vs. them mentality, we have to look at this as we’re all in this together. Unless you’re indigenous, we’re all living on stolen land… We need to be sure that the policy decisions that are allowed to be made because of our complacency, that it’s none of our business.
Source: Who is Minnesota? Race, Immigration, and the Politics of Exclusion Panel 4/1/17

“Levy-Pounds said the city needs to step up its support for small-business creation since businesses owned by people of color tend to hire other people of color.”
Source: Twin Cities Business, 4/11/17

Levy-Pounds… [drew] links between rising property taxes, higher rents and the gentrification she argued was “displacing” residents in some neighborhoods. She said she was “stunned” when she heard about the 5.5-percent [property tax] hike for 2017. Levy-Pounds asked why the city was holding onto hundreds of vacant lots when the city was facing an affordable housing crisis.
Source: Southwest Journal, 6/7/17

Levy-Pounds was the president of the NAACP-Minneapolis chapter from 2015-2016.
Source: MPR News 5/1/15

As an African-American woman, we bear the brunt of unfair and unjust laws and policies when we see our fathers, our husbands, our brothers and our sons being impacted by the criminal justice system and being impacted by biased policing. So as a mother of African-American sons, I recognize that I have a responsibility to speak truth to power and to advocate for justice.
Source: MPR News 3/6/15