The Reverend Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds '01, former president of the NAACP Minneapolis (2015-2016) and candidate for mayor of the city of Minneapolis, has been chosen as the recipient of the 2017 James Seaberry Award for Excellence by the University of Illinois College of Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA). She was recognized at the 24th Annual BLSA Alumni Banquet on March 10 at the Mid America Club in Chicago.
Of the selection of Levy-Pounds, Virgil Zanders, president of BLSA, said the following:
"In October of 2016, Dean Amar asked BLSA's board to take a look at Reverend Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds as a potential guest speaker for BLSA. However, once we learned more about her personal journey, we knew instantly she would be our Seaberry Award recipient.
"Reverend Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds felt called to become a fighter for justice when Michael Brown lost his life in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. She witnessed first-hand the mis-treatment of civilians peacefully protesting an injustice they felt their community could not tolerate. This galvanized her to use the law as a way to become a true champion for justice, not just from the classroom, but on the front lines in the streets and neighborhoods where people truly needed a voice for change. In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Dr. Levy-Pounds personally led protests when Philando Castile lost his life under tragic circumstances.
"Given the current climate, BLSA felt that she embodied the courage and fortitude we all should embrace as citizens longing for fair treatment and justice. She inspires us to look beyond ourselves and motivates us to act selflessly for the sake of others. The Seaberry Award is intended to be awarded to an outstanding attorney that truly makes a difference in the legal community and beyond. No person spoke more sincerely to this notion for BLSA than Reverend Dr. Nekima Levy-Pounds."
Since 1993, the James Seaberry Award has honored each year an outstanding lawyer in the African-American legal community. At the time of its inception, Seaberry was the oldest living black attendee of the University of Illinois College of Law.
Levy-Pounds is a civil rights attorney, legal scholar, and nationally recognized expert on issues at the intersections of race, public policy, economic justice, and the criminal justice system.
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 thirteen years and was a visiting professor at the University of Illinois College of Law.