Sign our petition demanding KSTP apologize to Navell: www.pointergate.org
Call KSTP and tell them to apologize: 651-642-4412
On Thursday night, KSTP aired an outrageous and inflammatory story accusing one of our lead organizers, Navell Gordon, of flashing a gang sign with Mayor Betsy Hodges, in the course of a get-out-the-vote doorknock last weekend. In reality, the photo snapped during the event shows them merely pointing at each other. After critiques of this story went viral on Twitter, KSTP issued a statement standing by the story. KSTP insinuates that our outrage is misplaced because they are critiquing only Mayor Hodges: “5 Eyewitness News blurred the individual’s face and did not name the group he was working for because police called into question only the judgment of Mayor Betsy Hodges."
But this story is not about Mayor Hodges. It’s about Navell.
Navell has been working as an organizer with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change for two years. This year, he was a leader in our civic engagement work, part of a team that knocked over 55,000 doors. In a year where voter turnout was down 5.5% across Minnesota, in our neighborhood in north Minneapolis, the number of voters increased by 13%--and Navell played a key role in that.
Navell is also a 22-year-old black man who has been consistently targeted for racial profiling during the course of our civic engagement work. This summer, police accosted Navell and handcuffed him right outside the office, ostensibly for spitting on the sidewalk. When NOC board members came out of the office to film the incident, the police let him go.
In September, Navell was returning from a canvass shift and stopped by Cub Foods when an officer tackled him in the parking lot, arrested him for trespassing, and threatened to shoot witnesses to the arrest—for being in a grocery store parking lot while black. When our civic and political engagement director, Wintana Melekin, arrived in Cub Foods, she was also arrested for questioning the officer.
In the face of some tense moments, our canvass team invited Mayor Hodges and Police Chief Harteau to join our doorknock efforts in solidarity. The photo was snapped while Mayor Hodges and Navell were doing voter outreach work together.
Navell can’t vote right now because he’s serving probation for a nonviolent felony. But he’s proud to get out the vote in his community and looking forward to voting in the 2016 presidential election. He’s the first to tell you he’s turned his life around, and that NOC has played a role in that.
But instead of any of this background, KSTP takes Navell’s entire life and reduces him to “convicted felon” in a leading news headline. KSTP seems miffed that we are offended by this—after all, they blurred out Navell’s face and didn’t mention NOC specifically. They say they’re just trying to question the mayor’s judgment. But this stance devalues Navell as a human, eliminates any mention of his amazing civic engagement work, and reduces him to an anonymous scary black man, deliberately playing into racial stereotypes that all young black men are criminals. Although they are merely pointing at each other, to KSTP this is a “gang sign.” This fits a long line of black people being used as political fodder in the media, slandering their names carelessly and perpetuating racial stereotypes to advance a political agenda. To question the mayor’s judgment in posing with Navell is an insult to Navell, NOC, and anyone with any sense of decency.
Lots of people have felonies on their record. Many of these people are black. That’s not because black people commit crimes at higher rates, but because they are incarcerated at higher rates, often for nonviolent crimes. For example, while white and black people are equally likely to possess marijuana, nationally black people are four times more likely to be arrested for it. In Minneapolis, that’s even higher—black people are 11.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. The ACLU released a report two weeks ago showing that black people in Minneapolis are at least seven times more likely than white people to be arrested for any given petty offense.
We’re proud to hire people with criminal backgrounds because we believe in the importance of second chances—and we know that our criminal justice system systematically targets people of color. Building power in our community has driven our civic engagement work from the beginning. That’s why we pay our canvassers a living wage of $15/hour, prioritize folks from the community, and don’t discriminate on criminal background. Challenging narratives and systems that criminalize people of color is a critical and necessary part of this work. And it gets results.
KSTP says this isn’t about us. We disagree. We’d like an on-air apology to Navell from the station and Jay Kolls on live TV.We look forward to hearing from them soon.
Pointergate petition: www.pointergate.org