Mayor Jacob Frey called out for Facebook photo with black student

Activist and former campaign rival Nekima Levy-Pounds doesn't like the look of Frey's new profile pic.

Activist and former campaign rival Nekima Levy-Pounds doesn't like the look of Frey's new profile pic. Facebook

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is the only white person and one of only two adults in his Facebook cover and profile photos.

In both pictures, Frey appears comfortable with that fact. Gleeful, even.

In the "cover" image (the wide one serving as a page background), Frey has linked arms with a group of children of East African descent; the caption indicates the shot is from the Open Streets event on Franklin Avenue last summer.

In his profile photo, Frey is depicted hugging a young black girl. Her braids rest against his jaw, which is drawn into a big smile.

It is this image, which the first-year mayor set as his profile picture over the weekend, that caught the attention of Nekima Levy-Pounds, the former head of the Minneapolis NAACP and one of Frey's DFL mayoral opponents in 2017. 

She doesn't like the looks of it.

"Something about Mayor Jacob Frey's new profile photo rubs me the wrong way," Levy-Pounds posted (where else?) on Facebook Sunday. The activist compared Frey's picture to a widely circulated photo of a policeman hugging a young black protester, which Levy-Pounds calls "staged" and "egregious."  

Though she admits not knowing if Frey's image is inauthentic, Levy-Pounds states with confidence that "people of color and our children should not be used as props for politicians." 

Levy-Pounds (who finished in fifth place in last year's mayoral election) wrote that more than "free hugs," black residents of Minneapolis want "an end to the ridiculous racial disparities" that affect them "across every key indicator of quality of life." 

Frey, for his part, did make multiple mentions of expanding opportunities to non-white people, and called a major redevelopment of riverfront property in north Minneapolis his administration's "number one capital improvement priority."

Describing increased access to the river, Frey said:

"We envision a north Minneapolis riverfront where a kid gleefully sprints full speed from school through cascading slopes of grass, dirt, and dandelions, to dip her toe in the cold waters of the Mississippi. The pure, unadulterated happiness that water can bring should not be portioned off for those who pay the highest price. The Mississippi River is an emblem for our city, and no community should have exclusive rights to it."

As it happens, Frey also told the story behind the very photo Levy-Pounds objected to his using. Frey was invited (via giant postcard reading "Please come visit Mr. Mayor") to speak to a class of pre-K students, and, in May, surprised the class by showing up to read to them. 

After he read, Frey explained, one student approached the mayor to hug him; a school employee snapped a photo of the moment, and encouraged Frey to share the photo on social media.

Watch here to see Frey tell the story about meeting the girl in his profile photo.

Frey declined to comment on Levy-Pounds' criticism of his use of the photo, though spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich's says Frey was "moved by the experience" with the young student.