Longtime Twin Cities activist and journalist Mel Reeves has died at 64 after battle with COVID-19

By: - January 6, 2022 12:57 pm

Community activist and journalist Mel Reeves died on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo courtesy of Erika Sanders.

Mel Reeves, a prominent Twin Cities activist and community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, died Thursday after being hospitalized with COVID-19. He was 64 years old.

Reeves covered police brutality, labor and social justice issues for the Spokesman-Recorder, the oldest Black-owned business in Minnesota, off and on for nearly three decades.

“Mel was a great champion of working people, immigrants and all people who are oppressed,” said Jerry Freeman, senior editor for the Spokesman-Recorder. “His motto was basically ‘No justice, no peace.’ So whenever he saw an injustice, he would disrupt the peace until it got attention and something was done.”

Reeves was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where he “struggled mightily through a childhood I almost didn’t survive,” he wrote on Facebook.

I made up my mind I was going to do all I could to make a better world and stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

– Mel Reeves

“I was poor, short, unathletic, not too pretty with a big ole head on a little body,” Reeves wrote, but “after finding my bearing I made up my mind I was going to do all I could to make a better world and stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.”

Reeves worked as a journalist and organizer both in Minnesota and his hometown of Miami.

“He didn’t pay much attention to money,” Freeman said. “He didn’t seem to care too much as long as he could eat and pay the rent. Otherwise, he was devoted to advancing the cause of social justice.”

Having spent years writing about police brutality, Reeves was “the perfect man” to cover the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Freeman said, as well as the subsequent protests and riots and trial of former officer Derek Chauvin.

Reeves entered the hospital in December after testing positive for COVID-19. He was not vaccinated against COVID-19 because he was concerned about how it might affect him given a medical issue he had with blood clots, according to his friend Kenya McKnight Ahad.

McKnight Ahad said he learned more about the vaccines while he was in the hospital and doctors told him it would be safe to get any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

He planned to get vaccinated after he recovered, and from his hospital bed, encouraged others to get vaccinated in an interview with WCCO reporter Reg Chapman.

“People should get vaccinated, wear your mask, social distance if you are going out to party, even among friends and family just wear your mask, it doesn’t hurt anything,” Reeves told WCCO.

Days before he died, Reeves published his last story for the Spokesman-Recorder reflecting on 2021.

He reminded readers about the young Black poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, who “set the nation on course” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the increase in racialized violence against Asian Americans, the “rabid opposition” to critical race theory and the conviction of two former police officers for killing Black men.

“Yes, the year was long, but we endured, and with the spirit of our ancestors we look ahead, never satisfied to just endure but to endure until we overcome,” he wrote.

In a Facebook post on New Year’s Day, Reeves thanked his friends, family, colleagues and community for being by his side as he struggled with pneumonia and COVID-19.

“It’s really true that ‘it’s a long road when you face the world alone.’ So thank you for not letting me face one of my darkest hours alone,” Reeves wrote.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.