Activists and organizers are in a perpetual state of burnout from trying to engage said politicians who are more concerned with their vanity and bludgeoning their opponents than serving the greater Twin Cities community. Artists are required to pontificate about their identities in quasi-academic language to legitimize their existences to white institutions. And while many from all three camps work in tandem to produce favorable outcomes for the Twin Cities, there are the ones wringing out, like a wet cloth, whatever social and political currency they can from the optics of being seen as a particular occupation or identity. But Mica Grimm, the 28-year-old BLM Minneapolis Founder, DJ and it girl, stands out from the Lake Wokebegone masses by being herself. She creates her own activist blueprint as she goes.

 

Our untidy social and political upheavalsas we fumble toward a future less entrenched in racism and unlearn so-called Minnesota Nice (what Mica Grimm refers to as Sweet and Low, neoliberal racism”)—looks smoother than we give ourselves credit for on the national stage. We did, after all, elect Andrea Jenkins, the first African American trans woman in political office in the United States. We also elected Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim state representative in the United States. From our robust arts grants system to our generous refugee resettlement programs to leading the national conversation on Countering Violent Extremism, Minnesota is ahead of the rest of America, whether we admit it or not. And when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, weve galvanized one of the most culturally diverse populations in the country in pursuit of liberation, even shutting down the light rail during Super Bowl Sunday for accessibility concerns.

Mica, who started Minnesota’s Black Lives Matter chapter with two powerful artist-organizer comrades Adja Gildersleve and Brianna Brilyahnt Wilson on the night officer Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted for shooting and killing Mike Brown, has played a role in some of the disruption weve witnessed in Minnesota. She helped organize the shut down of Interstate 35W, a political action that, in true millennial fashion, could not have happened without the Internet, as most of the organizing took place via Facebook and Twitter. Long before the Internet, though, Mica, a South Minneapolis native born to a black mother and a white father, says she shuffled between two worlds.

Micas awareness of injustice as something deeply illogical became onset as early as fifth grade at Kenny Elementary School, when George W. Bush was elected president for the first time in 2000. She wrote a school paper explaining why the electoral college and the popular vote is a farce, and the following year led a school-wide walkout to protest the invasion of Afghanistan. During college, Mica attended St. Scholastica, where she often felt isolated due to microaggressions and the ostracism of being heckled by over 200 white students during a freshman orientation for voicing racial sensitivity concerns.

 

After that day, she locked herself in her friends apartment for weeks, and watched video after video of the Chappelle’s Show until she learned to laugh through the pain, which proved itself to be a handy skill when she moved back to Minneapolis to start organizing with Adja and Brianna in 2014.

 

I operate with an outside-inside strategy, meaning I agitate from the outside and I build on the inside. Most people dont operate like that. They pick one or the other,” Mica says, with her feet on the couch. I agitate the system from the outside by protesting and things of that sort that create the urgency and then once the urgency is created I use that momentum to translate it into something that seems like wins that we need to have. You know what Im saying? We need to have small wins. Wins have been very minuscule but they’re necessary to keep momentum and morale and all these things.

 

 

In 2016, in the wake of the Philando Castile shooting in St. Paul, Mica Grimm and a group of city officials, activists and police officers from around the country were invited to the White House to meet with Barack Obama. Among them was DeRay McKesson, who is arguably the most visible figure in the Black Lives Matter movement for his oratory skills and strategic prowess and for the fact that he has a mandate from the people to lead, despite the fact that he is not an original founder of Black Lives Matter, the organization founded by Alica Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. DeRay, who met Mica at an organizing workshop in Minneapolis right before the first Mall of America protest in 2015, recognized Mica as a clear leader even before they met with Obama.

 

 

 

One of the reasons why we met with and continue to meet with people is because we believe that the truth has to be present everywhere, and that we know that part of sitting at the table is that we keep the door open, so in the first meeting with President Obama it was me, and Brittany Packet and a youth leader from the NAACP, and then the second meeting, which was the longest meeting, we tried to think of who was another protester who always tried to keep the truth present in every room, and Mica was so clear to me.DeRay tells me over the phone. One of the things about Mica thats been true since the first time we ever met was that she has the ability to be very clear and to be concise and also to push people. People are used to confrontation being yellingand thats certainly one way that we do it, especially in the streetbut people are not used to confrontation being cool and collected.

 

A DeRay co-sign in the activist world is what a Drake or Kanye co-sign is to the rap world: contentious but nonetheless extremely valuable. The fact that he sought her out points to the existence of a persistent thread in Mica’s life: the universe attracts abundance her way, whether she’s being invited to The White House with DeRay, performing with Russian feminist punk rock agitators Pussy Riot or organizing parties with The Klituation, the all-femme dance party series Mica started with local entertainment phenom DJ Keezy and Lizzo’s touring DJ/Go Radio MN personality Sophia Eris. The Klituation, unlike other nightlife series, strives to be about more than just partying. It’s also healing, Eris tells me. “Grimm is the signature verification that you are guaranteed to have an amazing time in a safe space with healing energy.” 


In the next chapter of Mica’s life, she will continue agitating from the outside—in Los Angeles, nearly 2,000 miles away from South Minneapolis. She does find time to visit Minnesota, between being on the planning committee for the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Art and Healing: In the Moment exhibit and being flown in to discuss the Russian infiltration of the Black Live Matter movement for a documentary that aired on CNN. 

“I keep trying to tell myself that. Its all going to come even though I have no idea how it’s going to unfold,” she says this with full conviction.

I believe her. 

 

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Contributors

Safy-Hallan Farah
Safy-Hallan Farah is a culture writer and editor based in Minneapolis. Her bylines include The New York Times, Vogue, GQ and NPR, among others.
Bobby Rogers
Bobby Rogers is a photographer and visual artist working in Minneapolis and New York. He retrieved his BFA in Illustration with an emphasis on Design from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He began his career exploring work on mental illness and addiction. Then the DIY aesthetics of street culture and its influence on high fashion. Today, he’s using photography to investigate revolutionary ideologies reshaping Black culture. In 2016, Rogers was named Minnesota Monthly’s Top Visual Artists to Watch. In 2017, City Pages named Rogers an “Artists of the Year” and The Huffington Post: Nur 25 included Rogers as one of 2017’s 25 "Muslims Breaking Barriers and Lighting Up the World.