ON THE NIGHT OF APRIL 20, 1985—nearly three decades before repeated police killings of Black people lit the fuse of the Black Lives Matter movement—31-year-old Lloyd “Tony” Stevenson helped two employees at a 7-Eleven in Portland, Oregon, foil a robbery, then got into a fight with a witness in the parking lot.
Police arrived, and a white officer placed Stevenson, a Black father of five and former Marine, in a choke hold, the same type of restraint that police would use in the killing of Eric Garner in New York City in 2014. Stevenson collapsed, and he died 45 minutes later in a Portland hospital. Portland’s Black community was furious and took to the streets. An inquest jury ruled the case a negligent homicide, but a grand jury later declined to indict the officer.
Jamal Harvey was Stevenson’s younger brother. “That changed things a lot for me as a kid,” he says, “because from 12 years (old) on, whether it was right or wrong, I didn’t feel I could trust the police at all.”
Harvey, 47, moved to Charlotte in 2007 and began to volunteer for community organizations like the Girl Scouts and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Carolinas chapter; he’s also a bill payments supervisor for AvidXchange. After a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in 2016, he and some of his nonprofit contacts founded Queen City Unity, a community organization that offers diversity and financial education to young people and helps organize food and clothing drives for the poor and homeless. The group is driven by the idea, which Harvey emphasizes as board chairman, “that we can unite our community through acts of kindness.”
We sat down with Harvey to discuss his life, his mission with Queen City Unity, and how the police killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed stirred memories of his older brother’s death. His words have been edited for space and clarity.
I’M A DAD AND A HUSBAND. I start there. Other than that, I’m a guy who is 47 years old who has seen a lot of things. Not everything, but enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong. I always choose to lean on the side of doing right by myself and other people. That’s kind of how I live my life.
CHILDHOOD WAS PRETTY AWESOME. I was born in Oakland in 1973. We moved to Portland in 1976. Moved to a working-class neighborhood. I went to Catholic school. Pretty average upbringing.
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