Black And Asian Minnesotans Fight Together

As I wait in the Golden Thyme Coffee and Cafe, located on Selby Ave, I shuffle around questions on paper in preparation of Anthea Yur. A local community organizer and activist with strong ties with the Black Lives Matter movement. "I spent a lot of time at George Floyd Square taking up space," Said Yur, in response to the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by the Minneapolis Police Department sparking the racial uprising in Minneapolis. "Due to community demands and things we needed, we had a few threats. But, boots on the ground right? And that's how I feel of everyone's role as a community organizer. You start with boots on the ground, you start to understand what the community needs." The interview is captivating as the subject matter surrounds the cooperative practices between Asian and African Americans on Saint Paul ground using the Rondo Area as the scene. 

Before the Rondo area was displaced by the construction of I-94, St.Paul's Rondo community was a thriving African American cultural hub. The Rondo neighborhood ran roughly between Selby Avenue to the South and University Ave to the North. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African Americans settled in this neighborhood creating businesses, churches and schools. 

According to the 2010 census data, the Minneapolis-St.Paul area holds approximately 64,000 Hmong individuals making it one of largest urban Hmong territories. The Frogtown area however, harbours the heart of the Hmong population and as the neighboring hoods have lived in close proximity for decades, Asian and African Americans continue the arms of solidarity. 

I asked Yur to explain some of the practices of her activism in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement that has garnered worldwide attention. This was her response. " A lot of my community service has had to do with leading marches, helping provide food and supplies for families that were affected in South Minneapolis. Because, when the uprising happened, grocery stores, gas stations, all those places shut down." Yur stated, " Our communities of color couldn't get any of these things. They had to start going into suburbs, where suburbs are predominantly white and not welcoming to people of color." 

And for the Asian community, Floyd's death isn't just about Black and White. Ex-officer Derrick Chauvin was one of the four officers employed by the Minneapolis Police Department involved with the arrest of  Floyd, on May 25, 2020, on the suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Chauvin, who also served as a field officer proceeded to kneel on Floyd's neck, while Floyd was handcuffed, for a total of nine minutes and 29 seconds. During the final two minutes, Floyd was unresponsive and had no pulse. 

One defining factor of the murder was the third person involved, Tou Thao-a former police officer and Hmong American that grew up in the Frogtown area. When Asian natives of St.Paul realized all parties involved in Floyd's death included one of their own, tension between the neighborhoods of Frogtown and Rondo heightened. "It was a moment of reflection and grievance. But, also a time of fear," said a native Asian community member. This also compelled Black and Asian communities to hold solidarity. "If we didn't have the opportunity to create events and have people show up we wouldnt know who actually advocates for us," Yur states, "That's why I ended up posting the Asian Solidarity March and Rally two days after the Georgia killings and a lot of the BLM (Black Lives Matter) community and protesters showed up."

Amidst the uprising, COVID-19 fueled anti-Asian racism and Xenophobia worldwide. The Asian community was stricken with racial epithets, assaults and hate crimes. Just recently, the Asian community received a legislative bill that will expedite the review of Covid related hate crimes. Members of the Black community were thrilled to see the Democratic controlled House and Department of Justice uphold a sense of justice for their Asain neighbors, while some felt slighted due to the urgency in which their community has not been represented. "It goes to show that our Democracy can work, but how are they working for the Black commuity when, we too, have been at the for-front of violence and terrorism. When will it be our turn?" Said Angela Corisco, a fellow Rondo resident. 

As the neighborhood tension between the communities rose, so did their solidarity. Yur organized an event that highlighted Black and Asain solidarity amidst the hate crimes committed against the Asian community. "Originally before the event, it was supposed to be focused on the black community coming together to show solidarity with the Asain community, to say, 'We haven't forgotten about you, let's fight together.' " Yur said. "The goal for this event was to capture every moment of joy that I was able to bear witness to and try to invite all of those people to come."

Aria Binns


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