These past two months have definitely been trying to say the least. I remember waking up to see the news on my Facebook feed the morning after George Floyd was murdered. I remember trying to stay off social media, which was a coping mechanism for me. I wanted to go to the action that day but was too scared because of COVID. The next day I sat at home all day trying to distract myself from everything going on. Later that night the riots started. I just remember feeling really difficult, feeling trapped, paralyzed, and sad. The next day I decided I just really needed to get out of the house and see what’s going on. I biked down Lake Street to the 3rd Precinct, down to Chicago and 38th, and then to a rally at the Government Center. Honestly, everything that day felt really weird. Like the energy all around the city felt like something I had never felt before. All over through Lake Street people were out cleaning the streets and boarding up buildings. At the 3rd Precinct, people were out gathering, some protesting up in front of the precinct while others were just hanging out. Around were some buildings still burning, people going through the looted Target, but everything felt just a bit disorganized. Like this wasn’t an organized action, people were just here and people kept coming through. At 38th and Chicago there were more crowds, there were people speaking, others painting a mural, and others cooking and handing out free food. Tons of flowers dedicated to George Floyd. There was a donation station. Still felt like a very organically put together thing. Afterwards I went to a rally and march at the Government Center. This was more of a traditional action, with a line up of speakers, marshals, and peaceful marching. This action was organized by many of the folks who have been fighting police brutality for decades. As I biked from place to place it seems like the only people I saw out were protesters. It was a really weird and interesting feeling. There was a sort of comradery to it. Everyone was either going to an action or coming from an action or doing an action of some sorts. Like literally I saw small groups of people holding signs over bridges, at random street corners, while they were walking. It was kind of inspiring. But at the same time there was clearly something that was missing – I didn’t see any of the usual suspects. All the usual organizers of actions, the folks that I had been organizing with for the past years before I left MN. I didn’t really see them out there. This is not a knock on them. It’s more of an observation. Where was everyone? I genuinely wondered.
I biked back home but as I was home I could hear the sirens throughout the city. I could see the smoke coming from Midway, just blocks from my house. I had this weird feeling like I needed to be out there to see what was going on. I called a friend and we went out together. I walked down University Ave and saw each business smashed into. Outside of Target were dozens of police officers guarding the entrance. Across the street, a building was on fire. Oddly enough, even as my favorite restaurant, Peking Garden, and everything else around was damaged, Allianz Stadium was left completely unscathed. Not a single dent. And no police guarding it either. It really makes you wonder what’s actually going on here.
I looked across west to Minneapolis and could see more smoke rising in the air. It was surreal. The whole city was burning. We made our way to the third precinct police station, where it all started. At this point it was night out. There were a few police cars blocking off Lake Street, but that’s all the cops I saw. As I walked towards the station I could see fireworks being shot into the air. The air was smoky. What I saw when I got there was the most indescribable, surreal, insane, outrageous, sad, exciting, frightening, energetic, sight I had ever seen. Anarchy. I think that’s the only word to describe it. The building to my left was on fire. You could smell the gas too. At this point the police precinct was already on fire as well. People were standing above it, chanting, drinking, shooting fireworks. There were easily hundreds of people out. Maybe a thousand. But it was such a weird crowd. Some were there to protest. Some were there to break shit and riot. Some were there just to observe. Some were there to drink, smoke, dance, and party. The music was loud. Fireworks were constantly being shot, sometimes in the air, sometimes into the station, sometimes into the street. The air smelled like booze, weed, fireworks, smoke, gasoline. It didn’t feel safe. Not because of the people there, there was definitely that sense of comradery between everyone there. But it just didn’t feel safe because of the gas and the fires and the fireworks. I decided to call it a night and head home.
The next day, the Governor announced a curfew and that he was going to call in the national guard. I hesitated to go out but I eventually decided to. People were gathering around the 5th precinct this night. At first there wasn’t much. Again, similar types of crowds who were there the night before. Tonight though, I was on the lookout. I knew there was some really freaking suspicious shit going on. I could just feel it all around me the day before and that night. Some things just didn’t seem right. And lone behold, just as folks started marching, I spotted them right away. It was so easy too. I just said to myself, look out for white people doing dumb shit. And then I found them right away lmao. Tbh I was scared to post the video on Facebook. I didn’t think it showed much proof of them doing anything. But as you know, the video ended up going viral lol. Didn’t expect THAT to happen haha.
I started posting more on Facebook. I don’t usually like posting much on Facebook, just because I don’t think it’s a good medium for conversation. But there was a lot of miscommunication out there, a lot of things going on, a lot of new people joining the movement so I thought it was important to share my thoughts. I was also angry, energized, and quite frankly bored since I didn’t have a job. So I posted more stuff, another post that when viral was when I called out the state legislators who are funded by the MPD Union. It’s cool to know that people follow me and listen to me and that I was actually able to make change through this post. But — it’s also kinda scary how easy it is. Like really. I could say something super fucked up or false, and people would still believe me. That level of power and blind following by others is quite frankly incredibly shocking. Well not shocking because we see it all the time, but it can be really dangerous I think, especially when you have some sort of following. Even someone like me with such a small amount of following can move some big things and at the same time do some great damage.
One thing I noticed immediately after the first couple nights of the uprising was how different everything felt in Minneapolis. It was an indescribable feeling. In one respect people were coming out of their homes after months of staying inside due to covid. The hot spots – the 3rd precinct, the memorial, Lake Street, and other areas – felt like mini street festivals, with people walking around everywhere, food and drinks, protesting, art, donations, music, programs and more. But people weren’t coming out to celebrate, they were out to help and observe. As I biked around the city the first night after the uprising, what I saw was every day people going out and taking action on their own. People didn’t really know what to do so they just went out and started doing things – cleaning the streets, donating supplies, marching and protesting, boarding up businesses and windows, dropping banners, holding signs at street corners – it was, in my 10 years of organizing in the Twin Cities, a level of activism that I had never experienced before. It was clear on that day, that something different was in the air. That people were waking up to something. That people felt called and compelled to leave their home, in the height of a pandemic, to go out and do something. And that to me, signaled a change from what we were used to.
I’m writing this now almost two months after George Floyd’s death. What started in Minneapolis had become a global uprising in support of Black lives. Just in the Twin Cities – the Minneapolis City Council has committed to defunding the police. Minneapolis and Saint Paul school districts have removed police from schools. The University of MN and Minneapolis Park Board have cut their contract with the MPD. Across the country, other cities and jurisdictions are following suit. I truly believe that the global uprising, the pandemic, and the economic downturn are causing all of us to reevaluate our lives and think differently about what our world can look like. It’s sad that it came to this but I’m excited for the moment that we are living in. To rebuild our world in a way that works better for all of us. I can sense and feel the shift happening. And we’ve got to push ourselves to keep this shift in the front of our brains. We can dream big for different systems and these can become reality. We have the solutions to our own lives.
On a personal level, while the beginning was certainly difficult and straining, I feel proud when I see the leadership of all the young people, the black queer and trans organizers, leading the way. I continue to think about what it means for me, as an “older” queer Asian American leader, and what my role is in all this, what role do I want to play, what is my responsibility, what is our larger responsibility as Asian Americans in this fight and how we engage truly in solidarity work, true work of liberation.
Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a lot of infighting in communities. While it is expected, it is also saddening, to know that even though we are all on the same page and working towards the same goals, interpersonal conflicts are the leading reasons why we cannot work together. It’s sad to see personal drama and past trauma impact the work we are doing. And the truth is, I’m seeing this play out everywhere throughout the Twin Cities, in all communities. How do we do better, as organizations? How do we do better, as people, as community members, especially knowing that at the end of the day, we’re actually all we have? No one else is going to come and save us. No one else is going to have our backs. No one else is going to love us. We must do that for ourselves. And so, when we harm each other, we’re further putting ourselves, each other, and our movements at risk.
So, here I am now. Some of this drama is really getting to me. Stressing me out. I wonder why I care so much about what some people think and what some people do? I’m remembering back to the days when I was away on my fellowship. I felt so much lighter. I felt so much more freedom. I felt so much more internal energy. Didn’t feel tied down to any organization, any community, any job… just free. I know struggling through all this is the hard work of movement building. But right now, I really wish I was just away again. I dream to live a life of no worries.
I decided I’m going to take one last trip to close out my fellowship. I’m gonna spend some time in Alaska, see the state and take some time for myself, to be with myself, to reflect on this whole thing. I think I need the closure. But also, am I just running away to avoid everything that’s here at home? Work? Drama? Feelings? And all? Seriously though, I started a job about a month ago and I already feel stressed and exhausted about so many things. It’s not supposed to be this way. I should feel excited and motivated about the work. So yeah. Idk. Am I just running away? Do I just need a break already? Do I feel like I need closure for my fellowship? Who knows. All I know is that I’m listening to my body and instincts right now and this is what it’s telling me to do. I guess I’ll have more clarity soon.
Until next time.