As mass protests erupted for a fifth consecutive night over the police killing of Daunte Wright, Asian American organizers in the Minneapolis area have been showing solidarity with the Black community by spearheading mutual aid efforts, community safety initiatives and rallies against police brutality.
Wright, 20, who was Black, was shot and killed in suburban Brooklyn Center on Sunday by a white officer whose police chief said he believed she meant to fire her Taser instead of her pistol. The officer, Kim Potter, and the police chief, Tim Gannon, subsequently resigned, and Potter was charged with second-degree manslaughter.
Many of the organizing efforts are focused on providing basic goods to Brooklyn Center residents who have been caught in the middle of overnight clashes between protesters and police. Already considered a food desert, the neighborhood is facing a blockade of sorts after more than a dozen stores were looted.
Cindy Yang, an Asian American organizer who ran an unsuccessful bid for the Minnesota state House in 2018, has been leading a canvassing program at a low-income apartment building across from the Brooklyn Center Police Department to assess families’ access to essential resources such as food and transportation.
“People can pit our communities against each other,” Yang told NBC Asian America. “But the reality is that I’m out here organizing with Black organizers. The reality is that many of us know this system is not built for you if you’re not a white person.”
Working with Alfreda Daniels, a former Brooklyn Center City Council candidate, and a core group of volunteers, she sought donations and established a mutual aid organization to collect and deliver resources, including toiletries, diapers and culturally appropriate meals. Volunteers have helped relocate fearful residents whose apartments have been infiltrated by tear gas from police. They’ve also helped small-business owners board up their shops.
Other Asian American advocates are prioritizing healing at a time of compounded racial trauma for the Black community. Brooklyn Center is around 10 miles north of Minneapolis, where Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd last summer, is currently on trial on charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Anthea Yur, an independent organizer and founder of the AAPI collective Kokoro Project, worked with Black leaders to coordinate a solidarity rally this Sunday at George Floyd Square, a semi-autonomous zone at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. The event will feature performances from local hip-hop artists such as Bayo and Sounds of Blackness, as well as speeches from leaders of racial justice groups like Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence and the NAACP.
“We’re trying to figure out how the two communities can make space for one another,” she said. “The Black community is grieving. The Asian community is grieving. It’s the product of white supremacy, just rippled out from our last leader.”
Yur said organizers began planning a unity rally in the wake of the Georgia shooting last month, in which a white gunman is suspected of killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The goal was initially to create a safe space for the two communities of color to process their grief and trauma. After Wright was killed, the focus of the rally changed to lending support to the Black community.
Vang Xor, the movement director at the civic engagement group Asian Americans Organizing Project, said his group has been using social media to amplify mutual aid efforts from partner organizations and to share resources such as tips on how to protest safely. The group has also been connecting young Asian American leaders to a community safety training program hosted by the activist Kalaya'an Mendoza, who specializes in nonviolent direct-action organizing.
“We’re hoping to build this understanding of what true liberation looks like,” he said, “and push young Asians to see that their liberation is also tied to Black liberation and Latinx liberation.”
Organizers at the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, a social justice group formed in 2013, have been canvassing apartments across from the police department, delivering resources to families and providing security to protesters.
“We know we can’t talk about anti-Asian violence without talking about anti-Blackness,” the group’s executive director, Bo Thao-Urabe, said. “So it’s important for us to be really clear that these are not separate issues and that we stand in solidarity with [Wright’s] family demanding justice.”
During the recent wave of anti-Asian attacks, Thao-Urabe said, Black and brown organizers have shown the same solidarity with the Asian American community. Following the Georgia shooting, she said, many helped assemble care packages for Asian women.
“This is a moment when we’re really pushing for the practice of solidarity and not just verbiage of solidarity,” Thao-Urabe said.