Year 2020 will go down as one of the most challenging years in modern history. Amid all the recent difficult situations, Chinese Minnesotans have been more active than ever engaging the communities to combat these challenges. On May 30, as the 2020 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month approached its end, Chinese Minnesotan communities hosted the first ever May Forum via zoom meeting to share with local communities their stories of love, contribution, and engagement.
The forum started by sending our sincere condolences to George Floyd’s family and friends. As minority, and as subject of racism from time to time, we do want a just society where everyone should be treated equally.
The forum invited governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Senator Foung Hawj as Keynote speakers. Governor couldn’t make it due to the sudden situation of protest around George Floyd’s death. He did send in a video to share his view on impact of Chinese communities in Minnesota history. He also encouraged Chinese Minnesotans to continue contributing to this beautiful state that we all love.
Senator Foung Hawj came from Hmong community. He traced his ancestral root back to Hunan province in China. He acknowledged the close tie and common values between these two communities. He also acknowledged the many things that Chinese Minnesotans have done to combat COVID-19. He encouraged Chinese Minnesotans to roll up sleeves to continue helping out. He also talked about various initiatives that he started at the capital to help minority small businesses, and encouraged the communities to report any racism and discrimination they may encounter.
The forum ran with four panels. The first panel invited speakers from several local Chinese organizations to share their stories in collecting donations and personal protective equipments (PPEs) and delivering these PPEs to local hospitals, police/fire stations, and senior care centers. On a partial account, local Chinese communities donated more than $440,000 in cash. With this cash and PPE donations, these organizations were able to deliver more than 130 thousand surgical masks, 8000 protective gowns, 11760 other PPEs (Respirators, gloves, etc) to various places around twin cities. The speakers shared with the community their motivations to take on these initiatives and various obstacles that they have to overcome to acquire these supplies from China when the global supply chain was greatly disrupted.
The second panel invited Pearl Bergad from Chinese Heritage Foundation ( https://www.chineseheritagefoundation.org/ )and Linda Mealey-Lohmann from THE MINNESOTA CHINA FRIENDSHIP GARDEN SOCIETY ( http://mnchinagarden.org/ ) to share their projects. Both organizations have been working to bridge Minnesota with China. Chinese Heritage Foundation has used its grants to sponsor various cultural groups and events in twin cities area. The Friendship Garden Society has raised significant funds in the last few years to start the major construction of the garden last fall. The society hopes to raise the remaining funds needed to finish Phase 1 of the Liu Ming Garden in 2020.
Liu Ming Garden now becomes a cultural landmark in twin cities and a popular place for hosting various events.
The third panel high-lighted some community engagements that have been carried out recently. The first speaker was Emily fair. Without any prior experience, she launched a campaign to run for school board in Wayzata district last year. A lot of members from our community had helped her. She spoke on why she did it and the lessons she learned from the campaign. Even though she was a couple hundreds of votes short, her courage is quite inspiring. By trying, she or someone from our community will make it some day.
The other two speakers, Jiabi and Joy, talked about their involvement in “Chinese Food of Love Day” event carried out in more than 100 cities across the United State in May. Jiabi is a registered nurse. She helped to deliver Chinese foods donated by the local Chinese communities to her hospital in the middle of Nurse appreciation week. She mentioned that this act of love already created a lasting impact. Of her experience, she has not seen any of such kind act. She and her co-workers were quite moved. “We have units treating COVID-19 patients in our hospital. Many of us work long hours every day. Hot and delicious Chinese foods make us feel that we are not alone.”
The last panel invited speakers from three teen groups. Meryl Wang from Shoreview created a video to teach a group of people from local Chinese communities to sew masks. This group had made more than 600 masks and donated to various hospitals. Her story has been featured by local TV station KARE-11.
The other teen group is circuit saver, an organization that collects donated old computers and refurbish them for families in need. Its founder Timmy Tu spoke on how they started and the kind of helps the community can provide.
The third teen group is Teens on the Go. They collected masks donated by local Chinese communities and delivered them to essential workers and local small businesses.
We are really proud of these teens. Instead of sitting and complaining, they took actions to improve the situations. This is the kind of spirit that we want to pass down from generation to generation.
The forum ended with a couple videos to showcase the mask sewing effort done by the community. One video was made by Amy Liu, and one was made by Audrey Wu. Many people from the communities had made masks at home and distributed them to people in need via various channels.
Amy herself had made more than 100 to sponsor individuals who would chip in $10 or more for donating foods in the Chinese Food of Love event. She collected more than $1000 in donation. This converted to more than 100 meals delivered to charity centers.
This forum lasted one hour and 15 minutes. There were 98 attendants. Time was short so many great stories were not included. The forum was organized by five volunteers, Donglin Liang, Amy Liu, Sophie Liu, Prof. Jianping Wang, and Chen Zhou, with the helps of many people in the community. We want to thank all the panelists and the participants for their attendance. We hope to see more great stories with a bigger crowd next time.