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After hate incident, the Edina community took matters into its own hands

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The Edina Asian American Alliance is a grassroots effort, backed by joined forces from students, former students and parents in the community.

EDINA, Minn. — A lot of things came out of COVID. More specifically, a lot of hate.

KARE 11 has documented multiple incidents of hate against the Asian American Pacific Islander community following the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Hmong family in Woodbury came home to a hateful note on their door in March of 2020. The note called them a racial slur, and told them to “take the virus back to China.”

An Indian parent expressed concerns about the conversations her son was having at school, where he said his peers told him to go back to Mexico, due to the color of his skin. 

“Even after two years, he’s still asking me that — ‘Am I American?'” Geetanjali Mittal said back in September of 2021.

But even with COVID’s slower pace, compared to the last two — nearly three— years, hate continues to spread.

Specifically in schools, highlighted by a video that surfaced in Edina, March of 2022.

The video showed several of Edina High School students who were doing the Nazi salute, as well as mocking Asian accents.

According to a national survey by Stop AAPI Hate in 2021, one in three parents said they were concerned that their child was going to be a victim of anti-AAPI hate in an unsupervised area or on the way to school.

Of the reported hate incidents from March 2020 to March 2022, 9% of those incidents occurred at a school, a college or a university. These only document the incidents that have been reported — keeping in mind that hate incidents are underreported, because victims fear retaliation or worry about “rocking the boat,” after having spoken up.

But since that March 2022 video, a lot has changed within Edina Public Schools.

The Edina Asian American Alliance formed in response to the video, because parents, students and former students like Isa Li, were spurred to take action.

“I wasn’t surprised watching my classmates do that — it was definitely to be expected — but still disappointing nonetheless,” Li said via Zoom.

Li, who has since graduated, says the roles EAAA plays in the community, vary. Sometimes that looks like advising policy. Sometimes it involves advocacy work. And consistently, the group is a community liaison.

“We’re in regular correspondence with district officials and administrators, and working with the district has been really enlightening and they are open to hearing what everyone has to say,” Li explained.

Parent liaison of EAAA, Kelly Condit-Shrestha said they’ve helped with structural changes as well, like establishing a clear reporting system for incidents of bias.

“Post March incident, I think it was just evidence that [the school district wasn’t] equipped for a fully responsive and satisfactory response after that,” Condit-Shrestha said. “And so through this partnership that’s what we’re trying to support.”

As for Sabeeh Mirza, current senior at EHS and also student liaison, he said his personal comfort level has changed.

“Before March, I would not have known what to do, and quite honestly I would not have reported it simply because of the fact that it seemed like a lot of work for no reason,” Mirza said. “And [I] didn’t want to paint a target on my back.”

When questioned why it was on the people of color to fix this specific issue, Mirza said it’s because there isn’t much choice.

“In an ideal world it wouldn’t be, but at the end of the day we are the ones directly impacted,” he said. “We see, we know, what it feels like. We’re the ones who have to deal with the consequences, and while it would be nice to some extent for other people to reach out or try to bridge a gap, at the end of the day, they’re living in a state of ignorance not by choice; but it’s the fact they simply don’t understand.”

“We can make all these policy changes we can implement all these new rules, but at the end of the day what really needs to change is the culture,” Li added. “And how do you do that how do you change culture? So with EAAA that’s what we feel like we’re working towards.”

Li, bringing up an important reminder that a culture shift involves advocating for all groups under pressure.

“[It’s about] making sure that when we’re talking about racism and inequity, we’re including all groups,” she said. “That this isn’t just a problem that’s limited to the Asian American community.”

Watch the latest local news from the Twin Cities in our YouTube playlist:

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Kare11

Grow with KARE: Three types of Lavender

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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — When deciding which type of lavender to add to your garden, the choice will likely be between three main types commonly found at garden centers. All have flowers that are gorgeous and make beautiful garden plants, but beyond that, each variety has special and specific traits.

English Lavenders: Generally sweet and used for culinary purposes. Everyone has different tastes, of course, but generally, the varieties to used for cooking are from the Lavandula angustifolia family, known as English lavender. Any English lavender cultivar will be flavorful. Try “Royal Velvet,” “Folgate,” “Melissa,” “Munstead”, or “Lady.”

French Lavenders: Also edible but isn’t usually used for culinary. They have a higher oil content which can make the lavender taste soapy to some. That trait makes French Lavender wonderful for distilling into essential oil. The stems are also longer, which are great for cuttings.

Spanish Lavenders: Not hardy enough to thrive outside in Minnesota, but you may find them at garden centers as topiaries. These will not grow back in our northern climate if planted in the ground and should be treated as an annual.



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Rainbow Health abruptly shuts down

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According to the organization’s website, Rainbow Health served 2,366 Minnesotans last year alone.

MINNEAPOLIS — A nonprofit organization that’s long served the state’s LGBTQ+ community abruptly closed Thursday, shocking both its staff and clients.

In a statement posted to Facebook on Thursday, the organization announced the closure of Rainbow Health, saying:  “Due to insurmountable financial challenges, we can no longer sustain our operations.”

A similar message was shared with staff hours before the organization – that serves thousands of people across the state – closed its doors.

“We were told that Rainbow Health was insolvent and would be dissolving as of 5 p.m.,” said Ash Tifa, the program coordinator for Rainbow Health Legal Services.

According to the organization’s website, Rainbow Health served 2,366 Minnesotans last year alone. But workers say they work with tens of thousands of people within a marginalized community.

“Our organization serves thousands and thousands across Minnesota, with everything from case management, to therapy and telehealth, a pharmacy, housing support, rent checks, grocery money,” Tifa said, adding: “We’re the State’s largest AIDS-service organization.”

Tifa noted that the move comes just days after the organization’s CEO resigned following a unanimous vote of “No Confidence” by those workers who are represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa. And while the workers remain deeply concerned for their clients, they also have questions and concerns for a board they feel didn’t keep them in the loop or fulfill their contract.

In a statement posted to SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa, the union stated: “Despite contract language in the workers’ union contract as members of SEIU Healthcare MN & IA that requires 30 days advance notice of layoff to union-represented employees, workers found out just hours before the organization said it was closing its doors forever, with no explanation of what happened or what is next for the workers, clients or community.”

Amid all the turmoil, advocates are also urging clients to consider other community resources for care. 

In a statement, Shannah Mulvihill with Mental Health Minnesota, said:

“I am saddened to hear about the closure of Rainbow Health, which helped serve important needs in our LGBTQIA+ community. Unfortunately, many nonprofits are experiencing significant funding challenges right now, especially those providing direct services and care. Many Minnesotans who had relied on Rainbow Health may not know where to turn for help, but there is support available during this time.

Mental Health Minnesota’s Warmline provides peer support every day from 9 AM to 9PM if you need to talk, and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is open 24/7 if you’re struggling.

Minnesota Warmline (peer support)

Call: 855-WARMLINE (855-927-6546)

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

The Trevor Project (LGBTQ support)



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Business owners oppose proposed homeless shelter in Uptown

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The shelter would offer medical respite services to homeless people. Local business owners and residents plan to oppose at the Planning Commission’s Aug. 12 meeting.

MINNEAPOLIS — For the last four years, Mattisse Johnson has operated #FACE, her day spa in Uptown, with the door locked.

“Because all day long we have people off the street who try to come in,” she said. “We have had people we’ve let in, thinking they’re here for good reasons, and they’ve stolen from us. In the middle of the day.”

Mattisse says she wants her business to stay at the corner of West Lake Street and Colfax , because she’s a believer in Uptown — and its recovery.

“I love Uptown because growing up in Minneapolis, this was the dream,” she said.

But a proposed homeless shelter right across the street has business owners banding together in opposition. 

“I think it would be great somewhere else. I just don’t think it belongs on a business corridor,” Johnson said.

“One more thing that’s going to impede the recovery of uptown,” said State Farm insurance agent Lawrence Thomas.

Thomas, whose office is right next door, feels the same as Matisse — that homeless services are needed but that the location is not appropriate.

“And I feel like these conversations, if they’re uncomfortable, I get it. But they need to be had,” Thomas said.

The proposal before the Minneapolis Panning Commission is from Lakeshore Care Inc, a company formed in March. 

Its project description says they plan to “offer temporary, supportive care for individuals recovering from illnesses or medical procedures.”

Lakeshore Care told KARE 11 News they have a medical team with decades of experience to offer respite care.

They want that particular location for proximity to healthcare providers, accessibility, and community integration..

And they plan to address safety concerns in part with security patrols and not allowing clients to “loiter or wander aimlessly”

In this week’s meeting several people spoke out.  Local business owner Andrea Corbin from the Uptown Association and Lynnlake Association says residents are weighing in as well.

“It’s everybody that lives and works in this area,” Corbin said.

The next step in this process is the Minneapolis Planning Commission will hold a hearing on August 12.



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