Atlanta. As it was for the rest of the country. On Tuesday, March 16, a series of shootings took place in three Atlanta-area spas resulting in the deaths of eight people, several of whom were of Asian descent. Six of them women. Data points aside, my heart is aching – and my head is reeling. We both stand together with our Asian American friends to condemn this violence and find ourselves on our knees in shared grief.
This was not random; the perpetrator was on his way to Florida for more of the same when he was arrested. Indeed, hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been growing. Stop AAPI Hate was formed in March of 2020 to prevent discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a report released on Tuesday, the group said it had received reports of 3,795 incidents between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021. But it said the number could be higher because not all incidents are reported.
We all are invited to join the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) on Wednesday, March 24, from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM CDT for Unheard Stories: Asian Americans Experiencing Hate, a public community event to hear from leaders and community members about what has been occurring in Minnesota and nationwide, hear from victims of hate, and work together with us to take action against violence and hate. Speakers will include U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, MDHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, CAAL Executive & Network Director Bo Thao-Urabe, and others.
See you in the trenches.
On Friday, the NY Times wrote an interesting piece about the vaccine roll-out in the U.S./Britain compared to the European Union. The U.S. actually may avoid the “third wave” that Europe is facing now. A few countries are back on lock-down as a result. No single culprit. Instead, a series of small decisions have led to only about 10% of Europeans receiving their first vaccine dose thus far (compared to 23% in the U.S., and 39% in Britain).
At the Legislature: second policy committee deadline was Friday, March 19. Bills with finance and tax implications have a deadline for passage through relevant committees by Friday, April 9. Given that Easter/Passover break is March 26 – April 5, the Legislature doesn’t have much time left. Budget deliberations will intensify: the House DFL is expected to release its budget targets/priorities this week. The Senate Republican budget plan released last week likely will fall far short of the House DFL’s and Governor’s budget plans, including a proposed hold on all tax increases. Also included is the exemption of federal PPP loans from state taxes (an issue not universally agreed upon – which I find unfathomable).
Tax Day: IRS and US Treasury extended filing and payment deadline for individuals to May 17, 2021. See details here. Read the full press release here.
4. Cultivating Relationships
MNSCU Board of Trustees last Wednesday announced the appointment of two new presidents: Dr. Edward Inch will serve as the president of Minnesota State University, Mankato, beginning July 1. Dr. Deidra Peaslee will become the next president of Saint Paul College, effective immediately. Dr. Peaslee has served as interim at SPC since 2019.
5. Driving Progress
Two development projects in Saint Paul of immediate interest:
Lexington Station housing project and the Rondo Bridge. The Chamber is bullish on both, with a vision of encouraging development that invites bigger thinking of what is possible for us moving forward.
The Lexington Station project appeal was presented to the City Council on March 17. Was laid over till April 7. Channon Lemon and I co-authored an op-ed last week on the project: “Approve this project but improve the process”
And we continue to enthusiastically support the Rondo Land Bridge (you can find a review of the project here
6. Growing Leaders
I read a fascinating article this past week, on “the enemies of inclusion.” Are they certain people? No, they’re actually found within our own mistaken understanding> Inclusion requires that, sometimes – often in fact, we don’t get to universal consensus.
The Enemies of Inclusion: Cancelling, Consensus, and Perfection https://www.tlnt.com/the-enemies-of-inclusion-cancelling-consensus-and-perfection/.
7. Building Capacity
Today, I’m talking – literally – about capacity!
I feel a drumbeat. It thrums in my chest. And it’s getting louder, has been growing for some time. It doesn’t come from within me but from people around me, and I connect it to growing insistence from the community whose previously silenced or ignored voices must be heard. In social justice. In economic empowerment. In equal access to opportunity. Candidly, what I feel in response is generalized anxiety. Because I’m not sure of what to do with all I’m sensing and feeling, and what my role should be in addressing any of it. Also, somewhere inside of me, is an unconscious fear that if I acknowledge and give way to the urgency of others, I will lose. Something. I talk regularly about the need to embrace a “philosophy of abundance,” which speaks to the idea of building more together, making room. I speak it loudly and regularly to remind myself, perhaps, of the need to be free of fear. To embrace new thinking, more equitable ways of doing business. More is better. And yet my unconscious still is reacting viscerally with the “philosophy of scarcity”: there is only one winner, and if it’s not me, then I lose.
I say all this out loud right now to open the window, so to speak, blow out the dark, shine light on my own smallness so it does not hold me captive.
“Transformation” is a big word. I like the sound of it, but I don’t quite know how to create it. And, of course, if I have to give way in any part of my life to achieve it, well, I’d rather talk about it than help create it. That said, on the flip side, my very nature rebels against the talking-without-action. I can’t stand it. The tension, my internal conflict, is real.
Besides, my life is just fine. I’m comfortable. I don’t really want to “upset the apple cart,” so to speak, if change – transformation – well, changes “too much.” How and why does one, exactly, “activate transformation”? I mean, who am I to impact social justice? Or bring about economic empowerment, equal access to opportunity? I generally welcome new thinking, I enjoy learning something new, but how do I know what within me represents the “old” that I should retire or walk away from? And what “new” is worthy of my embrace and advancement? And then, ultimately, what power – or right - do I have to advance anything anywhere?
I met a friend for a walk this past weekend. Because it’s relevant to the conversation, I’ll further share that this friend is a Black woman. We were talking about a development project in Saint Paul that I’ve been wrestling with. In this conversation, “transformation” was in the context of economic development. Our conversation expanded, hence my meanderings today. I’ll share my internal monologue, and my friend’s unequivocal responses:
Me: I’m very uncomfortable. And I’m afraid. That I will lose something. That I will do it wrong.
My friend: “Get over yourself. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re doing something right.”
My thinking: Unfiltered, lol, but ok.
Me: Life is just fine. I’m comfortable (read: I don’t really want to work too hard to change anything, especially myself).
My friend: “Your comfort comes at a cost for people who look like me. And it’s a privilege to not have to worry about it, a privilege to be able to choose whether or not to engage on these issues.”
My thinking: Hmmm… sometimes I am party to the oppression.
Me: Who am I to speak into something as big as “transformation”?
My friend: “Who are you NOT to?”
My thinking: Dang, no escape there. Think Marianne Williamson’s quote, about our “deepest fear”
Me: What is “old” that I should retire or walk away from? You know, I don’t want to be a “radical.”
My friend: “Think about what is in place now that actually undermines true equity. Look around you. Listen to people who talk about the structures and practices that have gotten us to where we are, practices that maintain disparities. We can begin to identify them on many fronts. Start with practices that shape hiring, access to capital, and quality of education.”
My thinking: This is a muscle I’m learning to develop. And it will get easier as I practice exercising it. My perspective continues to change. This is something I’ve got to step into and figure out as I go. That’s the work. Even the parts of myself I don’t like too much. I have to figure out how to stay in this space and work through it.
Me: How do I know what is “new” and worthy of my embrace/advancement?
My friend: “Start with people. Think deeply about who will help you have a better conversation, bring new perspectives, to help us have a richer, deeper, more informed conversation. And who will position you for growth. Choose to hang around those people.”
My thinking: OK, this one really resonates with me. This is something I can do.
Me: What power/right do I have to do or say anything about “transforming” community?
Me (I figured this one out on my own): Actually, in my role, I must acknowledge the great responsibility to activate transformation. This organization has agency, power, to speak into change – to lean in, as it were. In fact, each of us, within our own areas of operation, has the power/right/responsibility to lean into issues of social justice and economic advancement opportunity.
Well, this is me leaning in. Still standing in my slip in front of the room.
See you in the trenches.
Late Friday, MDH published the Covid-19 Employer Toolkit. This is a one stop shop designed to direct employers to the resources they need to help their workforce get vaccinated safely and efficiently and to provide materials to educate employees about COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 Vaccine Connector: COVID-19 Vaccine Connector
Vaccine Info Hub: Minnesota Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine information hub
As of Sunday, nearly 500K Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, 6730 have died. Thus far, Minnesota has administered nearly 2M doses. How has our experience and response stacked up against other states?
Two big moves this past week:
The big news, of course, is Governor Walz’s EO 21-11, “turning the dial” and opening up the economy one more step. The St. Paul Saints, Twins, Wild and other venues are ready. The UofM plans a full return to normal campus operations by fall semester. By mid-April, businesses no longer will be bound by “must” work from home. Instead, we are “strongly encouraged,” and must allow for employees to continue to work virtually as is reasonably possible.
And what’s going on with real estate? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I tell you that I have real optimism for the Saint Paul real estate market ahead. Life – and office space – will be different, no doubt. And yet we have strong pent-up demand. And job growth ahead. We’ve also had some real wins in the past year, along with businesses re-committing. I’m sure you read Target’s announcement last week they are downsizing – significantly – in downtown Minneapolis.
Which downtown restaurants and breweries have opened their patios?
The latest in a speaker series, organized by the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, spoke on Friday, 3/5, on The Future of Office. If you were not able to make it, a recording can be found here. Especially given the news last week that Target corporate will reduce their office footprint in Minneapolis, I encourage you to watch it. As employers adapt toward more flexible work environments, less physical space may be necessary, but the need and desire for a place for colleagues to gather and innovate will continue.
The pandemic fallout, politics, civil unrest have put the spotlight on how organizations handle the unexpected. Is yours ready? Are you a transformational leader? Korn Ferry Institute published a paper, “Activating Transformation.” Where do you see yourself?
We are delighted to introduce our latest member to the team: Megan Forgrave, our new Vice President of Programming and Member Experience, joined us today. She comes to us from The Bush Foundation, where she was their Communications Program Manager. Welcome Megan!