By William Zajicek, contributor
Hello, my name is Bill Zajicek and I am the new president of the Minnesota China Friendship Garden Society. Linda Mealy-Lohmann passed on the torch this February and moved to a less demanding role of secretary of the organization. She is definitely still active with the organization and you will no doubt hear from her from time to time.
A little history as this project of creating an authentic Sister City China Garden in Minnesota represents a walk through the past 15+ years. My own involvement started almost 10 years ago when the master plan for the Phalen/Keller Regional Park came up for revision. As an active community member in the Phalen Lake area of St. Paul, I was involved in the revision of the Master Plan. One footnote item in the plan called for a China Garden. The East Side of St. Paul is generally the under invested end of town and to see the possibility of something as exotic as a China Garden at Phalen just seemed like an impossible dream. Understand that I knew nothing about Chinese gardens at that point. I just knew they could be amazing. Four years later, I encouraged our Community Council to call a meeting about the possibility of a China Garden at Phalen Park as specified in the new Master Plan and met Linda Mealy-Lohmann, Mary Warpeha & Joyce Hsiao. They did a presentation for 30 community members, including our State Representative Tim Mahoney and his wife. The next year Tim and our State Senator Foung Hawj submitted a Legacy Bill for preliminary design of the St. Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden.
The last five years have been a blur: trips to Changsha, fund raising, community engagement meetings. many meetings with Parks & Recreation, Peanuts sculptures to Changsha, replica of the Aiwan Ting to Minnesota, ground breaking, dedications, successes and failures and, in the end, certainly one of the most amazing single pieces of public art in the State of Minnesota, the Xiang Jiang Ting. (‘Xiang’ is the name of the river that goes through our China sister city Changsha, ‘Jiang’ is river, and ‘Ting’ is pavilion.)
These gardens are all more expensive than anticipated. Talk to anyone who has been involved in one if you don’t believe me. As a result, we have a promissory note with the City of St. Paul to pay off Phase I. Donations, big and small, are welcome. ... If you donate $1,000 or more, you will become a Ground Breaker for the Garden and your donation will be recognized on the donor wall. The Ground Breaker title will only be available for Phase I.
Until the promissory note is paid, we can’t start Phase II: a Hmong Cultural Plaza, a Chinese Moon Bridge between the garden and Picnic Island, completion of the rock garden from the Pavilion to the water’s edge, and a permanent Gate/Donor Wall on the east side of the garden. Ironically, we already have nearly $500,000 of restricted funds for Phase II, which we can’t use until the promissory note for Phase I is taken care of.
The Saint Paul-Changsha China Garden of Whispering Willows and Flowing Water, “Liu Ming Yuan,’ was dedicated in July 2019. Well before that, one of our Board members did his engagement there. While weeding last month, we came upon a small wedding. Apparently, there has been over a dozen such events at the location already. In addition, there are the movies that have been made at the site, individuals in mediation, and always the families taking pictures.
During our COVID morass, come out to Phalen Park and see the “Liu Ming Yuan.” The entrance is right across from the Phalen Golf Club House parking lot. Bring your tea or lunch. Spend a few minutes. Visit Master Lei Yixin’s sculpture from Minnesota rocks “Meditation” at the other end of Picnic Island. You will be far more hopeful and serene afterwards.
The project started out as an engagement to build a garden and, instead, it has become an engagement to build a community. Join us in supporting the Saint Paul-Changsha China Friendship Garden of “Whispering Willows and Flowing Waters.”
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Minnesota-China-Friendship-Garden-114075207039431/
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By Chang Wang, contributor
In May 2020, Governor Tim Walz appointed Chang Wang, a regular China Insight contributor, to the Board of Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) to represent the Chinese Minnesotans at the Council and the State government. China Insight caught up with Wang for him to share his background and reasons for serving on the Board and the Chinese Minnesotan communities.
China Insight: Where are you from? How long have you lived in Minnesota?
Wang: I was born in Beijing, China. I have been living in Minnesota since 2003.
CI: What academic and/or professional steps brought you to where you are today?
Wang: Before coming to the U.S., I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in filmmaking from Beijing Film Academy and a Master of Arts. in comparative literature and cultural studies from Peking University in China. In 2000, I enrolled in the contemporary art history program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2003, I received a Master of Arts in art history and, at the same time, was admitted into the University of Minnesota Law School.Add a comment
Not even a pandemic can keep down the celebration for this spirited nonagenarian.
Yes, on July 4, Ming Tchou turned 96. Her friends and families from near and far held a party to mark the occasion via Zoom.
Ming Tchou has been an active volunteer in the Chinese community in Minnesota for more than 40 years, and has won numerous awards, including the leadership award from the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans. She was a founding member of the U. S. China Peoples Friendship Association and the Chinese Senior Citizens Society, serving as its president for more than a decade.
In 2004 she created the Chinese Heritage Foundation (CHF) with the goal of preserving and promoting the understanding of Chinese culture, history and heritage in Minnesota; and it was the CHF Advisory Committee that organized the Zoom party.
Reflecting on her 40 years in Minnesota, Ming said, "We should learn how to share ideas with each other and to do it often." Through the Chinese Heritage Foundation, she established at the Minneapolis Foundation, she plans to devote the coming years to promoting this important function within the Chinese community and the Greater Twin Cities with events such as A Passage to China and Dream of the Red Chamber.
Visit www.chineseheritagefoundation.org to learn more about Ming’s amazing life and CHF’s mission.
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Chinese communities across the country were some of the first to organize sourcing channels for COVID-19 medical supplies. In early 2020, many Minnesotan Chinese American organizations stepped up to donate funds, source medical supplies, and donate them to areas in China with the greatest need.
In the Name of Love Foundation was formed by the Minnesota International Chinese School, the Minnesota Chinese American Chamber of Commerce, and the Council for US-China Medical Technology Exchanges to raise funds, purchase oxygen concentrators vital to treating severe COVID-19 patients, and ship them to hospitals in Hubei Province where the virus was first detected. First Link joined this volunteer initiative in late February, offering help in English-language communication efforts.
In addition, 23 local Chinese restaurants donated portions of their profits to the fund and local Chinese wholesale food suppliers donated fresh produce and fruits to food shelves. Details of these efforts were covered in last month’s China Insight (p. 9).
Looking ahead, there is a prediction of a peak in cases around the beginning of July. The Chinese organizations will continue their efforts to help the Minnesota community stay healthy. There are many leaders in Minnesota’s (and other) Chinese have driven the development of grass-roots initiatives. The networks and collaborations that have arisen out of this crisis will still be here when COVID-19 crisis subsides.
If you would like to get involved, check out the organizations’ websites.
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On May 25, members of the Minneapo- lis Police Department (MPD) were involved in the death of George Floyd while they were placing him under arrest. The chill- ing video of the incident was recorded by eyewitnesses and shared widely on social media. The videos show a man handcuffed and lying on his stomach while an officer places direct pressure on his neck. During this time, Floyd pleads that he is unable to breath. Bystanders implore the officer to get off Floyd. The officer ignores these pleas. Other officers choose not to intervene.
When our focus as a state and nation has been on protecting the lives of vulnerable community members from the coronavirus pandemic, it is hard to process this prevent- able loss of human life.
Our Council expresses our condolences and wishes healing for the family and friends of Mr. Floyd. We stand with our African heritage community during this time
of tragedy. As an agency that represents one of Minnesota’s most diverse and complex communities, we sympathize with this tragic example of the systemic inequities that still exist within our justice system. We also acknowledge that we do not come close to fathoming the depth and pervasiveness of dangers that plague the lives of black men in America every day.
Additionally, our Council recognizes the role a member of our community played in this tragedy. One of the MPD officers shown in the video is of Asian Pacific heritage and does not appear to take action to help Mr. Floyd as he suffocates to death. Had he or any of the other officers intervened, this story could have ended very differently. As the call for diversity and inclusion in law enforcement hiring practices is answered, we must also hold these officers account- able within our criminal justice system. As more officers are hired that reflect our com-
munities, these officers must demonstrate an ability to stand up to existing organizational culture and actively engage in changing that culture.
Incidents such as this one directly con- tributes to the breakdown in the systems and structures that we look to for moral authority and social cohesion. Our society functions based on the premise that we as a people believe in the power and the sanctity of our systems of justice. We cannot move forward when these systems are harming members of our society.
Let our communities stand together against injustice and create trust where there has previously been fear. To this end, our Council asks all Minnesotans to speak up and act when they see instances of injustice against anyone. It is only through our uni- fied voice as Americans that we can begin to look towards our institutions of justice as the backbone of democracy.Add a comment