Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.
Update: See pictures and get a quick update on how the Unity March went.
People in hundreds of U.S. cities and around the world have taken to the streets in protest of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. That includes West St. Paul and our neighbor South St. Paul. On Sunday, June 7 there will be a peaceful Unity March between the two cities to call attention to ongoing social injustices against people of color.
Marisa Fuglestad, a 27-year-old South St. Paul resident, has spearheaded the protests in South St. Paul and organized this Unity March with a few others. Currently unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she works as a restaurant server and yoga teacher. Fugelstad grew up in South St. Paul and gives credit to her mother—”one of the strongest, hardest-working, and most independent ladies I know”—who has been out protesting with Fugelstad every day.
“So passion, collaboration, and camaraderie is what birthed the Unity March between the two cities. A way for the residents of both cities to stand up together in unison against racial disparities but also to celebrate our diversity.”Marisa Fuglestad
Talking With Marisa Fuglestad
We wanted to learn more about the ongoing protests and the Unity March, so we reached out to Fuglestad to get the latest—though she’s quick to point out that she’s had a lot of help.
You’ve been protesting in South St. Paul every day since May 30 and you have a number of events happening this weekend—food drive, BBQ, and a unity march. What motivated you to do all of this?
I have been out protesting in South St. Paul and Minneapolis since May 30th. I was inspired to do the food/donation drive based on the overwhelming amount of support I was receiving from South St. Paul residents while we were out peacefully protesting on 7th and Southview. People kept dropping off water bottles, gatorade, snacks, fruit, sidewalk chalk, money, and Dilly bars for days (Dairy Queen is just down the street). I was so amazed at how much people wanted to help out, and I figured it’d be a great opportunity for South St. Paul residents to help support our neighbors in Minneapolis and St. Paul, whose communities are in need of assistance.
What’s the reaction been? How are people responding?
The reaction has been unbelievable, in many ways. I was blown away at how quickly and passionately people congregated to the corners of 7th and Southview; one of our busiest intersections in town. Every day, more and more people were joining us. Bringing not only their signs, but their voices. I’ve met so many new amazing and wonderful people, created new relationships with my neighbors, and even re-kindled old friendships from when I was a kid. I loved seeing families come together.
I would say the response has been mainly positive, however there are always people who may not agree with what you are standing for. We have had some backlash from the community as well. People who did not appreciate the disruption we were causing to their businesses because of the noise. Others who did not understand why we were protesting in the first place. We were yelled at mainly from people in their cars, saying things such as “Get out of our neighborhood,” “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” “Get a job!” and quite a few middle fingers. The worst came from an individual on foot, who had very derogatory and racist things to say about black people and George Floyd, and I was then spit on.
However, the positive reactions far outweighed the bad ones.
Much of your work has happened in South St. Paul and now you’re organizing a unity march with West St. Paul—why are you bringing the two cities together? What prompted that?
Less than one week ago, a warrior woman—Kimber Scott—came out to the peaceful protests in South St. Paul with her children. Her energy was fierce. Her enormous voice led us in chant after chant the moment she arrived. She had so much passion for this movement and for seeking justice for George Floyd. She spoke of her own struggles growing up as a black woman in this country, and specifically in small towns similar to South St. Paul. She fights for her children, so they can grow up and chase their dreams, without having to worry about being killed because of the color of their skin.
Kimber introduced me to another West St. Paul resident who had passion and ideas. I had already been discussing the idea of a peaceful march through South St. Paul, but it was our neighbor in West St. Paul who had the idea to join the sister cities in a Unity March. So passion, collaboration, and camaraderie is what birthed the Unity March between the two cities. A way for the residents of both cities to stand up together in unison against racial disparities but also to celebrate our diversity.
Racism can feel like such an overwhelming issue. What can people in West St. Paul and South St. Paul do to address these issues?
I think people in West St. Paul and South St. Paul can address the issues of racism by first sitting with themselves, and asking themselves some hard questions. Racism is more than just outright hate for another person with different skin color. It goes much deeper than that.
We need to take a step back and ask ourselves:
- “In what ways may I be contributing to racism in my own community?”
- “What subconscious or conscious racists thoughts do I have when I see a person of color?”
- “In what ways does the color of my skin make my experiences different than someone else’s?”
I think it is important to have honest conversations with our family members and peers; as uncomfortable as it may be. We can educate ourselves by listening, learning, and talking with people who look different from us. To begin to address the issues of racism in our communities, it must start with the individual.
The Unity March is on Sunday, June 7, starting at Roosevelt Field in South St. Paul and marching to the Sports Complex in West St. Paul. Please wear masks and practice proper social distancing. Thanks to Marisa Fuglestad for doing this work and sharing her thoughts with us.
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