Since the beginning of the Lao resettlement in Minnesota, our community has grown to over 12,000+. Many reside in Hennepin County, particularly North Minneapolis, where the Lao Assistance Center is located. Our community is home to over 30 Lao-owned businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores and a newspaper, and many institutions to maintain our faiths, culture and traditions. Keeping our traditions alive, Minnesota is home to numerous nationally-recognized, award-winning educators, activists, artists and community builders, including one of the longest-running Lao student associations in the country. We are all looking at new advances, bright ideas together, creating harmony, developing a meaningful network. But I know we can do even more.
Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!
I was proud to see David Zander recognized this year at the Asian Pacific American Heritage Dinner this year. I happily nominated him for a lifetime achievement award, because he has been a big part of our success, and many of yours. David is a legend among Asian Pacific American community organizers and he was the first person who came to mind when I asked who we could nominate.
He served with the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans for almost a decade until he retired just a few years ago. I always remember seeing him at the State Capital or coming to visit us in our offices. He always had amazing questions and high hopes for all of us.
He never told us what to think. He asked what we thought, and what we felt we needed as a community. Then he worked harder than anyone I know to connect us to the legislators, the organizations, the policy makers and the families to make things happen.
David Zander is a man who understands politics, education, business and art. He has always shared his skills as a storyteller with us. He has always made us feel welcome and made us believe in the dream that we could be an amazing community as Asian Pacific Minnesotans. That we have a voice.
He was an immigrant here himself. He may not have been born Asian, but he understands our journey in a way many do not. I am grateful for his wisdom and counsel, his faith in us, his friendship. And I know he has touched your lives too.
As we celebrate our 30th anniversary this year at the Lao Assistance Center, I think one important way we can honor David’s legacy and support of all of us is to continue to be civically engaged and active in our community.
We will have an important decision in November as we elect a new mayor of Minneapolis, where so many Lao live. almost 9,000 of us live in Hennepin County, with most in North Minneapolis. We have an interest in who becomes the next mayor. Will he help to make policies that make it easier for us to start businesses here and for our children to get good grades? What will he see as the role of immigrant and refugees in creating a city to live, learn, work and play? Can we work together to create an even better city by 2020?
Since most of us began arriving in Minneapolis, we’ve only seen three mayors: Mayor Donald M. Fraser, Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, and Mayor R.T. Rybak. What will be the policies of the next mayor? Will we see Lao Minnesotans brought onto the mayor’s staff? What will be done to reduce barriers to allow us to participate in civics together?
I encourage everyone to learn more about each of the candidates as their campaigns continue forward and participate in candidate forums to see who embodies the values and approaches you want to see. Mayors of Minneapolis often stay in office for almost a decade, we should get to know them.