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Blaine hate crime sparks town meeting focused on unity, answers

By Emily Bright, Engage Minnesota

On the night of January 27, three men entered Mohammad Ismail’s Blaine Dairy store as he was closing shop and threw flaming glass bottles at the walls, destroying everything in the store. Ismail escaped through the smoke-filled store with minor cuts and burns. A strong expletive directed at the word “Arab” was founded spray painted on the side door that same night. The FBI is investigating the possibility of a hate crime.

Exactly two months later, on March 27, roughly 75 community leaders and concerned citizens gathered at Anoka Technical School to talk about what they were going to do about hate crime in their community. The crowd looked small in the auditorium, but the conversation was constructive, with many speakers stressing the need to forgive those who cause harm, educate the public, and get to know one’s neighbors. As an example of the meeting’s overall goals of unity, the event was cosponsored by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Lake Harriet United Methodist Church, the Anoka Technical Student College Senate, and the NAACP.
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What Are You Going to Do?

By Emily K. Bright, Engage Minnesota

question_mark.gifIt’s not the first time you’ve been a victim of a hate crime, nor is it the last. It’s 8:30 on a winter evening, and you’re closing up your store. The entrance door is locked, half the lights are off, and you’re mopping at the far end of the room when three men barge in the exit door as though they mean to rob you. Two of the men have their hooded backs to you. One of them you can see. He’s over six feet tall, with short reddish blonde hair and a goatee. You observe this in the moment before he stands and hurls a glass bottle directly at you. You duck. It slams into the wall and explodes into flames. All around you, you hear the sound of glass exploding. The store fills with smoke in seconds. You can’t tell if the men are still there and if they’re waiting for you, but you have to get out. You race through your burning store and out to the road. You wave your arms until a woman stops and calls 911 for you. Read the rest of this entry

Are Revolutions Won by Hands Clenched into Fists or Clasped in Prayer?

The MeetingMalcolm X and Martin Luther King in The Meeting

By Emily Bright, Engage Minnesota
Also: Local Muslim Talks with Audience about His Experiences

When I arrive at the History Theater in downtown St. Paul, a school bus is parked in front of the door. It’s the perfect audience for Jeffrey Stetson’s play The Meeting, which imagines a meeting between Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1965 Harlem. Not that this is a children’s play, per se. But the discussion between two great leaders of the Civil Rights movement over the power of violence vs nonviolence definitely strikes a relevant note, and I’m glad people are having a chance to see it in school. Today’s show is set at 10 a.m. on a weekday, as most of the shows have been, and the audience has come entirely on school buses.

The setting is a Harlem hotel precisely 43 years ago today—Valentine’s Day, 1965. Set on the evening of the bombing of Malcolm X’s home and a week before he was assassinated, Malcolm X takes center stage through nearly all the show. Dr. King has accepted a visit to Harlem, and the two men spend their visit in an impassioned debate over, as the program states, whether revolutions are “won by hands clenched into fists or clasped in prayer.” Read the rest of this entry