Days after welcoming their first visitors, the organizers of the new Hmong Cultural Center museum on St. Paul University Avenue arrived on Wednesday to find someone had covered the storefront’s plywood panels – which bore still messages about black pride – coats of white spray paint.
The words “Life, Liberty, Victory” were stenciled on the store’s eastern window, obscuring the poetic verses that once adorned the plywood. The slogan is associated with the white supremacist Patriot Front movement.
“I came this morning to find the front of our ‘whitewashed’ museum last night with a possible white supremacist message,” wrote Mark Pfeifer, program director at the Hmong Cultural Center, in a message to his colleagues.
Pfeifer shared screenshots from surveillance video from a nearby tattoo parlor that shows three people in dark clothing vandalizing the museum around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday. The vandal in shorts appears to have fair skin.
“The museum lock is welded on because of all the painting,” Pfeifer said, in an interview on Wednesday. “We can’t even get in today and probably won’t until we can get a locksmith in.” “
Also among the damage, a new $ 700 sign for the museum was vandalized with paint.
“We just installed our new sign this weekend and were very excited about our official launch,” said Pfeifer, who filed a report with the St. Paul Police Department. “I’m a little depressed about the whole situation. It shows that there are those feelings out there in the community. We’ll just have to remove those boards from there and eventually get a new panel. “
A police spokesperson said police attended the scene on Wednesday morning.
The plywood panels, installed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis and the riots that followed, carried the poetry of Tish Jones, a black educator and founder of TruArtSpeaks.
Among the poetic lines that were painted: “Black as aspen roots, the connection runs deeper than America thought.” The lines are from his poem “Because you keep asking me what it’s like to be black here, now”. The title of the poem had decorated the plywood of the door, which was also spray painted overnight.
Jones said on social media Thursday: “It was a heinous act.”
The 1,200-square-foot museum, inside a ground-floor display case formerly occupied by Liberty Tax Service, had just begun welcoming visitors to the space, which adjoins the long-standing cultural center of the 375 W. University Ave.
Give thanks by also sending love to the artists who worked to place this piece, to other designers whose work surrounds this piece, and to adjacent businesses. It was a heinous act.
– Tish Jones (@TheTishJones) September 9, 2021
On August 30, 70 freshmen from Macalester College visited its exhibits. On September 7, Pfeifer invited the media to visit the museum, which has twice as much exhibition space as the cultural center itself.
“We are very disappointed with this turn of events, but we believe it shows the strong need for the work of our center and our museum to promote goodwill and cultural understanding at least for those who are open to these things.” , Pfeifer said. “The interior is beautiful. I don’t want it to get lost in all of this.
The Hmong Cultural Center accepts donations at hmongcc.org/donate.html.