Familiar Faces D-Avilar

Jasmine Gates D-Avilar.

Monday, May 25. It was the video that shook the U.S. — and the rest of the world — to wake up.

George Floyd’s killing, right outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, had the world protesting against racial injustice. The movement started in Minneapolis and spread quickly to Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and everywhere else, from Paris to Ireland and Uganda. The world for the next month had not been the same and it collectively screamed “I CAN’T BREATHE.”

The movement reached Mankato following a few days after Floyd’s death. Hundreds had gathered peacefully along the unseasonably blistering May summer heat to demonstrate against police brutality and for racial justice.

Jasmine D’Avilar had demonstrated that day and was surprised at the amount of support Mankatoans showed that day.

D’Avilar — a Minnesota State University 2020 grad — has continued the fight. She’ll also be the first to contribute to the local media group, Triple Falls Productions in their segments “TF Black Voices.”

The anthropology grad has been active in the community and avidly fighting against racial injustice by organizing the silent vigils at Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. The vigil had dedicated eight minutes and 46 minutes of silence for George Floyd.

“If you cannot show up today, then show up tomorrow,” D’Avilar wrote in her Facebook event. “And the next day, and the next. This movement of social change is going to take all of us and we must continue the fight every single day we can.”

MANKATO MAGAZINE: The protest that was held shortly after George Floyd’s death was massive in Mankato. Did you ever expect the protest to get that big and that feedback?

JASMINE D'AVILAR: I did not expect the protest to gather such a large crowd. I truly wasn’t expecting much outside of my close friends supporting me. It’s been amazing to meet so many new people and to have their support. These demonstrations have been so inspiring to continue using my voice to affect change because people are actually listening to me. It’s surreal.

MM: Can you tell us a little bit more about the community events you’re planning on organizing for the future? What can people expect?

JD: Since the protests I’ve thought about what the next steps would be post bridge. Over the last few weeks we’ve been building trust within our community and in order to maintain the momentum we’ve created.

I figured this would be an amazing opportunity for educating each other on what’s happening in our country, state, town, etc. There is a planning committee that is working on a series of community events where folks can learn more about current discussions like: What Is the difference between police reform, defunding or abolishing the police? We hope to clear up any confusion on the subject and how we as a community can take action to create the future we want to see here.

MM: Mid-June you had been interviewed for local communications team Triple Falls. It was stated that their programming will include TF Black Voices. What is something that people can expect from your content?

JD: TF Black Voices is going to be a platform to amplify marginalized voices (primarily black, indigenous, and people of color), created and directed by Black folks.

Triple Falls has been amazingly supportive of me and wants to donate their time and resources to showcase Black content whether it be arts and culture, entertainments, discussion, etc. I hope to work with other Black folks that have limited access to a platform and resources to use their voices and produce content that makes them feel seen and heard.

I would like to have discussion based segments on current events from the perspectives of other BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ folks as well as arts and culture content. If you’re BIPOC and you wanna be involved please reach out to me. We need your voices!

MM: From the same interview, you had said you didn’t expect how much the movement had impacted you and others. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

JD: I was really shocked to see the overwhelming support from the Mankato community. I haven’t always felt so welcome since I moved here five years ago for school, I didn’t expect anyone to show up but they did and I am very grateful.

I think the first few meetings had the most impact on myself and the bridge attendees. It was emotional to experience that moment of silence for that long because you can’t help but reflect on what happened to George Floyd and all other victims of police brutality.

Each night doesn’t get easier during the silence, I still think of every single person whose lives were stolen and those that have been killed since George Floyd. It never stops, so we’ll never stop showing up until there is real change.

MM: What are some things that allies should know to continue to help in the fight for racial justice?

JD: Listen to the communities you claim to be an ally for, follow them and let them lead. Also do the homework yourself. It shouldn’t be my job to educate you on my oppression when we exist in the very same system. Educate yourself and your peers. Redistribute your wealth when your community needs it. Do not speak louder than marginalized voices.

Some people might not understand why protests happened or why they have continued for weeks. Why are these protests still taking place and what is their importance?

I think having the protests be daily keeps the movement on everyone’s radar. Every night people drive past us and are reminded that the fight isn’t over and this isn’t just a news story that gets swept under that rug after a week.

Everyday black and brown folks have to live in fear and I think the protests have been impacting those participating and passing by. I also think the physical distance between Mankato and Minneapolis makes it easy to forget about what happened to George Floyd. We can detach ourselves from what’s going on because it didn’t happen here directly, but it still has an effect on this town and our community.

MM: There have been some counter protesters at the silence protests. How do you handle them? What have they done? What do you advise people to do when that happens?

JD: As counter protesters became more aware of our daily protests, some folks tried to intimidate us but it didn’t last very long. We took precautions to make sure everyone stayed safe including watching our vehicles and making sure everyone went home safely.

We never wanted any engagement with them as we wanted our demonstrations to be peaceful and serve as a space for community, support and solidarity. Those instances only made our small bridge community stronger and nearly 180 people stood together in unity in response to potential threats.

Everything worked out in the end and everyone has remained safe. Safety of everyone involved has always been my top priority.

MM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JD: I would just like to say thank you to all the individuals I’ve shared this space with on the bridge every night. You all inspire me to keep going and I will never forget this experience. I’m truly grateful for all the love, support and friendship I’ve gained. We are stronger together. #MankatoStrong

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