PINE ISLAND — Justice runs deep for Alice Is Kopp. The 26-year-old Pine Island native – Kopp graduated from Pine Island High School in 2013 – first raised their voice while living in San Diego after the police in nearby El Cajon shot and killed 38-year-old Alfred Olango.
Kopp, who identifies as a Pilipnx and Latinx person of color as well as mentally ill/disabled/mad/neurodivergent, queer, feminized/feminine, and nonbinary, and uses the pronouns they/them/their, said their status has led to experiences of oppression, harassment, and aggression in their own life.
When George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, Kopp felt a similar need to call for justice, and now helps administer the Pine Island Against Racism Facebook group that has helped plan protests and calls for more inclusion for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals in the city and across the nation.
What about the death of George Floyd triggered you to action? Minneapolis PD has long terrorized and murdered Black residents, and the international uprisings spurred by the people of Minneapolis, and the seeming callousness of my city, motivated my friends and BIPOC community to stand in solidarity with that movement.
What does equity for BIPOC individuals look like to you? Equity is not enough. I believe in liberation for BIPOC--that’s gonna look like total societal upheaval and rebuilding, with BIPOC at the helm. Land-back, reparations, economic and environmental justice, police and prison abolition. No single change will ever be enough until Black and Indigenous people are truly free.
Saturday, June 19, is Juneteenth, a celebration of freedom from slavery for Black people in this country. What is a positive lesson from Juneteenth? The most important takeaway from the existence of Juneteenth is the realization that slavery did not end because of politicians with power, but because of the tenacity of enslaved people’s resistance, revolt and struggle against the institution of slavery. Juneteenth was a moment in a centuries-long struggle by enslaved people against their masters.
What promise has yet to be fulfilled for Black Americans despite what Juneteenth means? Forty acres and a mule – reparations. Today, I think though we’d really have to increase those resources because of the damage still wreaked by the remnants of chattel slavery today, the state violence, through policing, prisons, housing discrimination, racism in healthcare, redlining, gentrification, and more. It seems very few promises have been fulfilled for Black Americans. I personally support them getting all theirs back and I hope I can follow their leadership during our current struggle.
What kind of awareness would you like to see in Pine Island and in Southeast Minnesota to help fight racism and discrimination? Pine Island and Southeast Minnesota need to acknowledge their part in their aiding and abetting of white supremacy. Police violence and racial profiling happen here. Black families are terrorized right here. If a white or nonblack person wants to consider themselves an “ally,” they’ve gotta be ready to acknowledge that outright and be willing to put their status, their jobs, and their favor in white society, possibly even their life down, like Deona Marie, the recently murdered protestor who was marching for Winston Smith, for the cause of destroying white supremacy.
Have those protests in which you've participated in Pine Island shown you anything about where the people of Pine Island stand on racism and discrimination? Both positively and negatively? Young people are ready and able and excited to fight white supremacy, and they’re smarter than people give them credit for. The Black community of rural Minnesota is so incredibly strong and powerful, and if we all came together to support them, we could actually get something done. In truth, I’ve mostly seen open white supremacists come out of the woodwork, and both the conservatives and the milquetoast white liberals that MLK Jr. warns about in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” desperately trying to maintain the status quo. However bleak it seems, I still have hope for future actions anyway, because I know that when the people come together, we accomplish our aims.
Asked & Answered is a weekly question-and-answer column featuring people of southeastern Minnesota. Is there somebody you'd like to see featured? Send suggestions to email@example.com.