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home : community : community Friday, November 24, 2017

7/11/2016 3:13:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Hundreds March To Draw Attention To Racial Inequity And The Life Of Dylan Yang

Amy Doeun

Dylan Yang Peace March Group Phto Courtesy Andrew L
On Tuesday, May 31st, five full buses traveled from the Twin Cities to Wausau, WI. They joined hundreds of other community activists from around the country. The event they were all attending was a "Save our Children Community Peace March."

The event that inspired the march actually happened in February 2015. An altercation between two boys - Isaiah Powell (13) and Dylan Yang (now 16) left one boy dead and one facing life behind bars.

"This movement was truly organic and grassroots. We came together not as professional title holders, but as concerned citizens first and fellow Hmong Americans with one vision for justice," Hmong-American activist and comedian Tou Ger Bennett Xiong told NBC News. "Our message about bullying, violence prevention, and racial justice was heard and echoed across the country."

Yang was charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the February 27, 2015 death of Isaiah Powell. He was charged in adult court ordered to stand trial on that charge in the adult court system.

"If the notion holds true that 'it takes a village to raise a child,' then as a community we failed," Xiong wrote in a letter to school and community leaders. "There is no winner in this ordeal, just broken lives. The challenge now is how we begin to heal and repair these broken lives. Our hearts grieve for the mother who had to bury her son and the one who prepares to say goodbye as hers is taken away in handcuffs."

"These aren't kids that just randomly met each other at the park and started fighting," Xiong told WJFW TV-12 in Rhinelander, WI. "Their relationship started in the schools and it formed over months, years. What are we doing to teach young people to just respect one another and appreciate one another and celebrate diversity and not think so much 'us versus them'?"

Other community members added that altercations between minority youth are often labeled as "gang related." Leng Xiong, the 20-year-old D.C. Everest School Board member in Schofield, WI wrote a lengthy Facebook post about the dangers of labeling minority youths as gang members. He wrote, "Honestly speaking, I think it's time we stop labeling fights between minorities as fighting between gangs."

There were many at the peace march that identified with the plight of Dylan. They were carrying signs reading, "I am Dylan" or "Justice for Dylan," and many told WJFW that they did not believe Yang received a fair trial. "Some of their concerns include Yang being tried as an adult, a million-dollar bail, and the lack of diversity on the jury," reported the Wausau Herald.

Xiong wrote a lengthy article to the community that was published in the Wausau Herald. In the letter he attempted to introduce the community to the boy who may never be able to live in it again. "As a child, Dylan excelled in art. He could be found drawing for hours and putting puzzles together that even adults found difficult. In elementary school, he would complete 2,000-piece Lego puzzles and build Star Wars ships and other action figures. He also enjoyed wrestling, soccer and music. As Dylan got older he started his own break dancing group called the Stylist Shadow Crew and taught himself how to play the piano."

Xiong continued, "On the night of the incident, Dylan was all dressed up and ready to go meet his girlfriend at a high school dance. He was excited to show off his new break dance routines. However, we all know that he never made it to the dance."

To highlight the racial disparities in this case some point to the circumstantial similarities between Dylan Yang and Levi Acre-Kendall. Acre-Kendall (20) was tried in the same county as Yang for similar crimes. Acre-Kendall was acquitted of his charges, though his jury was deadlocked at one point and deliberated for over 10 hours.

In an effort to continue to show support to Dylan and his family and to help with legal fees a fundraising banquet was held for Dylan on June 3rd at the White Dragon Hall in St. Paul.




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