As a community organizer and St. Paul school board member, Marny Xiong worked tirelessly to support schools and students, and create a more equitable education system.
She died from COVID-19 in June 2020 while serving as school board chair, but her goals, her name and her smile now live on to inspire students at a St. Paul school where she once attended classes.
Family, friends, colleagues and former teachers were among those in attendance Thursday night for the unveiling of a mural and the dedication of the Marny Xiong Memorial Library at St. Paul's Washington Technology Magnet School.
"I think Marny's story, it's about hope," her brother-in-law, former St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao, told the audience. "It's about not where you start, whether you're a family of political refugees, or you're from the poorest part of St. Paul. But it's where you go, it's where you take your St. Paul education, and where you go with that, and how you live and how you love your community.
"So I hope that the young scholar that will see her mural ... will read up about the late St. Paul School Board Chair Marny Xiong, and that they will have hope that no matter how difficult their life situation is, that they will live a courageous life fighting for racial justice, and education equity."
Marny Xiong, who was 31 when she died, attended what's now Washington Technology Magnet School, when it was Arlington Senior High School.
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The school's library now bears her name, and features a brightly colored mural created by artist Mwene Kajunju. It features a likeness of Xiong on a colorful background, with a quote from her:
To close the education gap for all students across the district, we must understand the intersections of poverty, race, and social inequity that impacts our public education.
Kajunju, like Xiong, also attended the school when it was Arlington. He said creating the mural was a "wonderful experience," and said it was especially meaningful to create something for his former school.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was among the community leaders who spoke at Thursday night's ceremony, remembering Xiong as "somebody who was literally always 100 percent all-in for 100 percent of our students.
"St. Paul misses her because she was an incredible leader for our city. And I know many of us are here, because we miss her personally. I miss her leadership, I miss her smile, I miss her laugh," Carter said.
As part of the ceremony, Xiong's family awarded $100 gift certificates to four Washington students — two middle school and two high school — who were named winners of a poetry contest in her honor. The students submitted poems on the themes of community connections, activism, racial equity or gender equity.