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From the ashes of Lake Street

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by Anh Tran-Nguyen '20

So, the story behind the picture started for me at home watching tv and keeping track of all the chaos that was going on, in and around the city neighborhood that I grew up in.

Seeing places I visited so often now and as a kid, getting burned down and destroyed, was crazy. I could easily picture in my head the way things were and at the same time watch them slowly turn into unrecognizable, almost foreign scenes. I understand the reasoning behind everything and why what was done was done, but it was still crazy to see.

All of this was going on the week prior to my South High graduation. I had yet to take a picture to celebrate, but I didn't want to take a typical grad picture, because recent events were everything, except typical.

I had the idea of going to Lake Street to primarily check it out and take part in the protests, and I did protest for two hours. But I also decided to take my grad pictures. With my two friends, I went there and sadly we couldn't see Target or Cub where I went all the time with my mom, because they blocked off every road and entrance to that area. But we were able to access other parts. We biked and upon arriving a rush of emotions overcame us.

Seeing it in person versus on a screen was a completely different experience than I imagined. Foreign, as I mentioned earlier. I checked out the smoke-filled area, saw armed guards blocking off the roads, but then we found a spot to take my pictures. A burnt down building next to the old Savers. I believe it was a store called 7 Mile Fashion Express, and thought this is it.

The picture was an attempt to capture as much of 2020 as possible and to show the state of Minneapolis. I did wear a mask, though I forgot to wear it in the picture. And although grad pictures are usually bright and colorful, meant to capture the joy of graduating, most of them aren't taken during times of conflict. Because I didn't want to ignore the events that were happening before graduation, including them was important and my attempt at that.

I also tried to offset the more grim and sad setting that I chose by smiling and using an event that is usually considered to be happy to be a part of the picture. 

"From the ashes shall arise Phoenixes, reborn from the flames." This is what has stuck with me. It comes from a commenter, who wrote it after my friend, who took the picture, posted it on Reddit. The photo is sitting, now, at around 20.9k upvotes at the moment.

Anh Tran-Nguyen, member of the South High Class of 2020, graduated with honors in a virtual graduation ceremony June 1, 2020. He'll attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in the fall––though he expects that will be an online experience––and is declaring a major in Art with an emphasis in Digital Drawing. Anh added that he spent much of his childhood in the Lake Street corridor pictured. It was his neighborhood growing up. Later, he moved to Prospect Park with his parents, but the area remained home to favorite haunts where he hung out with friends until devastation swept the area. "That Cub, that Target (which are no more) that's where my mom still shopped. That was our Cub."
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