Junior competes in Criminal Justice Opinion Essay contest for Star Tribune

Semona Robel shares her story through writing


Used with permission from Semona Robel.

Lauren Thon

How did you hear about the contest held by the Star Tribune?

I am in debate and that is initially how I heard about it. My debate coach had copied me in an email announcing that there was going to be the competition.

What made you want to participate in the contest?

A lot of it just stemmed from anger. I was really mad at the world and the current state of American politics and the Minneapolis police department. I took it upon myself to write the essay. I saw an opportunity and took it. 

What did it feel like to have your essay showcased?

Amazing. It was just an honor to be chosen among the thousands of essays the Star Tribune received. It felt so great to finally get my voice out there and just be heard. 

How do you think your story is impacting the community?

It continues to shed light on an issue that wasn’t really talked about until George Floyd’s murder. It’s really important for people to hear my story not only as a person who goes to St. Louis Park, but as a Black woman. It serves to educate and make people aware of what’s going on through more of an interpersonal lens. 

What was the defining moment that inspired you to write this piece?

It was the video (of George Floyd being murdered). It’s one thing to hear about the murder of a black man due to excessive force by the police on the news, it’s another thing to just be scrolling on Instagram and see a Black man very obviously being choked to death. It felt very personal to me because George Floyd lived in St. Louis Park. He was killed seven minutes away from where I live. Being able to not only see the video, but knowing that George Floyd was a part of my community really took it to the next level for me.

What feedback have you gotten on the writing?

I have been getting a lot of support overall. Nothing negative. People have been learning a lot more about the militarization of the police and the 1033 program. Maybe not everyone agrees with what I wrote but people are definitely learning.