Marny Xiong served as a school administrative manager at Hmong International Academy in Minneapolis. She was elected to the St. Paul school board in 2017 and quickly become an advocate for racial and gender equity. She later became the chair earlier this year. Credit: Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

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Marny Xiong, the chair of the Saint Paul Public Schools board and a fierce advocate for gender equity and racial justice, died Sunday morning after a month-long battle with COVID-19, according to her family. She was 31.

“Marny will be remembered as an inspiring community organizer, a courageous leader and fierce champion for education, gender equity, and racial justice,” her family said in a statement. “She was a selfless public servant who made the community’s problems her duty to solve. To those who knew her, Marny was more than a loving daughter, aunt, niece, cousin, a devoted friend and sister. She was beautiful; she was a book of generosity and fire.”

Her family had set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover medical and funeral costs. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Marny, the youngest daughter of eight children of Zahoua Xiong and See Xiong, grew up on St. Paul’s East Side and graduated from Arlington High School in 2007. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota — Duluth, majoring in political science and a minor in African and African American Studies in 2012.

Mary served as a school administrative manager at Hmong International Academy in Minneapolis. She was elected to the St. Paul school board in 2017 and quickly become an advocate for racial and gender equity. She later became the chair earlier this year.

“I count School Board Chair Marny Xiong as a friend, colleague, and impactful leader,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said. “As a daughter of refugees and a lifelong Saint Paul resident, Marny embodied our city’s spirit, gave her heart to our students, and worked tirelessly to uplift the voices of the unheard.”

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan called Marny a “fighter and gave back so much to the district she attended growing up.”

Marny’s family said their daughter “dedicated almost all her adult life towards education because she believed education was a foundation to dismantling structural racism.”

Saint Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard said: “Marny’s fierce determination for equity & her loving heart will be with me forever.”

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