Hundreds gathered Wednesday, May 14 to celebrate the second annual Hmong American Day in Saint Paul.
The event began with an opening ceremony at the Minnesota State Capitol’s Upper Mall, featuring speeches by Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, state Sen. Foung Hawj, and a host of others.
An estimated 70,000 Hmong Americans live in Minnesota. Hmong American Day, which was proclaimed by Gov. Dayton last year, honors the 39th anniversary of Gen. Vang Pao leading a mass exodus of ethnic Hmong out of Laos—marking May 14 the beginning of the Hmong American diaspora.
“Hmong American Day is an important day and significant one for us because we don’t have a day, other than Hmong American New Year, to bring the community together,” says Liz Xiong, chair of the Hmong American Day Planning Committee.
She added, “It’s new but exciting because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our history and celebrate our culture together.”
The closing ceremony, celebrated at the Minnesota History Center, focused on personal stories by community leaders and former military, including Dr. Pa Der Vang of Hnub Tshiab (Hmong Women Achieving Together), who emphasized the role of women in Hmong American history; and Capt. Peter Vang, vice commander of American Veterans Legion Post 1975, who reflected on why he served in the military, and the ways in which Hmong culture informed his time in the service.
Dai Thao, Saint Paul’s first Hmong city council member, also rallied the crowd, highlighting the contributions and achievements of Hmong Americans in Minnesota, as well as the work yet to be done. The closing ceremony also featured performances from young people who employed dazzling dance routines, cultural attire and song, to recount scenes from Hmong American history and pay tribute to the elders.
See highlights of the closing ceremony in the video above. Check the Storify below for Tweets, photos and more video of the event. [If you don’t see the Storify photos and comments below, please refresh your browser window.]
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