On Sunday August 14, eight Hmong youth leaders from TakeAction Minnesota’s Hmong Organizing Program held a community forum at Rondo Outreach Library.
The forum was held for the Hmong community to come together and discuss issues around the light rail, including home foreclosures and affected Hmong businesses. The youth leaders, led by HOP intern Chia Lor, aimed to raise awareness and organize the community to address these concerns.
“As a Hmong youth leader, I see that the changes in our community is not just a one person or one team effort – it is the whole community’s combined effort,” said Lao Kang Yang, one of the core leaders from U of M and co-emcee of the event, “we need more Hmong youths to step up and realize that we need each others’ strengths and ideas in order to move forward.”
On the Sunday afternoon, 41 people in total sat in the Rondo community room and participated in the youth-led forum. Core leaders shared why they are passionate about the issue and asked presenters to talk about the issues that affect the residents and businesses along the Central Corridor and what solutions they can take part in.
Presenters included Shoua Lee, community outreach staff from MET council, Sam Buffington from District 7 working with home foreclosures in Frogtown, and Sai Thao from the U-7 Project working with University Ave. businesses.
The presentations were followed by small group discussions in which the participants’ concerns were documented. These included what the residents would like to add to the landscapes in their neighborhood, what they would like to see from their city council to make the neighborhood better, the high risk of home foreclosure in the Hmong community to due light rail gentrification, and the Hmong community’s concerns around the light rail. Each group had the chance to share their concerns to the whole group.
The youth leaders not only inspired more young people to be involved, but have shown other generations that their voices can be heard. One of the Hmong leaders that attended the forum was Bee Kevin Xiong, who is running for City Council in ward 6 and took many things from this forum.
“I learned a lot form this forum and have used some facts about home foreclosures and the light rail when talking to Hmong families,” Xiong said. “It is important for our young people to be involved because the elders in our Hmong community do not participate in mainstream politics, therefore, we need young people like these to educate and organize our people around these issues.”
While the community forum is only the beginning of community engagement in the Twin Cities Hmong population, it is a start in getting Hmong elders to recognize the younger generation’s potential as well as getting the younger generation to give back and appreciate the older generation. As the youngest core leader at 16 years old, Hillary Lor says, “Being engaged in this community forum makes me more proud to be Hmong.”