Hmong Drawings from Phalen Lake Magnet School

Students at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet use a whiteboard to draw things that they enjoy or that are important to them. One student talks about her identity formation, and another student explains one of her favorite family memories.This video was made by youth at Phalen Lake Hmong Studies Magnet, as part of the Hmong Pioneers Project, with help from SPNN Youth Projects Coordinator Kao Choua Vue.Youth Participants: Tristan, Sophia, Beautiful, Kang, Micky, Edison [See original post here: http://spnn.org/video/hmong-drawings] Continue Reading

Twin Cities Hmong community seeks help in closing achievement gap

Advocates from Minnesota’s Hmong community want to ensure their children are not left behind as legislators continue to tackle the state’s well-publicized achievement gap.HF1930, sponsored by Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), would provide funding for the Department of Education to create outreach programs that help Southeast Asian immigrant and refugee families better access early childhood care and education resources, developmental screening and early reading assessments.The House Education Innovation Policy Committee approved the bill Thursday and sent it to the House Education Finance Committee. Its companion, SF1781, sponsored by Senate President Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), has been laid over by the Senate E-12 Budget Division for possible omnibus bill inclusion.Recent research conducted by the Twin Cities-based Hmong National Development, Inc. indicates that Hmong students in early education score two standard deviations below the national average on reading assessments. That gap follows these students when they transition to K-12 education, said Zha Blong Xiong, a professor of college education and human development at the University of Minnesota.About half of Hmong students in the Twin Cities are considered proficient in MCA reading exams, Xiong told lawmakers. Many of these students would have qualified for programs like early learning scholarships, but their parents aren’t aware of the opportunities, he said.“We believe that family engagement efforts are needed to ensure the hardest to reach populations, like Southeast Asian population, are gaining access to these wonderful early child education resources to close the achievement gap.”Sinying Lee is a working mother to three young children, two of whom attend a St. Continue Reading

‘We Are Hmong Minnesota’ exhibit opens at the Minnesota History Center

The weekend ceremony celebrating the opening of the “We Are Hmong Minnesota” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center drew thousands of people commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Hmong American resettlement in the United States. The exhibit, which consists of more than 250 items, provides a host of written, recorded and raw materials that accentuate the triumphs and trials as well as the history, culture and achievements of Hmong Americans, who four decades ago began to make their mark in Minnesota.“I’m really excited that Minnesota has recognized Hmong Americans and they’re allowing us to put this exhibit here,” said Chue Vue, St. Paul School Board member. “We have been in this country four about 40 years now, and we have made our imprints here. To have an exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society means a lot to us.”An ethnic group with ancient roots in China, as one piece in the exhibit explains, the Hmong escaped the Secret War and the Vietnam conflict in the ’60s and ‘70s and as refugees established a new life in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Another piece answers why the Twin Cities metro area has become home to the largest Hmong American population in the country:The most important factors were organizations such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, the International Institution of Minnesota and Church World Services. These agencies, joined by individual churches and families, provided a welcoming presence for the Hmong in Minnesota. Continue Reading

Lao Science Fiction On the Rise

Lao science fiction is making its mark! This weekend in Bloomington, award-winning Lao American playwright and poet Saymoukda Vongsay will be one of the guests of honor at the MarsCon convention, presenting “Kung Fu Zombies vs. Shaman Warrior.”In her presentation, she will discuss the often taboo subject of mental illness. She notes that for many communities it is often explained as demonic possession. Beliefs like this stem from centuries of folklore about demons, ghosts, monsters, and witch doctors. Continue Reading

The original visionaries of Lao Minnesota: Phouninh and Khoutong Vixayvong

For the Lao in Minnesota, heritage preservation was robust and vital in building community roots in the late 80s through early 90s. Lao PTA and Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota had programs focused on Lao language, culture and arts; and even a Lao Summer School for youth. One of the many well-known leaders during the resettlement period was Phouninh Vixayvong, a retired educator with a fierce teaching style. She’s also a long-time social services veteran at Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, where she still assists elders navigating the public system one minute and debating with Lao men in the lobby about the latest community issue the next minute. She is one of many maes to the Lao community, teaching the first wave of Lao refugee immigrants for 15 years and founding the first ever Lao Women’s Association in the state, addressing teen pregnancy and breast cancer awareness. Continue Reading

Becoming a Lao Restauranteur: Eric Virakhone Panya

When I first moved to Fort Worth, Texas in July 2013, I was told that there was vibrant Lao community nearby. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, there are about 10,000 Laotian Americans in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex alone. Out of that 10,000, about 3,000 reside in the Fort Worth Area. I was excited; perhaps adjusting to life in Texas wouldn’t be too hard with a Lao community nearby and most of all, Lao comfort food readily available right around the corner.A quick Yelp! search led me to Sikhay Restaurant in Northeast Fort Worth. Continue Reading

Bridging the generations: Hmong families come together in St. Paul

“I can be the role model that I’m searching for.”That was the comment of one participant at the “Intergenerational Retreat,” a two day event that brought Hmong men and women together to discuss gender issues within the family system and in the community to learn to be more intentional about addressing intergenerational conflict.Two organizations, Hnub Tshiab (New Day) Hmong Women Achieving Together, and Koom Tes (Cooperation) hosted a two day intergenerational retreat for Hmong families in St. Paul on Oct. 11-12, 2014, at Wilder Foundation Center for Social Healing. It was the second event of its kind.Hnub Tshiab Hmong Women Achieving Together is a Minnesota nonprofit in St. Paul, with a mission to be a catalyst for lasting social, cultural, and institutional change to improve the lives of Hmong women. Continue Reading

North Minneapolis Hmong Halloween

University of Minnesota tutors and volunteers took a group of 25 North Minneapolis Hmong refugee youth out trick-or-treating last Friday.This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. The opinions expressed by Community Voices contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TC Daily Planet.The tradition of taking Hmong refugee kids out trick-or-treating started in 2005. A group of Hmong refugees had just arrived in the United States from a Thai refugee camp. One day they reported hearing the strangest story: That one day out of the year, they could walk up to someone’s house, mumble some noises, and the person would throw candy at them.These Hmong refugee students said that of course they were way too sophisticated to believe such a ridiculous story. We told them it was true, and took them out for their first Halloween trick-or-treat in their lives.Every year since then volunteers have taken Hmong refugee students out for Trick-Or-Treat.This year, 25 refugee youth put on face paint in the basement of St. Continue Reading

Hmong youth engaged in the North Minneapolis Greenway

“Greenway yog ab tsi?”, or “What is a greenway?” in the Hmong language, is a question that has been asked more than 100 times of North Minneapolis community members in and near Hmong International Academy by middle school students of color in the YMCA Beacons Minneapolis program at Hmong International Academy (HIA) – a Minneapolis Public School in the Jordan Neighborhood of North Minneapolis.This is a Community Voices submission and is moderated but not edited. The opinions expressed by Community Voices contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the TC Daily Planet.From April to June of 2014, Hmong American Partnership, in collaboration with Hana Media & Development, provided an after-school media arts, service-learning project called In Focus: N. MPLS Greenway (or simply In Focus) for a group of mostly Hmong middle school students at the HIA, to assist the City of Minneapolis share information about the potential North Minneapolis Greenway and collect feedback from the community, especially from Asian Americans in the area who had not been a part of the city’s first round of engagement regarding the possible greenway.The participants in the In Focus project learned about video production skills, the City of Minneapolis’ greenway concepts, and community outreach techniques. Through the guidance of program facilitators, the youth helped to create Hmong and English Public Service Announcement (PSA) videos, and conducted surveys of HIA friends, families, and faculty, as well as other community members in the area. One Hmong student in the project remarked, “It’s great that we are make videos to help share this info with other Hmong in the community.”Through the PSAs and conversations about the project, community members learned that a greenway is a park-like trail that people can use for biking, walking, transportation, and recreation, and that the city is currently considering Humboldt Avenue North, from the Victory Neighborhood to the Near North or Harrison Neighborhood of North Minneapolis, as a possible route for the North Minneapolis Greenway. Continue Reading

Six reasons why Hmong Americans should vote this year

Historically, the Hmong community has had one of the lowest voter turnouts, but with outreach campaigns there have been considerable advances made in increasing a Hmong voting bloc in Minnesota.While Hmong Americans have faced cultural perceptions that voting makes no difference in the past, the Hmong population in Minnesota has the potential to make a large impact on elections this year, and could greatly benefit the Hmong community, given high voter turnout. So, here are six reasons why Hmong Minnesotans should vote this election year. 1. Minnesota is home to the second largest Hmong population in the U.S.It’s no secret that Minnesota has a large Hmong population.According to 2010 census data, 66,181 Hmong Americans reside in Minnesota, putting the state second behind California for largest Hmong population in the United States. That also means there’s a large potential for the Hmong community in Minnesota to be an important voter bloc for local politicians, but the keyword above is “home.”The Hmong narrative has majorly been about their involvement in the Vietnam War with the C.I.A. and repatriation of refugees to Laos or Vietnam. This common narrative has shaped the structure of Hmong organizations, clans, culture, and leadership in the U.S.But despite the strong connection to Laos and Vietnam, especially from elders and leaders, the Hmong community in Minnesota is here to stay; it is now their home.Recent college graduate Selue Kazoua Yang said she believes that voting is very much a part of the past struggles of the Hmong community. Continue Reading