COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong culture: A questioning of values

We are entering into a cultural reformation in our community, where our values today don’t quite align with our culture. For quite some time now, our values and our culture have clashed, which has created social upheaval and alienation in the Hmong community. “What does it mean to be Hmong?” seems to be the the question that every Hmong American goes through; it’s a rite of passage for those growing up in two seemingly opposing cultures. With the majority of the Hmong population now made up of youth, this questioning of the Hmong culture is inevitable. Why are things the way they are? Why has it always been done this way? Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Ordway Center’s Miss Saigon: The show must go on

On September 22, 2013, the Ordway Center hosted a Cultural Conversation about their up and coming musical Miss Saigon, which is about a young vietnamese prostitute falling love with an America G.I. during the Vietnam War. This conversation was moderated by Hamline professor Colleen Bell, and education and programming staff of the Ordway Center. The purpose of this community conversation was to “provide a framework for understanding conflict in the arts.” Throughout the conversation, the facilitator directed the conversation to different topics such as the value of Miss Saigon, education, and responsibility as viewers. It was a great conversation that the Ordway Center organized for the community. The only problem was that the community was nowhere to be found.With the Asian American community hurt and angry about the Ordway Center’s decision to continue showing Miss Saigon,  you’d think that the Ordway Center would do its best to reach out and invite Asian immigrantsor Asian American leaders or organizations to their ‘community conversation.’ But as I walked into the room, I quickly realized that out of the 50 or more people that were there, I was one out of five Asian Americans/ immigrants present. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Miss America win, not a win for me

This past week, Nina Davuluri won the coveted Miss America title. Being the first Indian American to win in a historically racist and exclusive pageant, Nina’s win sparked racist tweets and backlash because she was deemed “un-American.” In online conversations, the topic that has been brought up quite a bit is that this is a sign of progress for women of color. Many of my friends believe that this Miss America win for Davuluri is a win for all of us, but how and why would we look to a pageant to indicate progress for all of us? Yes, she is the first Asian Indian woman to win, and surely little girls around the US can say “Hey, I can be exactly like her when I grow up. I can do it too,” but does this exactly signify change for women of color or empower us?No. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum: Not sexist, not Minnesota Nice either

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum that was held at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. The Forum was designed to carve out a unique space in which candidates for the Minneapolis Mayoral race would be called upon to bring forth specific solutions to address the growing racial disparities in the City. Unlike traditional political forums, the One Minneapolis Forum was organized by youth workers who are routinely forced to confront the harsh realities of poverty, homelessness, and unemployment through the eyes of the young people they serve. In addition to a specific focus on socio-economic disparities, the Forum organizers sought to ensure that racial disparities would for once be front and center in a major mayoral debate, as opposed to a peripheral issue, as is often the case in such forums. For a video replay, see Forum was Not “Business as Usual”The Forum attracted hundreds of young voters, concerned citizens, seasoned freedom fighters, and a large number of residents from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The energy in the overflowing auditorium was electrifying and signaled the desire for an end to a “business as usual” paradigm in political forums and ushered in the possibility of a new form of citizen engagement in political arenas.The organizers of the event decided that the forum would be highly structured in some respects and free-flowing in other respects to allow for audience participation and feedback. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Terra Cole: One Minneapolis mayoral forum was sexist to female candidates

I would first like to start off by saying how extremely blessed I was to have experienced the One Minneapolis Mayoral forum which took place this past Thursday. Over the past six months, I have had the opportunity to either be a part of the planning of or working at least four other mayoral forums this year. I will tell you without reservation that the One Minneapolis forum by far was the best attended, most diverse and posed the most thoughtful questions to the candidates. I was very pleased with the care and meaningfulness of the questions that were posed to the candidates as well as the individuals who asked them. The One Minneapolis forum was truly put on for the people and by the people. Continue Reading