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home : community : community Saturday, November 25, 2017

1/11/2017 3:44:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
2016 The Year In Review

By Kim Yang

Veteran Memorial
5,000 spiritual boats were burnt as blessings. Photo by Mai Kou Xiong
2016 was a very eventful year for the Hmong community locally, nationally and internationally. The Hmong Times takes a look back at some of the top stories of 2016.

Local

The Minnesota Asian Peace Officers Association (MNAPOA) was created seven years ago as a support group for the growing numbers of Asian Americans in the law enforcement profession. The association has grown to more than 80 members from various local, county, and state agencies. Its members are not limited to just officers of Asian descent but also Latinos, Blacks and Whites.

On December 19, 2015 a team of many officers from the various local law enforcement agencies visited two St. Paul families, bearing donated gifts as such furniture, mattresses, food, electronics, household items, clothing, toys and gift certificates from local businesses.

Officer Jimmy Yang added, "We would like to thank all our MNAPOA members and our supporters for making this year a success. With all the support from our supporters and our members, we brought in over $2,000 worth of items and gifts to the families."

The We Are Hmong Minnesota exhibit opened on March 7, 2015, commemorating and celebrating the Hmong contribution to Minnesota and the United States. Two of the goals were to create an exhibit that the Hmong community could come and see their stories represented and also for the non-Hmong community to learn of the contributions of the Hmong.

During the closing ceremony on January 3, 2016, the community came back for a final viewing of the remarkable exhibit and enjoyed a special closing ceremony.

It was a historical moment for the Hmong community in Minnesota and around the world when the Special Forces in Laos Memorial was unveiled on the Capitol lawn June 11.

The memorial honors Hmong veterans who sided with the U.S. in the Secret War in Laos, from 1961 to 1975 during the Vietnam War. It acknowledges the love for freedom and democracy, which both the U.S. and the Hmong shared. But more than that, it stands as a lasting acknowledgement of Minnesota's welcome of the Hmong people.

A group of community activists hoped to make the Hmong Village intersection at Johnson and Ames a safer place. Their committee is named, Racial Equity on Johnson and Ames. Hmong Times spoke with Nelsie Yang about the process. Yang said that the community members had originally approached City Council Member Dan Bostrom about the options of putting in a traffic light at that intersection. Bostrom said that he would not be able to help with this project. The community members then approached Ramsey County Public Works, resulting again in an apparent roadblock.

On May 19 community members were able to secure a meeting with county, city and state public officials about putting in a stoplight. Yang said of the meeting, "It did not go in our favor at all." It had taken the group months to get this far and they had sincerely hoped that this would be the end of the process. However these types of projects do not happen fast.

National

On May 31st, five full buses traveled from the Twin Cities to Wausau, WI. They joined hundreds of other community activists from around the country. The event they were all attending was a Save our Children Community Peace March.

The event that inspired the march actually happened in February 2015. An altercation between two boys - Isaiah Powell (13) and Dylan Yang (now 16) left one boy dead and one facing life behind bars. Yang was charged with first-degree reckless homicide in the February 27, 2015 death of Isaiah Powell. He was charged in adult court ordered to stand trial on that charge in the adult court system.

For his participation in this peaceful march on May 31, 2016, Marathon County Administrator, Brad Karger was suspended without pay for 30 days and he was required to not only make a public statement, but also submit a plan of action to mend the County's relationship with local law enforcement agencies. It is important to note at the outset that Mr. Karger participated in this event on his own personal time, he did not claim to represent the County, he violated no laws and there were no public reports that his conduct violated any employment policies he was required to observe. He was simply exercising his right to freedom of speech, protected for all Americans under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Dylan Yang (15 at the time of the crime) was convicted of the fatal stabbing of Isaiah Powell (13). On October 19, after a daylong sentencing hearing Yang was given 13 years in jail. According to the Wausau Daily Herald, the hearing included, emotional testimony from Powell's family members as well as defenders and supporters of Yang.

Yang is recorded as telling Marathon County Circuit Judge LaMont Jacobson, "I would do anything to bring him back. If I had a chance I would change places with Isaiah."

International

In early September 2016, President Barak Obama was the first U.S. President to visit Laos. The President offered a few aid packages, including funds to clear Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) in Laos. His visit to Laos permanently closed a final chapter of the U.S.-led Secret War in Laos during the 1960's and 1970's and helped open a new chapter in US-Laos bilateral relations in years to come. It also gave new hope and more opportunity to the more than 300,000 Hmong and 269,000 Laotian Americans to re-connect with their former homeland.

When Prayath Nantasin (Xyooj Yaj), Ph.D., stepped on the ice of Antarctica on December 17, 2016, he made history as the first Hmong to not only step on Antarctica, but also to conduct scientific research there. His research project will last until February 26, 2017, when he and his team will leave Antarctica for Australia.

Prof. Prayath Nantasin (Xiong Yang) is assigned to explore the high grade metamorphic rocks, or rocks that have been pressed under extreme temperature and pressure. His team will also do mapping and rock collection to take back to Japan for scientific analysis.

Politics

On November 8th residents of Brooklyn Park turned out to support Susan Pha and select her for their new representative of the western district on the Brooklyn Park City Council. Pha's position was an open position and so on Monday, November 14th, Pha was sworn in to the Brooklyn Park City Council.

Additionally on November 8th, North Minneapolis residents turned out to elect Fue Lee as their next District 59 State Representative. Lee states, "One of my priorities as a representative is to be accessible to the community. If they have changes they feel need to be made I want to sit down with them and see what we can do to make it happen. We need to be really inclusive about the process. I want to help marginalized communities to engage in democracy. We need to make it easier not harder."

Arts

In October, playwright and performer Katie Ka Vang performed a new solo show, Final Round, where she told her personal, heartfelt story of living with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Set in a boxing ring, Katie punches and kicks her way through cancer while living with her family, planning a Hmong wedding, and dreaming of eating ramen noodles again.

On Saturday, November 12th the AMC Theater in Roseville was overflowing in theater number 10. In that theater the film The Last Assignment was having its premier. The Last Assignment (Ib Ntais Muag 2) is the most recent film by acclaimed producer, scriptwriter and actor Yengtha Her. About 90% of the film was shot in Bangkok, Thailand and 10% was shot in Minnesota.

Her said of the film, "This is the highest budget Hmong film ever produced and it contains so many diverse actors from Vietnam, Laos, China, Russia, Australia, Thailand, France, the UK, and the United States."

2016 proved to bring new and exciting changes for the people in the Hmong community. The Hmong Times looks forward to covering more events and stories of individuals in 2017.




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