2018 – The Year In Review

By Kim Yang

 

2018 was a very eventful year for the Hmong community locally, nationally and beyond. The Hmong Times takes a look back at some of the top stories of 2018.

Community

In 1997 the Hmong 18 Council was formed in Minnesota. Wanthai Vang, President of the Hmong 18 Council explained that the council functions similar to a city council. Each of the 18 clans in Minnesota holds their own elections or selection process for a representative to the council. The council term is two years.

In 2018, the council had its first female representative. Vang said, “The council has always opened the door for women, but this is the first year that a woman has been elected.” The Khang clan has selected a female representative. Jasmine Yer Ly Khang will represent the Khang clan for the next two years. Vang commented, “This is breaking the ground as a new change for the council.”

“In recent years, Hmong women have recognized the need to build a strong Hmong women’s organization that focuses on both the assets that Hmong women have as well as addressing more directly the deep cultural changes that are occurring for Hmong women in our community,” says Chee Lor of the Hnub Tshiab Hmong Women’s Leadership Institute (HWLI) when asked how the Hmong Women’s Leadership Institute (HWLI), a core program of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.

HWLI began in 2007, and this year marked its 9th cohort. Lor explained that as a non-profit there were years when “We did not have the capacity to hold HWLI, but that is changing. It is our goal to keep holding space for programs such as HWLI and making it possible for Hmong women and girls to be leaders.”

United Hmong Family, Inc. invited all to join the Hmong community in celebrating culture, entertainment, food, and sports at the July 4th 38th Annual Freedom Festival!

The event celebrated the journey of Hmong citizens’ fight toward freedom and a better life, and featured many talents and performers, including musicians, motivational speakers, dancers, and Hmong community leaders. Merchandise vendors and businesses, both local and national, also attended this year, setting up tents and booths to sell their goods and products. Farmers also attended selling exotic fruits and farm fresh vegetables. Arrangements were also made for booths engaging in educational and informational promotion. New this year was the Music Avenue as well as the family-friendly activities in the Family Village.

For United Hmong Family, a non-profit organization that was formed in order to represent the Hmong community and cherish its unique heritage and culture, this year’s festivities were particularly historic. On Friday, November 23, the United Hmong Family’s Minnesota Hmong New Year kicked off its 40th anniversary with the theme of “Passing the Torch”.

For the first time ever, the Hmong New Year organized an essay contest in order to provide the community with a platform to consider the theme – “Passing the Torch” – through writing in either Hmong or English. The judges of the competition included eminent figures such as Hmong-American filmmaker Kang Vang, and Sophia Vuelo, who was sworn in as Minnesota’s first Hmong American judge. Leon Xiong, a senior in high school who is eyeing a future career in nonprofit work, won the $1,000 grand prize and recited his essay before the cheering crowd.

National

Lao and Hmong-American U.S. Secret Army veterans of the Vietnam War in Laos, and their refugee families across the United States, lauded the passage, and timely and appropriate implementation, of the “Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act” by President Donald Trump and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to the Center for Public Policy Analysis.

“Final passage of the Hmong veterans legislation occurred when Senators Reed, Murkowski and Whitehouse jointly worked in bipartisan fashion to add the Costa-Cook-Murkowski Hmong bill’s language (HR 4716/S.1179) to the Military Construction, VA Appropriations Bill which passed the Committee in July 2017 and was eventually included in the larger Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, and signed into law on March 23 by President Trump.”

Education

The Hmong Times created a summer-long series promoting education – Pre K, K-12 and Higher Education. Over 40% of the students in the Twin Cities come from a diverse background. The Hmong Times’ Focus On Education Series was the perfect way to become fully educated on the options and opportunities available for children.

Biweekly features included:

  • Top Hmong Students
  • Choosing A School
  • A Career In Education
  • A Summer To Do Checklist
  • K-12: Charter, Public, Private
  • Colleges And Technical Schools
  • Grants And Scholarships
  • Student Loans
  • Preparing For College And Managing Student Debt
  • School Athletics, School Activities And Clubs

The Noble Academy team opened a second school, Nompeng Academy, at 6201 Noble Avenue, N in Brooklyn Center. Nompeng Academy was made possible through a replication grant in 2016. Dr. Mai Yia Chang, Deputy Superintendent, said, “We were recognized. In order to qualify you have to be named a high quality charter school (HQCS).”

The opening date of Nompeng Academy was August 14. Since the school is part of the replication grant it is an exact mirror of Noble Academy. “We gave our existing staff options for both schools. Half wanted to go for a smaller school. Half wanted to stay with Noble Academy, and from there we hired for the vacancies.” Chang said.

On September 4th, students at Hmong College Prep Academy were greeted with many changes as the school’s 18-month campus expansion project came to a close.

Construction crews began work in March 2017 on a new 98,000 square foot elementary addition as well as renovating the school’s current building. The project provided approximately 55 classrooms, a state-of-the-art media center, new high school gymnasium and two-story parking facility. Additional enhancements include an inflatable sports dome and multi-use turf athletic field. Now completed, the school is able to serve the educational needs of up to 2,200 K-12 students.

Politics

With seven Hmong American candidates from Minnesota winning political seats this midterm election, the community witnessed landmark victories worth celebrating. Although Minnesota tended to mirror nationwide electoral shifts – with rural parts of the state remaining staunchly Republican, and DFL-endorsed candidates winning out in major urban areas in the capital – the state did earn the dubious honor of being the only one in the entire country to have different parties controlling its two legislative chambers. The DFL managed to seize control of the state House, but the Republicans will continue to lead the state Senate.

As the election results were declared later on Tuesday, November 6th; Samantha Vang (State Representative District 40B; DFL), Tou Xiong (State Representative District 53A; DFL), Fue Lee (State Representative District 59A; DFL), Kaohly Her (State Representative District 64A; DFL), Jay Xiong (State Representative District 67B; DFL), Adam Yang (Second District, Court 11 for Ramsey County; nonpartisan), and Paul Yang (Second District, Court 20 for Ramsey County; nonpartisan) were all successfully elected. They came with strong platforms emphasizing values such as economic growth, education, and inclusivity, and won the hearts of Minnesotan voters – both from the Hmong and Asian-American communities and beyond.

Arts

The Hmong Documentary Series showcased in May with Disappearing World, a rarely seen documentary from the early 1970s in which Anthropologist Jacques Lemoine looked at the situation of the Hmong in Laos. The film visited Hmong villages and showed the heavy losses Hmong endured in the Laotian Civil War. The documentary also showed the Hmong in American backed refugee camps and included segments on the traditional lifestyle the Hmong are trying to preserve.

The series continued with The Best Place to Live: A Personal Story of Hmong Refugees from Laos directed by Peter O’Neill and Ralph Rugoff. This 1981 film is a portrait of Hmong who settled in Providence, Rhode Island. It documents a wedding, a funeral, soccer games and a rock band as well as experiences in schools and workplaces while exploring ambivalence about life in the U.S. and a longing for pre-war Laos.

Hmong Times was happy to feature local writer Kerry Xiong’s series of multiple short stories as well as a short story entitled Girl In The White Dress during 2018. Her short stories were about a Porcelain Doll, Memoir Of A Hmong Child and Hmong Immigrant Child, Candy, and Suffering. He short story Girl In The White Dress followed young Shengyeng as she traveled with her family from her hometown to Fresno, CA on a regular basis and each time saw an image of a girl in a white dress on the very tops of the mountains. Her story takes us through Shengyeng’s adventures and to her final realization of how the girl in the white dress ended up an image atop those mountains.

Outdoors

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was a regular contributor to the Hmong Times in 2018. In April they wrote about a new estimate showing healthy Mille Lacs Smallmouth Bass population were improving.

“This looks like a healthy population,” said Tom Jones, regional fisheries treaty coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “This estimate roughly represents the number of adult bass in the lake. It does not include bass under 12 inches.”

“Mille Lacs is the number one bass fishery in the United States right now, and we just want to help protect it,” said Jim DeRosa, president of the Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance. “We’re really thrilled that we could play a small part in that.”

Additionally the MN DNR educated readers about the importance of preparing before hitting the water for the first time this spring. They highlighted how boaters should ensure their boats, equipment and safety items are in legal and proper working order.

“With this year’s late ice-out, boaters are especially anxious to get on the water and start enjoying the boating season,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “After waiting all winter to get back on the water, no one wants to break down, get a ticket or have a safety emergency.”

2018 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 and the community in 2019.