The Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds is set to host the 2020 Hmong-American New Year which marks the 21st celebration of this annual celebration. The Hmong have come a long way in establishing culture and roots in Minnesota, and chairwoman Pakou Yang adds to this enthusiasm. As the first woman accepting the role of chair, Yang is beyond excited to implement new and creative ways to present Hmong history and art to elders and youth alike. In an exclusive interview, Hmong Times dove deep with Yang in what she believes to be the essence Hmong New Year celebrations.
Hmong Times: What do you feel is the most important about the Hmong New Year?
Pakou Yang: I truly believe in keeping our tradition and culture intact. These Hmong New Year events are so important to our community because it gives you a chance to come out and meet people, create personal connections and get away from the everyday technological devices that consume our lives. [Art is a strong form of communication.] Being dressed up in your Hmong clothes, showcasing Hmong art and how far its come is a way of educating not only the Hmong youth, but also the public as to who the Hmong are.
HT: What does culture mean to you?
PY: Culture is important. Events like the New Year celebration helps to remind Hmong people and other people as well that this is who the Hmong are. For example, as our generations carry on, we see that our Hmong language is almost gone. Nieces and nephews of the newer generation does not speak the language, and I think keeping the education momentum going by attending these New Year celebrations is a good thing for the community.
HT: What does it mean to be Hmong?
PY: When I think of being Hmong, I really think of the language, the vibrant colors, and family. First, our native language is beautiful. Just knowing it and speaking it tells a story of a people who have gone through many trials to be where they are today. Secondly, the vibrant colors makes people stand out, because historically, it [apparel] identifies which region each person is from. And lastly, family is the most important aspect of being Hmong. Togetherness, strength, and collectivism are what we are about and what, I hope, we can maintain throughout the coming years. Our innate Hmong care and support for one another is something that will not cease despite the challenges that we face.
A new addition to the New Year is an exhibit that features individuals who are making an impact in the community. “I am excited to partner with Yeej Moua to create this exhibit this year,” reported Yang. The exhibit will feature artists, entrepreneurs and/or organizations such as: Mikey Wangh, Tshajlij Production, DJ Wyldguy, Robert Thao, Veness Chang, Tank Chang, Pong Yang, ViChai Cheng, Kungshen Thao, Tine, the Hmong Museum and more. International guests are Koos Loos Yang, Ulias Lee and Tsua Moua from Laos.
The exhibit is designated at the Southwest corner, to the right of the entrance. Come and join in the festivities this year on November 9-10 at the Lee and Rose Warner Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.