Hmong Cultural Center Of Minnesota Celebrates 30 Years Of Service To The Community
By Mark Pfeifer
On August 11, 1992, the Hmong Cultural Center of Minnesota (HCC) registered with the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office as a non-profit organization. Over the past thirty years, the Hmong Cultural Center has served the Hmong and non-Hmong community with several important programs to promote education about Hmong culture and history and facilitate the adaptation of Hmong in American Society. On December 8, 2022, Hmong Cultural Center will celebrate its 30th anniversary at a special community event.
Hmong Cultural Center Achievements 1992-2022
Qeej, Dance, Funeral and Wedding Song Instruction
The organization’s emphasis on traditional Hmong folk arts is inherently connected to the social fabric and ethnic identity of Hmong Minnesotans. Qeej, Funeral and Wedding Song Instruction classes were founding programs of Hmong Cultural Center thirty years ago and remain important parts of its mission in promoting education about Hmong culture today. In the late 1990s, the center diversified its offerings with the addition of classes to teach Hmong and Asian dances. Since 1992, Hmong Cultural Center estimates that it has trained more than 1,000 children and youth to play the Qeej instrument in Hmong funeral ceremonies and a similar number of community members in the oral recitation of traditional Hmong funeral and wedding songs. In a very real, tangible sense, Hmong Cultural Center has contributed to the continued survival of the Qeej instrument tradition and the ability of Hmong families in Minnesota to have proper cultural funeral ceremonies for another generation. In a similar vein, Hmong Cultural Center has trained an entire generation of young adults and adults as cultural specialists with the knowledge and ability to orally recite the canon of funeral and marriage songs associated with the traditional Hmong marriage and funeral ceremonies. The organization has played an essential role in allowing the survival of these important forms of Hmong ceremonial culture and folk art forms in the lives of Hmong-Minnesotans.
Citizenship And ESL Class Instruction
Hmong Cultural Center has provided Citizenship Classes to the community since the mid-1990s as a member of the Saint Paul Community Literacy Consortium. Over the years, HCC has developed a particularly strong reputation as a provider of Medical Waiver Citizenship Classes for elderly and disabled Hmong refugees, a group whose needs are often overlooked by other service agencies. English language Citizenship classes have also had sizable enrollments at the center for more than 25 years. The center estimates it has assisted at least 3,000 Hmong refugees in navigating the naturalization process and obtaining U.S. Citizenship over this time, a very important contribution to Hmong adjustment to Minnesota. In addition to Citizenship classes, the center is known for the assistance it provides to the community with filling out naturalization paperwork and providing translation at the USCIS office when clients enrolled in its classes take their Citizenship exams. With the arrival of Hmong from Wat Tham Krabok in Thailand in 2004, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes became another important component of Hmong Cultural Center’s Adult Basic Education programming. Today, Hmong Cultural Center serves diverse populations in its Adult Basic Education classes including Vietnamese, Laotians, Somalis, Oromo and Karen.
Hmong Resource Center Library
In the late 1990s, the Hmong Cultural Center started the Hmong Resource Center Library (www.hmonglibrary.org), a unique collection of Hmong-related books, dissertations, journal and newspaper articles which has grown into the largest collection of Hmong-related scholarly research in the United States. Hundreds of high school and college students, scholars and community members use the resource center library each year, many of these library patrons come from beyond the Twin Cities area to utilize this institution’s unique collections of books, theses, dissertations and journal articles about the Hmong. The center has also partnered over the years with the Hmong Studies Journal, the only scholarly journal focused on Hmong Studies research for community outreach activities and the printing of physical editions of the journal’s volumes.
Hmong Cultural Center Museum
In December 2021, HCC launched its new storefront museum on University Avenue just at Western just 4 blocks from the MN State Capitol. This is the first Hmong museum opened to the public in Minnesota. The museum teaches visitors about Hmong culture and history, the major Hmong folk arts traditions and Hmong milestones and contributions to Minnesota. The museum teaches through display panels, object displays and interactive ipad stations and includes two embroidery galleries. In 2022, the museum has served more than 1,300 visitors and provided tours to more than 50 visiting tour groups including numerous school classes and churches.
Other Multicultural Education Program Initiatives
In 2003, Hmong Cultural Center developed a Building Bridges: Teaching about the Hmong in Our Communities (Hmong 101) speaker’s bureau curriculum which has been shared with at least 10,000 persons in community presentations as well as virtual webinars over the past 19 years. Other projects have involved the development of a folk arts multimedia website (accessible at www.learnabouthmong.net) and a virtual Hmong textiles museum in partnership with the Hmong Archives www.hmongembroidery.org) intended to engage viewers in learning about Hmong culture and Hmong folk arts as practiced by Hmong Minnesotans.
Not too many Hmong or other non-profit organizations have made it to 30 years! HCC will celebrate three decades of serving the St. Paul and Minnesota community on December 8 at a special event in our new storefront museum where we will also share our vision for a vibrant future of training Hmong folk artists, promoting cross-cultural understanding and providing community education.
The community is invited but please RSVP, space will be limited.
Hmong Cultural Center 30th Anniversary Celebration
December 8, 2022, at 3:00 PM
Location: Hmong Cultural Center Museum
375 University Avenue W, St. Paul, MN 55103
Community Reception: 3:00 – 3:30 PM
Public Program: 3:30 – 4:00 PM
Please RSVP to Mark Pfeifer, firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-917-9937.
Images courtesy Hmong Cultural Center