Hmong Diaspora Grieves Death Of Tou Ger Xiong

By Selen Ozturk




Article Courtesy Ethnic Media Services

“The Hmong diaspora worldwide have lost a one-of-a-kind, modern-day hero in Tou Ger Xiong,” said Mee Moua, his close friend and former Minnesota State Senator.

The Hmong diaspora worldwide have lost a one-of-a-kind, modern day hero in Tou Ger Xiong, said Mee Moua, his close friend and former Minnesota State Senator.

Xiong, 51, was kidnapped, held for ransom and murdered while travelling in Colombia last week. His death was first reported by the Colombian newspaper El Colombiano.

Moua first met Xiong when she came back to Minnesota to attend law school in 1994. He was already then a community activist who ran his own consulting firm. 

“We were the ‘.5 generation,’ the first to go to college in our families and then be part of the great return to our communities,” she recalled. “Ever since then, our lives have been intertwined through all life’s twists and turns by this Hmong connection.”

The Minnesota entertainer, who called himself “the first Hmong comedian,” saw in the Twin Cities – the world’s largest urban concentration of Hmong – the perfect home for his slapstick jokes, Elvis impersonations and riveting immigrant tales of fleeing across the Vietnam War-era Mekong to find refuge and welcome by the Mississippi.

Whenever he learned about an injustice, he was the first to be there. When Hmong staged a hunger strike in Siskiyou County to demand an investigation into the fatal shooting by law enforcement of a Hmong farmer named Soobleej Hawj in summer 2022, Xiong flew out from Minneapolis at his own expense to stand with the protestors. 

The protests spotlighted growing tensions between Hmong cannabis growers and white farmers over access to water in the county and ultimately led to the repeal one year later, in August 2023, of a county water ordinance that discriminated against the Hmong by illegally cutting off their water supply under the guise of cracking down on water diversions for unlawful marijuana operations.

Throughout the years, Xiong continued attending community events, both as an entertainer and as a beloved mentor to younger generations of Hmong Americans.

At these events Xiong often took on an Elvis persona, decked out in full “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” gear, “reflective of his love of music, because it transcends all human tensions,” said his longtime friend Kaying Hang, Moua’s cousin and president of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation.

“Tou brought people of all walks of life together through humor, arts, music, and this connection beyond all conflicts reflected his conviction of what justice could be,” Hang continued. “Because of what a larger-than-life personality he was, Tou become the first person to bring the Hmong American story into the mainstream,” she said.

“What an amazing human being he was, and still is,” said Moua. Now a racial healing consultant in Lawndale, North Carolina, she hailed Xiong in a statement: “In a time when we needed belonging, your stories anchored our Hmong children in their roots. Your songs invited elders to embrace the new without fear of losing their cultural identity. You solidified Hmong America’s notion of ourselves as creative beings in deep connection with those who would have othered us… The light of goodness, joy and laughter you have ignited will never dim.”

Images courtesy Ethnic Media Services.

Verified by MonsterInsights