Remembering Tou Ger Xiong – Honoring The Legacy Of A Social Justice Champion

By Kim Yang


“Smile when you think of me, for I’m smiling because I thought of you,” Tou Ger Xiong is quoted as saying in the funeral program.

Tou Ger Xiong, a beloved figure in the Hmong community and beyond, was more than just a comedian. He was a social justice champion, tirelessly advocating for equality and representation. Born and raised in Minnesota, Xiong used his platform to shed light on the struggles faced by the Hmong community and other marginalized groups. His unique blend of humor and activism made him a beloved figure, and his sudden passing left a void that will always be felt. In this article, we honor the legacy of Tou Ger Xiong and the impact he had on the fight for social justice.

Mayyer Thao, 46, grew up with Xiong, but said she really got to know Xiong once she began attending St. Paul’s Humboldt High School with him. 

“He was just the coolest kid on the block, and he was so warm and welcoming to us younger Hmong kids – Hmong students coming into high school – even though I knew him growing up,” Thao said. “But to just have an older Hmong brother who cared and who also instilled Hmong pride in us, because we were Hmong refugees, and nobody told us we should be proud of who we are, where we come from, and he was the one who was like, ‘Don’t be shy, you don’t need to be shy.’ That’s my earliest real memory of Tou Ger and his impact on my life.”

Tou Ger Xiong’s life story is one that exemplifies passion, resilience, and a deep commitment to social justice for diverse communities, specifically the Hmong community. Born into a Hmong immigrant family, Xiong faced his fair share of challenges growing up in Minnesota. However, he rose above those challenges, using his voice and talent to bring about positive change. Xiong’s unique ability to blend humor and activism made him a force to be reckoned with, as he fearlessly tackled pressing issues such as racial inequality and discrimination. His unwavering dedication to equality and representation left an indelible mark on not only the Hmong community, but on society as a whole. As we delve deeper into the life and legacy of this esteemed social justice champion, we uncover the remarkable impact he had on our fight for a more just and inclusive world.

“It’s very hard to find a Minnesotan who doesn’t have a Tou Ger story of some kind,” said Governor Tim Walz at the public event. Walz recounted stories he’d heard from legislators about Xiong dressing as Paul Revere for golf tournaments or being part of outdoor adventures. 

“There’s a story to be told here that all Minnesotans should aspire to – a kind gentle soul who cared deeply about those around and did it with a sense of humor,” Walz said. “And I think we can all agree we can use a little more of Tou Ger in our lives, we could use a little more of that in our daily lives.”

Walz proclaimed January 27, 2024, as “Tou Ger Xiong Day.” State legislators also shared resolutions recognizing Xiong’s contributions to Minnesota.

“Tou Ger made a massive impact with his comedy, his rap, his motivating words, and his presence,” the proclamation said in part. “His unique way of storytelling helped thousands of people feel seen, heard, and understood. He is known for uniting individuals in the face of challenging issues and shedding light on marginalized and excluded communities.”

One of Xiong’s notable achievements was his work in raising awareness about racial inequality and discrimination. Through his performances, speeches, and writings, he was able to shed light on issues that marginalized diverse communities on a daily basis. Xiong’s advocacy for representation and equality resonated with many, inspiring countless individuals to join the fight for social justice.

Furthermore, Xiong’s involvement in grassroots movements and community organizing played a vital role in bringing about real change. He worked tirelessly to empower individuals and communities, encouraging them to take action and stand up against injustice. Xiong understood the importance of collaboration and unity in achieving lasting social change.

As we continue to honor the legacy of Tou Ger Xiong, we must also recognize the ongoing work that still needs to be done. Xiong’s contributions serve as a reminder of the power of one person to make a difference. Let us draw inspiration from his life and commit ourselves to carrying on his work, ensuring that his vision of a just and inclusive world becomes a reality.

“Tou Ger’s determination to do more, to push himself more, to reach for more started from those early chubby toddler days. It’s so hard for us because when we look at him, we want to cry because we miss him so much, but I know that in Tou Ger’s spirit, he would say ‘smile at me,’” said Tou Ger Xiong’s sister-in-law, Dr. Pangjua Xiong. “I know that if Tou Ger were here right now, he would actually say ‘pray for me,’ because he is going on his final trip.”  

In his 50 years, Tou Ger broke down barriers and built bridges, instilling confidence in a generation of Hmong Americans, said his brother, Eh Xiong.

“With comedy and silliness, just making people laugh,” Eh explained. “If you can laugh at certain things, you can become friends. And by doing that, you know, people open up and say, ‘Hey, deep down inside, we are all the same after all.’ He truly believes in equity work and fighting for the underprivileged. Many times, I always teased him saying, ‘You’re not getting paid, Why are you doing it?’ But it’s what motivates him.”

“Last night was the first night we were able to blow them out,” Eh said. “It brought us to tears knowing, yes, there is justice in this world.” 

One way we can honor Tou Ger Xiong’s work is by amplifying his message. We can share his vision with others, spreading awareness about the issues that marginalized communities face. By using our platforms and voices, we can follow in his footsteps and continue to shed light on the importance of representation and equality.

In conclusion, let us use Tou Ger Xiong’s life and work as a source of inspiration. Together, we can carry on his vision of a just and inclusive world, ensuring that his impact is felt for generations to come.

Let us honor his memory by carrying on his fight for social justice. Together, let us strive to create a world where equality is not merely a dream, but a reality for all.

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