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Guest Speakers

"Seexeng Lee's iconic art focusing on aspects of Hmong culture has made him one of the most widely renowned artists in the Hmong community and beyond"

- Dr. Paul Hillmer - (Author of "A People's History of the Hmong" and
History professor at Concordia University-St. Paul)
Latest Event
2015 Legacy Day Mural

2015 Legacy Day Mural

The Blake School

The tunnel linking the Hopkins Lower School to the Middle School is undergoing a colorful transformation thanks to art teacher Seexeng Lee and a group of Blake student-artists. Look for more on this project in the months to come! (Video by Nadia Lee) [read more]

Post on: June 8, 2015 9:56:00 AM

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Guest Speakers

THE U of M -HMONG MINNESOTA STUDENT ASSOCIATION

THE U of M -HMONG MINNESOTA STUDENT ASSOCIATION

Post on: November 22, 2008 10:03:21 AM

UNIVERSITY of MINNESOTA
Hmong Minnesota Student Association
Heritage Day Celebration
Date: Saturday, November 22nd, 2008
Where: North Star Ballroom
Time: 1:00 pm

"Crossroads in Time"

Thank you the Hmong Minnesota Students Association for having invited me to be apart this celebration. I am most grateful and very hopeful, because I now see that your generation is taking an active role in trying to not just preserve, but celebrate our, the Hmong cultural heritage and traditions.

I wonder if I have any business speaking at this sort of event. I have no technical terminology and no formal academic knowledge of this subject. I am an art teacher and a struggling local artist. This isn't boasting, nor is it an apology: it is simply a vehicle used to remind myself of what my reality has been and of what I am...a proud and a grateful person of the Hmong decent.

At this time, it might be useful for us, the Hmong people in this room to ask ourselves a few questions:

  • 1. Are we, the Hmong really in a crossroad in America, or is this a long-standing process of change?
  • 2. What is it that got some of us worrying, worry that we are assimilating way too fast and because of it has made us feels that we are losing our culture, cultural identity and language?
  • 3. What are some of the core elements of our makeup?
  • 4. What items and or traditions we can say that is pure Hmong? Is there such a thing as purely Hmong?
  • 5. Where can we look to for these traditional Hmong items and or practices?
  • 6. What is it about the Hmong we want to keep and or preserve?
  • 7. What are we afraid of losing and is it worth keeping?
  • 8. Can any culture survive unchanged or must we change to survive and thrive?

It is only fair to say that yes, there is some truth to this notion that we are fast losing our cultural traditions and heritage, because our kids nowadays can no longer speak in our native tongue, or speak it correctly. In addition, we no longer dress in our traditional clothing, practice fewer of our traditional rituals, and continue to hold on to some of those things that was once considered to be priceless and vital in our daily lives. Thus one can conclude that yes, in many ways, we may have forgotten that we are Hmong.

Especially for a case such this- I am sure you may have seen people screaming with all of their might, "HMONG PRIDE! HMONG PRIDE! HMONG PRIDE! But when asked, what are these things, this pride that you speak of? Please share with me what they are and how do they cause you to have so much pride...I for one would like to know...cross that out...I need to know!

In most cases, the typical answers is...I don't know or I am not sure really.

It is obvious that these individuals are still conscious about whom they are and that maybe knowing that they are Hmong would be enough for them to scream "Hmong Pride!" Or is it the shout "Hmong pride" often made without thought!

Pride? In what? In what setting? Are we proud of everything Hmong? Are there things about being Hmong which invoke secret shame or embarrassment? Are there "Hmong" things we wish to shed? Can we really talk about this?

You probably now wonder, where are you going with this?

All I am saying is why not celebrate the fact that you know you're Hmong? I mean isn't it being one of the most resilient people to set foot onto this earth enough to scream out Hmong Pride?

Even in the shallowest of sense someone ought to be able to scream from the top of their lungs "Hmong Pride!" without the slightest of hesitation. Even if one know that he or she might be questioned or worst...taunted! Even if that someone hasn't had the slightest idea to what he or she is screaming of...to me knowing who you are is one of life's greatest knowledge and therefore is totally enough to exhibit one's pride.

I am sure it would be nice to have the correct terminology, sufficient evidence to pin point and based one's pride on, but know that it is not necessary...However, to claim pride when that pride is mindless, without thought or challenge...is it wise? Is it correct? Does it help Hmong people in America?

However, if you want to have something worthy of pride (HMONG PRIDE) here they are:

1. The Hmong despite having to adjust, readjust only to do more readjusting over and over again in our five plus thousands of year history, where many groups and civilizations may have perished, where it would seem so much easier to simply give up, you and I are still standing tall to proudly and confidently say with no hesitation... "I AM HMONG!

2. Though many may question that due to our semi nomadic ways in the last few centuries, we have never had anything to truly call ours. I for one have been asking this very question...I for one have dream of the day when I can grab a hold of something, anything that is purely Hmong, hoping, dreaming to myself how sweet it will be, but guess what...I am not ready to be an Amish!

As much as I want to retrace back and live the way my forefather have once lived. There is no way or no how I can do it. The homelands of our forefather no longer exist...go back to Laos and you will see our fellow Hmong dressing not in our traditional clothing, but more of a modern style clothing. Go back to China and you will see Hmong people driving, talking on their cell phone, watching T.V. in their home. And thus this nostalgia of ours couldn't still exist despite how bad we may want it to. It is indeed too late to become Amish!

Please keep in mind that in order for something to remain viable change must occur. That, my fellow Hmong is something worth priding about. We the Hmong people through out history have been known to be some of the best diplomats! Just imagine...ever since we left our motherland of China, we have to negotiate with the people in the area that we have moved into. Many of these people don't want us there. Without such skills, I am sure you and I, including our parents, grandparents and great grandparents would have perished long ago. Hmong culture has always changed to allow survival in each new environment where we settle!

3. Another note worthy element is the fact that we, the Hmong are some of the most creative and resourceful people. With extreme limited resources, we were able to survive, managed and thrived in any and all conditions, friendly and or hostile environments.

i.e.

A. Despite living in some of the most remote hills and mountains of Laos, many of our people were able to gain the highest level of education, being members of the Royal Laos ruling family, raised from the ashes to become renowned leaders in today's society and in today's world.

B. Despite having to leave our worldly belonging behind with nothing but the torn cloths on our back, having to escape the rapid, deadly water of the Mekong River with nothing more than the tools and things we found along the way, only to resettled 40,000 plus strong in the confined one square mile Refugee camp of Ban Vinai. Quite frankly, no one in their right mind would find a group of people flourished in this type of condition, but we did! And one of our best known art form (this one is a keeper, authentically ours) the Hmong Story Cloth came about!

C. Despite having to leave many loved ones behind, knowing that we may never see each other again, fleeing to an unknown world, far, far away from our birth place and our adopted homeland we simply closed our eyes hoping for the best only to find out that this new land of ours is a hundred times harder, more than that we could have ever imagined.

Having to deal with the strangeness of the language, learn new daily ritual and traditions. Despite having shed many tears, having poured what seems like gallons of sweat and bled buckets of blood...within thirty plus years we have become the civilized citizen that everyone had hoped for us to become. Our lineage has continued and our ways of life for once have become somewhat stable and manageable, but more importantly we flourish...

Now, it is us holding ourselves back....there are no excuses...no one to blame but ourselves for the things we do and chose to do from this point forward.

YES WE CAN! (Obama)

My fellow Hmong people, please take look to your right, to your left, behind you and before you...take notice that in this very room are the future and the hope of the Hmong people, great leaders will raise from here and I am sure will lead us to wherever we need to go. Be thankful for the people in here as well as the people at home, plus the people who have scarified so much for us to get to where we are today...for without them, I am sure there is no you nor me.

In conclusion: I believe we must not mourn what is lost if what is lost no longer works or indeed, harms Hmong youth and women...we must celebrate advancing Hmong culture, Hmong youth and especially Hmong women.

Just think about it!

A. Why should we mourn the lost of living in a setting where opportunity for advancement does not exit?

B. Why should we mourn the loss of having to live grinding poverty?

C. Why should we mourn the loss of the "traditional" role of the Hmong woman which often makes less than men...which often causes heartbreak in families...which hurts children?

D. Why would we want to mourn the lost of starvation, persecution and alienation?

Instead of mourning these lose, we ought to celebrate them! However, do keep in mind that if something important accidentally got lost, we must have faith in the future generations, for they will for sure to retrieve it...if it is worth retrieving.

The Hmong I believe are a lot like the early Japanese American, when they first arrived in the United States; they would give all of their kids American names so that they would be more Americanized. However, when these kids are all grown up, they all gave their kids traditional Japanese names, because that is who they are, that is their heritage and that is where their cultural identity lies.

I assure you...we shall keep what is good for all Hmong, not only what is good for the powerful few...we shall shed what is harmful....we shall learn what it really means to be fully Hmong.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote:

"While the environment has changed for many and their major means of livelihood is different from that of their forefathers, they remain profoundly Hmong."

By Paul and Elaine Lewis,

authors of "People of the Golden Triangle",

published in the early 80's.


Thank you so very much for having invited me.

You all have been the ideal audience!.


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