April is known for a variety of celebrations and holidays: April Fool’s Day, Autism Awareness Day, Easter, Earth Day, and Hmong Awareness Month (HAM). The Hmong Stout Student Organization (HSSO) shares why this month is important to them and Stout’s campus.
Paj Ntsa “PJ” Yang and Su Yang, both multimedia co-producers for HSSO, were the students who planned events for this month’s Hmong Awareness celebration. They felt it was a great opportunity to spread awareness about their culture on campus.
This year, the two co-producers put on two events for this month. One of them being a self-identity and belonging workshop hosted by Neng Now. Neng Now is a Hmong-American man and Harvard graduate. During his workshop he talked about his lived experiences as a Hmong-American and hit on the intersectionality aspect of being a Hmong-American. Another event they hosted, was the talent show. “This year I wanted to expand it and involve others who aren’t just Hmong. How do you spread awareness without attracting others? You don’t,” said Paj Nsta.
With the talent show and the trivia and raffle. This year’s trivia took a different turn. Paj Nsta and Su decided to make it more educational about Hmong culture, which they felt is another way to spread awareness. “Even with the prizes, we usually just give out T-shirts or candy, but this year we decided to give out traditional Hmong items,” said Paj Nsta.
Hmong Awareness is important to these co-producers because they feel it’s a time to spread awareness about Hmong culture. They feel not enough people know who they are.
“Hmong people are underrepresented. It’s good to spread awareness of our culture to those who are our peers,” said Su.
“It’s important to me. I feel like campus should care because it gives us Hmong students a time to shine and a time for us to teach the campus about our culture. A time to express who we are, no matter where we are. I can go around and say I’m Hmong, but nobody will care. When HAM comes along, it shows that I have proof of who I am,” said Paj Nsta.
For Cha Yang and Pa Houa Yana it’s important because of the representation. “This month is important to me because it represents Hmong culture, and we Hmong people gotta represent,” said Cha Yang.
“It brings awareness about the Hmong culture and what it is about. I believe it can help others to understand that not all Asian cultural background is the same even if we ‘look alike,’” said Pa Houa Yang.
For Jasmine Baker and Synala Smith it gives them an oppertunity to learn. “It’s an awesome month to celebrate and learn more about Hmong culture! The campus should care about all races and do more to learn about the minority groups here on campus,” said Jasmine Baker.
“It gives opportunity for people to show others about their culture, and for others (like me) to get educated about the Hmong culture,” said Synala Smith.
William Chang thinks it’s significant because it’s an opportunity to share his culture. “It’s the part of the month where we are able to show the Stout community and local community the culture of the Hmong. This month is significant because being able to share a piece of our Hmong culture to the public, makes them aware that we are a population that is part of this community. The campus should care because we are classmates and peers among the campus that loves to bring people into our culture to learn,” said William Chang.
It allows Theresa Hang to be closer to their friends. “Because my good friends are Hmong and it’s good to know where they come from and their background. Cultural awareness ya’ll, and because celebrating diversity is important for America. Period,” said Theresa Hang.
“The campus should care because the Hmong community here is a part of the Stout community,” said Chueseng Lo.
“This month is important for me because it is a month that allows me to show representation of my culture and why it’s important. During this month I was able to learn more things about the Hmong culture that I didn’t know before,” said Serena Vue.
“This month is significant because it is different from a lot of other cultures and I think that everyone should have the opportunity to explore and experience it. It’s also scary to think that this culture is slowly dying away,” said Eli Lee.
“Bringing awareness of Hmong culture to the community is important because it allows the community to understand who Hmong people are in a more public way. It also encourages cultural diversity and cultural expression in the context of students (minorities) feeling minimized due to not having many opportunities for self-expression in the context of culture,” said Cheenue Yang.