When you were younger, did you ever think that all Asian people are Chinese? It can be the first thing that pops into your head, and don’t feel bad if you did. We know now that there are a variety of Asian identities all around the world, but you may not have learned about them in school. April is Hmong Awareness Month, and the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s Hmong Stout Student Association (HSSO) has made that evident.
Charles Yang and Shue Vue are both the coordinators for events held during Hmong Awareness Month on campus. Serena Vue, public relations officer for HSSO, is a proud member of the Stout and Hmong community. Both Serena and Yang talk about their experiences as a Hmong-American individual and why Hmong Awareness Month is important on our campus.
“The word Hmong itself means ‘freedom.’ It’s being able to express yourself freely, to just be yourself,” said Yang. “To add on to that, I feel that being Hmong is being able to be who you want to be and adapt to the things around you,” said Serena Vue. Both Yang and Serena feel that the Hmong culture is evolving and branching out in different directions.
“We are moving out of our old traditions and are creating new ones along the way. For example, Hmong women are always taught to be a good housewife, to be able to cook and clean for our families. Now, they’re stepping out of that and are being their own individual. To summarize, we’re becoming more independent,” said Serena.
Who are the Hmong people? Hmong people migrated to the United States around the 1970s, and are spread across entire nation and even the world. “We weren’t taught in the history books, and I’m not offended when people don’t know who I am. I take it as an opportunity to teach people about who I am and what my culture is,” said Serena. “Yeah, I don’t take it to offense when people ask me if I’m Chinese. I agree with Serena, I use that as a way to educate our culture,” said Yang.
Throughout the month, there were events hosted each week. The first event was Hmong guest speaker, Billy Lor, who spoke about his experiences of converting from being a Christian to a Shaman. The second event was the Educational Conference on the Dimensions of Wellness, which focused on mental health for the Hmong community. The third event was the Film Festival that featured films that were related to the Hmong culture. The final event was the Entertainment Night. “Entertainment Night is a showcasing of everyone who wants to perform. It’s kind of like a talent show, and everyone is welcome to come and enjoy the show,” said Yang.
“I find Hmong Awareness Month to be important because we (HSSO) have been hosting Hmong Awareness Month for several years now, and I feel that it’s important to spread awareness about our Hmong culture. If we do our job, then maybe we can, in the next few years, save our culture. I want people to know that we exist, and that we’re out here in the world,” said Yang.
“I believe that our culture is growing and growing in different ways. We adapt to our surroundings and are starting to drop our old traditions and create new ones along the way. I want campus to recognize us for our talents, skill-sets and our traditions, but most importantly our culture. This is why Hmong Awareness Month is significant to me,” said Serena.
Hmong Awareness Month is held every April during the school year. Get to know your Hmong peers by asking them about their culture. HSSO meetings are held every Thursday in the Willow/Walnut room (Memorial Student Center) at 7 p.m.