A couple of months ago, when Erin gave a training workshop for young Asian Americans at the Rise Conference in Denver, she asked the assembled youths their ethnic backgrounds. One woman stod up and said she was Hmong. She said all hger life, she’s had to explain her heritage when people ask “What’s a Hmong? There’s no country called Hmong!”
But now, she said, “I just tell people, H-M-O-N-G. Google it.”
That got a big laugh out of the crowd, most of whom were familiar with the history of the Hmong. But most people in the U.S. are woefully unaware of the Hmong.
Clint Eastwood’s mostly terrific movie from earlier this year, “Gran Torino,” exposed more people than ever before to the history of the mountain tribe of Southeast Asia, and how the CIA recruited them to fight a shadow front out of Laos during the Vietnam War. When the US pulled out of Vietnam, we left the Hmong hanging, and the Communist Pathet Lao government rained retribution on the Hmong.
Although we’ve relocated many Hmong refugees in various communities in America, thousands are still trapped in refugee camps in neighboring Thailand where they escaped from Laos. The communities are where the US government resettled the Hmong include Michigan, where “Gran Torino” takes place, California, Texas, Colorado (we have a thriving Hmong population in the Denver area) and Minnesota, where the first-ever Hmong American elected to office is a state senator.
So, Erin and I are thrilled to announce the next guest on visualizAsian.comâ€™s AAPI Empowerment Series: Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua. The interview will be held Tuesday, July 7 at 6 pm PDT (9 pm EDT).
We’ve seen her speak before, at last year’s Democratic National Convention in Denver (see videos below). I’ve also seen her speak at JACL events, and I helped a group of student journalists interview her during an AAJA convention held in Minneapolis in 2005. She was gracious and patient and very forthcoming when we set up and shot video and took photos in her statehouse office.
Moua was elected the Minnesota Senate in a special election in January 2002. Since being elected, she has been a strong advocate for Minnesotaâ€™s Asian American community. In 2005 and 2006, she took a lead role in progressing immigration reform legislation through the Minnesota Senate. She supported bills to improve funding for Limited English Proficiency classes and Adult Basic Education Classes. She also championed the DREAM Act, which would make higher education more affordable for children of immigrants.
Senator Moua also helped Minnesotaâ€™s Hmong community communicate with federal government officials when Hmong graves were desecrated in Thailand in 2005. She organized a Capitol rally that helped draw much-needed attention to the appalling incident. She also carried the legislation that allowed the Asian American Community Center project in St. Paul to gain approval.
Born in Laos, Senator Moua immigrated to the U.S. in 1978 and currently lives on St. Paulâ€™s East Side with her husband, Yee Chang and their three children. She was the nationâ€™s first Hmong American elected to a state legislature. She is Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a member of the Tax Committee, the Property Tax Division, the Public Safety Budget Division, and the Transportation Budget and Policy Committee. Senator Moua also is a board member on the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum.
We’re jazzed to be able to speak to such a pioneering Asian American, and know that our conversation’s going to be isnpirational not just to Hmong, but to Asian American Pacific Islanders of all ethnic backgrounds.
Sign up now for the call (if you’ve already registered for a previous visualizAsian.com call, you don’t need to re-register).
Be there, or be square!
Here’s a preview of our upcoming conversation with Senator Moua, filmed during last year’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, following an APIA Caucus meeting.
Register NOW for the July 7 conversation with Mee Moua! Our interviews are conducted via teleconference lines, so you can call in to listen (long distance charges may apply), or tune in via live streaming webcast (FREE). Just register for the AAPI Empowerment Series and youâ€™ll receive the dial-in and webcast page information. If you canâ€™t make the call or miss the call, no worries â€” register anyway and you can listen to the recording later!