Saturday, October 12, 2019

Dear HMong Men

Dear HMong Men,

It's time you have "the talk" with your fathers, uncles, brothers, sons, and anyone you know who needs to hear it.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Is Hmong Dancing Too Feminine?

To think one way about gender in the American culture as sexist and the very same way in the Hmong culture as acceptable is alarming.

Gender is socially constructed and should not be confined by the genes that make one male or female. One should not associate someone's gender identification on the socially constructed behaviors and roles generally associated with gender.

I've been told that Hmong male dancers should not make the same feminine moves as female dancers. They should incorporate more masculine dance moves to resemble how real men move. It is a turn off to see Hmong male dancers moving as gracefully as the female dancers.

Hmong dancing is too feminine.

What a sexist statement!

How are you upset when you are told to sit down and be quiet like a Hmong womxn but can turn around and tell a Hmong male dancer how to properly dance like their "gender"?

How are you exhausted from breaking barriers as a Hmong person and still look away at a dance group with Hmong male dancers because it's not what you prefer?

How can you say Hmong dancing is too feminine as if dancing is a female sport?

Does it make sense to tell our children that there are "girl" colors and "boy" colors? Of course, it doesn't. There are no such things as girl or boy colors. They simply are colors.

I believe that Hmong dancing is not too feminine. It looks that way because the Hmong community has built a glass ceiling for our Hmong male dancers to shine on the stage. How can they pursue this passion knowing that people will speak ill of them?

Do the future generation a favor and stop associating Hmong dancing as a "girl" sport.

Stop fighting for gender equality if you think Hmong male dancers should dance a certain way.
Monday, September 23, 2019

Remember her name: Sunisa Lee

We live in such a privileged time to be able to dream outside the windows and doorsteps of our home. 

My dreams as a product of poverty and the Hmong diaspora were impossible, or so I thought.

I dreamt of a time when hearing my name in English didn't silence my voice. I imagined of a time when I wouldn't have to worry about being evicted from our Section 8 housing because we lied about how many people were in our household. I dreamt of a time when I didn't have to use Food Stamps at the grocery store. I imagined a time when the cashier's eyes won't widen as my petite mother shopped for 8 sets of school supplies at Wal-Mart. I didn't have time to dream about my future when my reality took up all my time.

If you had told me then that a 16-year-old Hmong student would be a member of the U.S. team competing in the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, I would have called you crazy. How can someone who looks like me, make it in America? How can someone born into war-torn intergenerational trauma have the ability to compete against the world's finest?

But it happened-44 years after the first Hmong immigrated from Laos and Thailand to the United States of America. 

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Sunisa Lee.

The first of her name.

The first Hmong American female to represent the U.S. in any world competition there has ever been. Sunisa and her family's success has sparked a light in me, not for myself, but for my children and the generations who will follow.

Just like that, she made my journey of identity crises and long nights of doubts as a Hmong student worth it. I am ready to dream the impossible with my children because I have seen time and time again, that anything is possible when you set your mind to it. 
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Support Your Hmong Scholars

My family immigrated to the United States from Ban Venai when I was five. My public education journey is a long-forgotten dream because I was lost for so long trying to navigate the English and Hmong culture and language simultaneously. I didn't get the help I needed at home or school because I simply didn't have the vocabulary to ask for help.

Growing up, my mother worked tirelessly throughout my childhood so that we could have a roof over our heads. My father would spend nights filling out the free/reduced lunch sheets and attaching an additional paper with more children's name on it. I attended summer school to maintain what little reading and math progress I made during the school year. I remember wearing thrift store white boots, chanting "A, a, apple," mispronouncing any two-three syllable words, and hating my parents because they couldn't help me with anything.

I didn't appreciate it then, but I see it now. Our parents did their best with what they had to support our education. Waking up and going to work was my mother's way of helping my education. Staying home and making sure all of my siblings and I were dropped off and picked up on time was my father's way of creating consistency in our life.

Now, we have to do our best to set our Hmong scholars up for success in their early elementary education years. For the most part, this means putting our children's needs before ours. In this, we have to expose our children to books as soon as possible.

Frederick Douglass says it best when he says, "once you learn to read, you will be forever free." Reading is the key to academic success and the best way for Hmong students to gain new vocabulary and experiences without leaving the comfort of their home.

As an educator, I have seen and continue to see too many Hmong children entering the school system without their foundational literacy skills intact.

I am committing myself to change the trajectory of our Hmong scholar's future by doing at least these two actions.

I hope you will too.

1. Read to your children.
I firmly believe that books are great conversation starters. Pick out a book and find out what your child knows about that subject. This is a natural way of teaching your child the things you know that you may never talk about with them. Reading to your children indirectly teaches them about how print works and help them learn new vocabulary.

2. Teach your children the alphabet.
Go over each letter and say the name and the sound it makes. Make up silly words by putting sounds together. You can create flashcards or your own personalized alphabet book. Keep a record of what letter name/sound they know so that they can see their own progress.

Don't let these two actions stop you from fully engaging yourself into your child's education. Check-in with their teacher and ask them for additional resources to target your child's academic needs. Your child will go as far as you're willing to. Dream big for them because they'll fit into it one day.
Tuesday, September 3, 2019

First Gen Hmong College Experience

My high school teacher used to tell me that getting into college was the easy part, staying and graduating was the hard part. If I could go back, I would tell him that the majority of people like me can't even consider college; getting into high school and graduating was hard enough. How can I also consider going to college? Applying, staying, and graduating from college is almost impossible for a first-generation Hmong student like myself. Believe me when I say that it was a miracle that I got into a college and hard work that helped me graduate. I am one of a few. We are an exception to the statistics that continuously remind us that we, as a community, have some of the lowest high school graduation rates there are in this country. I don't want to be an exception. I want it to be normal for Hmong students to graduate high school, enroll,, and excel in college. The hardest part about being a first-generation Hmong college student was that there wasn't anyone who could help me understand the college system. I expected college to be like high school--attend class, do the homework, get the grades, and study for exams the night before. Let me tell you, your high school routines will not work in college. I had to build up new habits. I couldn't sit in the back of the lecture halls anymore. I made sure to sit in front of the professor so that I would not be distracted by the other people around me. I would study for my exams weeks in advanced. I really read the pages I was supposed to read for class, so I was prepared to use it in discussion classes. I had to find a way to balance my personal and school life. I wasn't at school to improve my social skills. I was at school for a better future, for myself and my family. A college degree meant that I would escape the cycle of poverty and that my parents' sacrifices were worth it. I finally understood that my full-time job was being a student, and my responsibility was to make sure I attended class, take notes, and study for exams. I almost didn't graduate from college. I was going to be another drop out statistic. I almost gave up when I got my first F. I thought I didn't have it in me to continue college when my GPA dropped to a 2.1 my freshman year, but I kept pushing. I stopped waking up in the morning for myself. I woke up each morning with my parents in my mind. I thought about how my father left his whole family in Thailand and lived as an orphan in America so that I will get this opportunity to change my life. I thought about how physically draining my mother's $8/hour factory job was and how proud she felt that I will never have to do her job. My parents were the real factors in my college experience that kept me motivated. They often thank the teachers and mentors in my life for shaping me into the person I am today, but that is far from the truth. I am who I am because of their sacrifices. I am better because they always held me to a higher expectation. So, if you ever find yourself failing high school or college. Don't lose hope because your parents sure as hell haven't. If you need the motivation to do better, look at the people caring for you. Motivation will not be knocking on your door, it's already in you. Recognize it and keep pushing.
Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Hmong Mother's Wish List

I used to think my parents had all sorts of expectations for me because the oldest boy in my family was the sixth child.  Although they weren't always vocal about their hopes and dreams for me, I always felt pressured by them to make something of myself so that they can depend on me. I always thought they wanted me to return home from college to fill in that role of a caretaker.

I felt like such a disappointment when I got married, had children of my own, and stayed in my college town to work on my career. I still feel horrible when I think about how they raised me, only to see me occasionally (if even).

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

15 Things A Hmong Girl Want, But Won't Ask For

1. Tell her what specific things you like about her. Stop telling her you like everything about her. Go above and beyond and name the actions that you like the most about her. Show her that you pay attention to her.

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