Friday, August 29, 2008

Legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood is making history in the Hmong community with his upcoming film Gran Torino. But this is not only Hmong news. By creating a mainstream Hollywood film that features mostly Hmong leads and supporting actors (other than Eastwood’s character), he’s giving unprecedented visibility to Hmong Americans. Says veteran Hollywood actor Wa Yang, who worked with Eastwood through a small role in Letters from Iwo Jima, “It’s creating exposure in Hollywood, where no one knows who the Hmong are. Hopefully it will pique interest and one day the story of how we came to the US can be told.”

The film is being shot in and around Detroit this month. From the publicity so far, it centers on a grumpy Korean war veteran (Eastwood), who is estranged from his family after his wife dies. He meets his new Hmong neighbors, especially teens Tao and Sue, and eventually gets involved in trying to shield them from the Hmong gang that wants to recruit Tao. Whether he succeeds is the best kept secret, but in the process his friendships with Hmong transform and soften him.

How did this production get off the ground? After open casting calls were held in Fresno, Detroit and Minnesota, interested Hmong Americans waited with baited breath to see who would be cast. As days turned into weeks, fear spread that Hmong would be passed over for more experienced Asian actors. But then, in early July, people who least expected it started getting the calls. Elation spread with the news that ten key roles had gone to mostly first-time Hmong actors, and that Hmong extras, production assistants and others were also going to be on set. Eastwood seems to be putting a mountain of faith in Hmong talent, and it looks like he will be well rewarded for it. Working on Gran Torino is stretching the actors - many of whom have backgrounds in other art forms like music - to reach potentials they didn’t know they had.

This article is the first of two to introduce the people behind the characters in the production that everyone is following. In this issue, get to know the five guys in the Hmong gang. In the September 1 issue, watch for leads Bee Vang (Tao) and Ahney (Formerly known as Whitney) Her (Sue) plus other cast members.

The Boys of Gran Torino

Who are the bad guys of Gran Torino? Five Hmong actors, chosen from several states and from five different clans, make up the gang that is menacing Tao. Most of them have little experience acting. Sonny Vue, born in Fresno and now from St. Paul, plays the ringleader, “Smokie.” At 19 years old and only 5’5” tall, he was a surprise pick for the gang’s toughest guy. Even he was surprised. He’d taken an acting class at Vessey Leadership Academy but never been in front of the camera before. He even confesses he has stage fright.

Sonny was playing around with his cousin when they found the casting call on the internet. He boasted that he thought he could get Smokie. He describes driving by the HAP open auditions that weekend in May. It was Friday night and the guy was there. “I got a private audition.” They were looking for a Hmong American look. He was wearing a brown t-shirt that said ‘I’m hiding from the cops.’ Everyone was trying out for Tao, the good guy. Instead, he showcased his bad boy persona. “I think it’s the way I talk,” he explains in a familiar Hmong street voice. He sounds like he still can’t believe it.

“Exhilarating” is how Lee Mong Vang, Gangster No. 3, describes the experience of Gran Torino. The 26-year-old was born in Dallas, moved to Toledo, then spent most of his childhood in rough neighborhoods on the east side of Detroit. “You grow up all your life thinking you’d never be able to do anything like this. Going on set, seeing Clint Eastwood…it’s really awesome.” Lee Mong ended up in the show because a friend who studied acting told him he was “personable and talented and should give it a try.” An outdoorsman, he remembers with amusement that he skipped the first open call. “I went fishing,” he chuckles. But the second audition reeled him in. He was cast without even a callback. He knows this had to be a blessing from his deceased grandma who had just passed away before the audition. “I’m her oldest grandchild,” he muses, “She loves me.”

Lee Mong had no acting experience but he had done some singing so he had no stage fright. As a self-described jokester, he hopes to introduce some humor onto the set. He says he’s the muscle of the gang since he’s 5’7” and a brawny, heavier guy. Before this experience, he’d been working in manufacturing and studying to do auto cab design. Now he wants to go back to his music and maybe even pursue acting. “Live your life like it’s your last,” he wants to tell the young people out there, “You can’t predict the future, so go for it.”

Doua Moua, 21, hails from New York City, where he moved when he was 18 to pursue his acting career. A towering 5’11”, Doua plays Fong, aka Spider, Tao and Sue’s older cousin and an ambivalent member of Smokie’s gang. Born in Thailand, he grew up in Minnesota where he got into acting in middle school. He started college, but dropped out in order to refocus his heart and energy. He got a manager, and started auditioning around New York for both theater and film. His success rate speaks for itself: He’s been in numerous films and theater shows holding large and small parts.

“My dream is happening,” says a thrilled Doua, “I have to appreciate every moment that I’m riding this ride.” He wants to be part of a new generation that will make strides in getting Hmong people and Hmong art known. But even as he wants to impact the mainstream, he remembers the sacrifices and hard work of his parents. He wants to give back to his community. No matter where else his career takes him in the future, he affirms, he’d love to have a chance to work with Hmong filmmakers making movies for Hmong audiences.

Jerry Lee, 22, 5’9 ½” is a native of Chico, California who moved to St. Paul only in 2002. He’d done choir and acted in a play and a musical in high school and later in a 48-hour film festival short. When his girlfriend told him about the casting call, he’d already moved on. He had studied Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement and was going on to do Business Administration. But he decided to try out. He thought about Smokie, his off-the-chart pride. “I can portray myself as someone else,” he recalls. It happened: He got the part of Gangster No. 2. Jerry treasures all his time on set, “Eastwood’s a real humble guy, not what I expected,” he says with reverence. “I’m picking up things from other cast members. And what’s most important is building networks and friends….Kids, never stop chasing your dreams. And hold on to your contacts.

Jerry’s personal passion is writing stories and screenplays. He’s written a comedy short to be posted on Youtube. Now he’s working on a feature-length screenplay about sexuality. It focuses on how Hmong culture adapts to the modern world by looking at lesbian and gay Hmong and how hard it is for them to come out.

Elvis Thao, 26, plays Gangster No. 1. Born in Kansas, he moved to Modesto and then Milwaukee. “I’m very passionate about my city,” he says, “My heart is set on community issues.” The bald-headed, 5’6” powerhouse burns the candle at both ends. A member of the hip hop group RARE, he is co-owner of Shaolin Entertainment and a veteran of the Hmong music industry. Meanwhile, he takes philanthropy courses, lectures to youth at universities, and runs summer programs for kids.

“I’m based on revolution,” says Elvis. He is critical of corporate control in the music industry and “not too fond of Hollywood.” “What I hate is stardom.” If you call his cell phone the voicemail recording taunts: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what? So I’m shootin a movie with Clint Eastwood. Woo woo. What’s all the fussin for?” Instead he is inspired by Michael Moore and Don Cheadle, and sees the potential for real life documentary to create change. He almost didn’t audition for Gran Torino, but people in his network kept calling him. At 8PM on the Friday night before the Minnesota auditions his head was pounding. He got in the car and said “Let’s go or I’ll regret it forever.” And he has no regrets despite the gangster image he’s been hired to recreate. His vision is that audiences will see that they are actors playing characters, that they are examples of professional excellence, at being who they are while they create someone else. The income he makes will be used to promote awareness of the issues he cares most about – from police brutality in Milwaukee to human rights in Laos… “I’m going to be speaking out against gang violence after this,” he adds with determination.

Remaking the Image?

One of the things that makes this production so historic is that Hmong have been targets of others’ negative images for as long as they’ve been in the United States (or even much longer). Hmong gangbangers…Chai Soua Vang’s killings…Guerilla warriors in Asia…Uncooperative new immigrants in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. These are the kind of images that Hmong have had to deal with as newcomers to the American scene. The presence of these actors will make audiences see that there is somebody behind the role…and that somebody is a person of substance.

In Gran Torino, much of the dialogue is being created through improvising even though the original lines were written by white Minnesotan Nick Schenk (with Hmong input). Hmong actors describe ad-libbing their own lines on camera. They talk about drawing on their own grassroots experiences to make their characters authentic. They’re advocating for cultural accuracy, even when the Hollywood spectacle might be producing distortions. With so many talented Hmong working together, the ground is laid for the creation of three-dimensional people, a much more realistic portrayal of Hmong by Hmong for American audiences. Will it work? We’ll have to wait for the movie release…

Louisa Schein teaches Anthropology and Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She is writing a book about Hmong media. She can be reached at

Stay tuned for Part II where we meet the star teens, Bee Vang and Ahney Her, along with others.



Vandals deface Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial

Sheboygan police are investigating but have so far made no arrests after vandals spray-painted graffiti across the Lao, Hmong and American Veterans Memorial in Deland Park, according to the Sheboygan Police Department.

The damage — estimated at $1,000 — was discovered and reported to police on Tuesday, said Capt. David Derus.

ChaSong Yang, executive director of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association of Sheboygan, called the vandalism “unthinkable.” He discovered the damage during a morning walk through the memorial.

“I’m just shocked that this thing would happen. Whoever is doing it had no respect for anybody at all,” Yang said. “I just hope that whoever has done this will stop. That doesn’t do any good for anybody.”

The circular monument is dedicated to the thousands of Hmong and Lao soldiers who died fighting the communist North Vietnamese army in the Vietnam War’s Laotian front, known as the Secret War. It was dedicated in July 2006 and cost $140,000 to build.

Steve Schofield, a Secret War veteran who was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the memorial, said the vandalism is disheartening.

“Somehow we need to get the word out to the community that this is an important monument to Sheboygan, and certainly important to the Hmong,” said Schofield, 63, of Newton. “I’m just disgusted at this. Eight years to get that thing built and all the trials and tribulations we went through, and then to have some punk kids do this just makes me sick.”

Schofield said youths have also been skateboarding on the memorial, as evidenced by scuffmarks left behind. He said supporters may raise funds for a video camera to monitor the area.

Yang said the graffiti was cleaned up Wednesday, but some of the damage remains.

“It’s pretty much off, expect you still see some lines,” he said. “There’s some permanent marks.”

The black, spray-painted graffiti had covered panels that tell the story of the war. Other parts of the monument include the names of those who died and mosaic tiles created by local art students and assembled by hundreds of volunteers.

Anyone with information on the vandalism can contact Sheboygan police at (920) 459-3333.



Hmong in Politics - John Nichols: Opposites attract for Peng Her in District 81

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John Nichols: Opposites attract for Peng Her in District 81

John Nichols — 8/14/2008 9:43 am

It is a weird science indeed that successfully mixes former Madison Ald. Andy Heidt, the veteran Labor Farm Party activist who remains a stalwart of pure progressive political activism, and Dane County Supervisor Dave "Wiggie" Wiganowsky, who proudly holds himself up as the fire wall against advancing liberalism. But Peng Her has done it.

In the 81st Assembly District contest, where six Democratic candidates are battling for an upper hand in the Sept. 9 primary to succeed veteran legislator Dave Travis, most of the candidates are trumpeting endorsements. (The exception is Eric Englund, who has tended to eschew the practice.)

Kelda Helen Roys has Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk's muscular and meaningful support, as well as endorsements from Women's Choice and Wisconsin NOW Equality PAC. Tim Kiefer has Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard and Madison City Council President Mike Verveer, both colleagues of the assistant DA. Waunakee Village Board President John Laubmeier has won important backing from many local elected officials in the villages and townships that are part of the urban/rural district. Justin Sargent has former Mayor Paul Soglin, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney and, perhaps most importantly, a pair of north side elected officials: Dane County Supervisor Dorothy Wheeler and Ald. Michael Schumacher.

But it is Peng Her who earns honors for bringing together unlikely allies.

The restaurant owner and activist, who would be the first Hmong member of the Wisconsin Legislature (and only the fourth Hmong legislator nationally), got Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira. He also has former board President Bill Keys, a liberal icon (see letter on page 40), and former member Ray Allen, a Republican who has run for mayor twice as a centrist with conservative backing. He's got Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran, the energetic former president of Latinos United for Change and Advancement, as well as Peter Munoz, the former executive director of Centro Hispano; Steve Morrison, the executive director of the Madison Jewish Community Council; and John Quinlan, the former executive director of OutReach who hosts WTDY's "Forward Forum" program.

Perhaps most importantly, Peng Her has the backing of veteran north side activists such as Jim Powell and Friends of Troy Gardens current and former board members including Marge Pitts, Martha Worcester and Anne Pryor.

Endorsements don't usually decide political contests. They are, at best, mile markers on the campaign trail that suggest a candidate may be headed in the right direction. But when a candidate attracts an unlikely yet broad list of divergent backers, it offers at least some indication of an ability to cross lines of ethnicity, ideology and even partisanship that is all too rare in our politics.



Hmong National Development Issues Appeal for Laos and St. Paul Hmong Americans

Hmong National Development, Inc. (HND) issued another urgent action appeal today in Washington, D.C. to the Laos Embassy and Lao government calling upon the LPDR military regime in Laos to immediately release the three Hmong-American men, including Mr. Hakit Yang, so that they can be reunited with their families in St. Paul, Minnesota prior to the first anniversary of their arrest and imprisonment in Laos.

(PressZoom) - Washington, D.C. - Today, Hmong National Development, Inc. ( HND ), a national non-profit corporation in Washington, D.C., issued an additional urgent action appeal and raised serious regarding the plight of three ( 3 ) Hmong-Americans from St. Paul, Minnesota who continue to be imprisoned in the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic ( LPDR ) by military and security forces of the authoritarian one-party communist regime. It called upon the LPDR regime in Laos to immediately and unconditionally release the three Hmong-American men, including Mr. Hakit Yang, so that they can be reunited with their families in St. Paul, Minnesota. The men have families, including wives and children awaiting them in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"These three Hmong-American men from St. Paul, who were U.S. citizens, were traveling to Laos in 2007 as tourists and looking for business opportunities when they were arrested by Lao military and security forces," stated Christy Lee, Executive Director of Hmong National Development, Inc. "We are calling on the Lao government to immediately release these American citizens who were non-political and merely seeking to travel as tourists."

"Sadly, after almost one terribly difficult and long year, the Lao LPDR government, and its military and security services, still continue to offer absolutely no help or factual information regarding the three Hmong-Americans from St. Paul that it arrested and jailed in Laos in 2007," said Jade Her, with the Washington, D.C. office of Hmong National Development, Inc. "The Lao government is covering up the truth about this matter and continues to imprison these Hmong men despite their families efforts to have them released and returned home to Minnesota."

Jade her stated "The Hmong-American community in St. Paul, Minnesota and the United States is calling upon the Lao LPDR government to set these three Hmong American men free so that they can be reunited with their loved ones and families; The LPDR government must respect international law and cease its human rights violations and detention of these three Hmong Americans who are entitled to visits by their families and U.S. Ambassador Huso as well as due process and a fair trial for whatever charges the Lao government may be accusing these imprisoned Americans.

Mrs. Sheng Xiong, the wife of Hakit Yang, and spokesperson for the families of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota currently being jailed in Laos, made the following statement and appeal to Congress and international policymakers. Mrs. Sheng Xiong's statement was originally presented and read before the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos on Jan. 31, 2008, in the Cannon House Office Building in the U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

The following is the statement before the U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos of Mrs. Sheng Xiong, the wife of Hakit Yang, and spokesperson for the families of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota currently being jailed in Laos:

"I want to thank Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Congressman Frank Wolf, Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives for co-hosting today's U.S. Congressional Forum on Laos in cooperation with Mr. Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Lao Hmong scholar; Vaughn Vang of the Lao Human Rights Council of Wisconsin and Minnesota; Khamphet Moukdarath of the United League for Democracy in Laos and T. Kumar, Advocacy Director of Amnesty International. I appreciate their leadership on the current human rights crisis in Laos, especially facing the Hmong people, and the serious situation regarding the arrest and imprisonment in Laos of my husband, Hakit Yang, and his two Hmong-American colleagues from St. Paul, Minnesota last year.

The U.S.Government granted Normalized Trade Relations ( NTR ) to Laos in 2005. Today, it encourages citizens to consider foreign investments in the communist state despite the country's atrocious human rights records and the unjustified arrest, jailing and continued detention of three Hmong-American citizens from St. Paul, Minnesota including my husband Mr. Hakit Yang.

On July 10, 2007, Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang and Trillion Yuhaison departed the United States for Laos to pursue business investment opportunities. The men were staying at the #5 Guest House in Phousavan, Laos when they were arrested by secret police forces. They were detained in Phonthong Prison and later transferred to an unknown destination. Several unofficial reports suggest they are being detained in the North of Laos near the Vietnam border.

The last phone call and communication was received from Yuhaison on August 26, 2007 at approximately 9:00 am ( CST ). Yuhaison called Hakit's older brother Xai Yang, and stated that he was calling from a security guard's cell phone and confirmed that all three men had been arrested without warrant. Yuhaison sounded very worried and wanted Xai to contact the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane right away.

A US Embassy staff confirmed with local Lao authorities that three US Citizens were arrested, however, the authorities refused to release any names. According to the U.S. Embassy, the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs could not confirm the situation over the phone, but it appeared they knew about the cases.

The U.S. Embassy contacted the Lao government who denied having any record of the men entering their country and any U.S. Citizens being detained or arrested. Later, the Lao government changed their previous denials and admitted that the men did indeed entered Laos, but allegedly claimed that they had allegedly departed Laos via the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge on August 29, 2007. Despite repeated requests from the US Embassy no departure cards have ever been produced as evidence for their departure. Other documents produced are clearly bogus and fabricated allegedly claiming to support the Lao government's false claims that my husband and the other two departed from Laos to Thailand, which is not factual.

It has been many months since the arrest and disappearance of Hakit Yang, Congshineng Yang and Trillion Yuhaison. To this day, our family has not received any concrete answers from the US Embassy in Laos nor the State Department. I have been in contact with the other men's families and they also have not received any answers.

The US Government and US Embassy have a responsibility to inform US Citizens that there are no real protections in place to safeguard their civil and legal rights. The US Government has failed to properly hold the Laos Government accountable for the disappearance of these US investors.

Hakit, Congshineng, and Trillion represent the first of many US investors and tourists to travel to Laos under the new Normalised Trade Relations agreement but their disappearance clearly proves that no US Citizen is safe in Laos and no US citizen should invest in the current Lao regime until proper protections can be put in place, to safeguard the civil, legal and human rights of all US Citizens traveling to Laos.

I respectfully ask that the US Government and US Embassy in Laos continue to investigate the arrest and disappearance of Hakit, Congshineng, and Trillion and to press the Lao government for humanitarian access to the three U.S. citizens and their unconditional and immediate release.

The Lao government continues to jail my husband and the two other Americans from St. Paul that he was traveling with in clear violation and contempt of international law. Lao and Hmong Americans should not invest in the current regime in Laos, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic. NTR Trade Status to Laos should be revoked by the U.S. Congress; and, U.S. foreign aid and assistance to the Lao regime should also be cut by the U.S. Congress and U.S. Government completely, including all de-mining funding, until at least such time as my husband Hakit Yang, Congshineng and Trillion, as Hmong-American citizens, are released from prison in Laos and brought home safely to America and their homes and families in St. Paul, Minnesota.

We will not forget and not give up fighting until we have truthful answers and the Lao regime releases Hakit Yang, Congshineng and Trillion. We appeal to the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Government and international community for assistance in pressing the Lao regime to release our family members and restore human rights and freedom to them so that we can be reunited and these American citizens can return home once again from this terrible darkness."


Ms. Laurie Vue
Tele. ( 202 ) 629-0377

Hmong National Development, Inc. ( HND )


Hmong National Development, Inc. ( HND ) is a national, non-profit organization incorporated in the Washington, D.C.

It was established in the Washington, D.C. metro area in 1991 and incorporated in the District of Columbia. For more information call ( 202 ) 629-0377 or visit us on the web at:



Jenny Lo Publishes Book based on Hmong Experience

The Hmong community is gradually making its way into the world of publishing. Y. Jenny Lo has now added her voice to the number of young Hmong people sharing their experiences with the world. Her book Husi: A Clouded Future is Still Translucent follows a fictional Husi through her experiences in Southeast Asia.

As a child Husi sees her family killed. The book follows her transformation from a, "scared and traumatized little girl to a beautiful and strong young woman." While she plans revenge she "learns how to forgive and love."

While Lo is clear that, "This book is fictional, it's all in my imagination. There were no personal experiences of myself or any living person in my novel. All the events were created to make the book more interesting." She adds that, "I believed my book represents a lot of the Hmong people. In some ways, we experienced similar hard times (but not all of them), separation from loved ones, and loneliness in a new world."

Lo was born in Long-Cheng and like many of her generation experienced early childhood in a refugee camp. At the age of 11 she came to the U.S. with her family. She recalls that learning English was very difficult for her, "It was like placing a baby in six grade. I had to start from scratch-learning my ABC's and 123's." However she excelled and is now writing whole books in English.

Husi is written in a narrative fashion, alternating between Husi directly speaking to the reader and the reader "looking in" on the events happening around Husi.

After trying her hand at fiction Lo plans to incorporate more personal experiences into her next novel, "I have a rough draft of my next novel which will be based on my life experiences as a war-child. I want my children and the next Hmong generation to know where we (the first Hmong immigrants) came from and how hard it was for us to get to where we are today. The draft (as of now) is entitled, 'The Crying River'."

Lo has experienced a lot of support within her family, "My family has been extremely supportive. Writing this book has been a long, and difficult experience for all of us, and they were very patient with me." However Lo knows very few people in the larger Hmong Community know about her book yet. But she hopes that, "they will support my writing. Writing has been a long time dream. I want to share my gifts as a writer. I hope every reader will be inspired by my book (Husi) to live their lives to the fullest and to accept who you are."

Lo is also the author of a children's book entitled Disobedient Ducklings. She lives in Bethel, MN. For more information on purchasing her books go to or



On the Verge of a Hmong-American Literary Movement

New America Media, Commentary, Mai Der Vang, Posted: Aug 19, 2008

Editor's Note: A member of a Hmong-American writers' group reflects on the importance of the written word in a culture that did not have a written language until the 1950s. Mai Der Vang writes from Fresno, Calif.

FRESNO, Calif. — As a young girl, I collected books, magazines and newspapers. On Sundays, I watched my uncle read the Fresno Bee. After he was done, I saved the newspaper with the idea that it would be useful somehow in the future. Even then, I was aware of the importance of the written word.

These memories came back to me as I performed poetry and prose with other Hmong American writers at the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium on July 26. Several people in the audience cried. Others said coming to our event was like discovering a hidden gem.

The flyer for the event portrayed a young Hmong girl speaking words that floated across the page and landed on the pages of a book, transferring the verbal into the written.

For generations, the Hmong passed on traditions and folktales through oral transmission. There is little if any written documentation that they had a literate culture.

But on that evening, a crowd of more than 150 Hmong and non-Hmong felt the energy of what we were communicating, as if an entire community was rediscovering its literary voice.

This was the first convening of its kind and caliber in Fresno. Until that night, many people were not aware that the Central Valley harbored a small group of dedicated Hmong writers.

We touched on topics from genocide in Laos, to the time it snowed in Fresno in 1998; from learning to speak Hmong to the custom of marrying young; from our cultural history to our memories of joyriding as adolescents; from serene images to social critiques.

The event, titled “New Threads,” was organized by our group, the Hmong American Writers’ Circle (HAWC), a small cohort of established and emerging Hmong creative writers in California’s Central Valley. Other art forms, such as theater, film and photography, added to the evening’s impact.

One of the performers that evening was Burlee Vang, HAWC’s founder and a young up-and-coming writer. Vang read two poems: one about a humorous experience during a visit to the post office, and another about his father confronting the onset of aging and death.

I wonder if similar literary events took place centuries ago in Hmong villages.

To my knowledge, the Hmong have no official history of written literature. If it ever existed, it is likely that those writings may have perished during the many cycles of migration and wars that the Hmong endured through the centuries.

It was not until the early 1950s while living in the hilltribes of Laos, that they were visited by missionaries who not only brought Christianity but also a new tool for communicating with the western world: writing. These missionaries developed the Hmong Romanized Popular Alphabet (RPA) script, which has become the most widely-used system of writing for the Hmong language.

In 1959, another script, Pahawh, was developed by a Hmong man named Shong Lue Yang who claimed he received this character-based writing from his dreams, perhaps given to him by a “spirit.” In 1971, Yang was murdered by government officials afraid of his spreading influence.

Today, few people know the Pahawh script, and most of us are more comfortable writing in English than using the Hmong RPA system developed by the missionaries.

History has shown us that writing has been vulnerable and transient for the Hmong people, whether it was created for us by outsiders, or something we once had but lost.

As I far as I know, there is no such thing as a “Hmong” William Shakespeare, Robert Frost or Virginia Woolf. The lack of a legacy in our writing leads some of us to feel out of place compared to writers of other cultures.

But this also challenges us to work harder, knowing that our efforts today will lay the foundation for our future legacy.

At our event, we handed out a book of the readings presented that evening. Performing our pieces was one goal, but it was also important to us to preserve the writings in print.

When HAWC convenes for its bi-monthly workshops, we read, critique and dissect one another’s pieces. Since 2004, our goal has been to provide a space for the social, professional and creative support every emerging writer needs.

After that July evening, many of us walked away feeling as though we were on the verge of something momentous.

As young Hmong writers, we belong to a new generation of refugee children raised and educated in this country. Documenting how our cultural past connects to the present – as we are straddling dual identities, and rediscovering our roots – allows us to do something our ancestors long ago could not: preserve this moment in history for the next generation to read.



Thailand Hilltribes traditional dress

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To look beautiful in the Akha world is to dress in the most carefully crafted costume possible;
Two Akha tribeswomen display their intricately crafted headresses and costumes.

This also Akha tribewoman

Beauty takes on exotic new definitions in Northern Thailand, for hill tribe women have a very different concept of what makes a girl pretty, even from tribe to tribe. Some traits are common to all, such as the lack of makeup, the use of silver ornaments and the general preference for bold, bright color. But no style quite resembles any other other, while within eash style subtle variations express individuality.

In addition, hill tribe women in general draw on a staggering array of decorative devices from both the natural world and the modern. These combinations may startle uninitiated visitors, but they soon find that their aesthetic sense, in the tribal environment, quickly accepts the local norms. And they leave with the feeling that traditional dress makes even tribal "plain Janes" look fetching.

When city women go shopping for clothes and jewelry they purchase ready-made items. Hill women make their own outfits and only buy the components. Some tribal women - the Akha, Hmong, Palaung, and Karen - weave their own cloth as well. Karen weavers lay in decorative patterns while the cloth is still on the loom. Lisu and Lahu sometimes weave belts and shoulder-bag cloth, but buy the the main costume parts in bolts of different colors. Yao do not weave, but like the Akha and Hmong are meticulous embroiderers.
The Karen are famous as meticulous weavers of uniquely patterned cloth

The Akha, Karen and Palaung grow their own cotton and spin their own thread, whilst the Hmong raise hemp for their cloth. Karen weavers dye the threads first, but Akha and Hmong weave it white and dye it with indigo afterward, when the Hmong also apply designs by batik. Akha and Karen cloth is used for all parts of the costume, while Hmong cloth is only for the skirts. Once the cloth is dyed the next step is to assemble the costume parts. The applique and patterned stitchwork comes at this point, which can take months of tireless, dedicated work to produce a fully embroidered pair of Yao trousers or an Akha girl's jacket, leggings, skirt-guard and shoulder bag.

Lisu women buy raw material at a local
market to make their vivid costumes

Recycling the past; old colonial British rupees are often melted down to create local jewelry including these Padaung neck rings.

Girls of all tribes become adept with spindles, needles and thread at an early age, not from any formal training, but just by copying what their big sisters and mothers are doing. In the most remote villages, where tribes have to make their own clothes because they can't afford to buy any, females of all ages spin thread whenever their hands are free and there's enough light from the sun, the moon or an oil lamp. And they learn to weave as soon as their legs are long enough to reach the threadles.

Town girls are familiar with a much broader range of beauty models. They've been bombarded all through their formative years with the images of the world's styles and instructed on the ingredients of attractiveness. They are offered the ability to adopt one look for today, another for tomorrow, one for the office, a different one for the big night out, one for the sober presentation, another for the festive occasion.

The tribal exposure to various interpretation or beauty is much circumscribed. No real media influence exists in the tribal girl's world, which is instead heavily saturated with the images of her immediate environment. A tribal girl doesn't want so many "looks." She wants to look like all the other women around her because that has been all she has seen, except for maybe a few hurried glances at the town girl and other tribalspeople in the plains markets. The only beautiful women she's ever had a good look at have been fellow tribalswomen. I's no wonder they all wear such similar costumes. To look beautiful in the Akha world is to dress in the most carefully crafted Akha costume possible. To be a beautiful Karen girl is to wear the most expertly woven Karen dress that she is capable of creating.

Likewise, on the plains, tribal girls dress up to impress other women more than to attract a male. The big holidays and weddings are times to show off one's skill and compare one's work with that of other. Akha, Hmong and Yao girls will examine ech other's embroidery and if if they see something new will at once try to figure out how it was done. They'll observe what decorations were used and how they were deployed, inspiring ideas for their next holiday fasion. Lisu girls will count the shoulder stripes on the blouses of their rivals to see whether they have more or less than their own, which is the Lisu girl's measure of applique skill. Karens may do the same with the brass bangles on the arms of fellow villagers.

The city girl has a plethora of jewelry selections. Tribal ornaments are of two kinds: silver items and natural products of their environment. Tribal silversmiths generally fashion the rings, discs, neckrings, chunky bracelets and bangles, from melted down British silver rupees, 92.5 percent pure. These coins are also used as ornaments, especially by the Akha, who attach them to headdresses and stitch them onto jackets and bags. The Hmong and Yao do the same with French Imdochinese piasters. Even the Lisu are particularly fond of silver ornaments. During festivals girls wear blouses covered front and back with silver studs and pendants, while the occasional girl wears little silver fish in her headdress or suspends a larger one from a thick; silver chain hanging down her back.

Besides silver jewelry, some of which are family heirlooms, tribals fetch ornament materials from their jungles. Both the Akha and the Karen use Job's tear seeds and the shiny wings of green beetles as decoration. The Karen make beads to be used in necklaces from coconut shell, while the range of Akha embellishments includes animal parts such as gibbon fur and red horsehair tassels. Also, the Akha are perhaps the only people in the world to make a decorative device from chicken feathers. Women twine the tail feathers around a two-string bow loom, knock them in place with a bobby pin and tie off the tassel at the desired length. They next dye them red and attach them to headdresses, shoulder bags and jackes.

As for hairstyles, most women in the hills keep it in turbans or headdreasses and even those who don't ordinarity, like the younger Lisu and Karen, wrap it up for festivals. The simplest, and even strangest headgear is that worn by the Palaung and the Lahu Sheleh. It is nothing more than a brightly colored hand towel, like the sort you see hanging in your suburban friends' bathrooms. Most other headgear is a version, in one from or another, of the turban.

The most elaborate headpiece, though, is that of the Akha, which varies according to subgroup. The Ulo Akha headdress consists of a bamboo cone, covered in beads, silver studs and seeds, edged in coins (silver rupees for the rich, bath for the poor) topped by several dangling chicken feather tassels and maybe a woolen pom-pom. The Pamee Akha wear a trapezoidal colt cap covered in silver studs with coins on the beaded side flaps and long chains of linked silver rings hanging down each side. The Lomi Akha wear a round cap covered in silver studs and framed by silver balls, coins and pendants and the married women attach a trapezoidal inscribed plate at the back. By the way, Akha women sleep with their headdress on, though the Ulo women remove the top half first.

The stype of visiting tribals to other traditional villages contrast with that of the welcoming host, and the burden of adapting to the unfamiliar is on the visitors more thn on their hosts, who are, after all, on home ground. But just as the guests usually find it easy to behave respectfully once they discover their hosts behaving likewise, they also have no real trouble in the tribal world. Some adjust so well they even fall in love.



The Chinese Hmong

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Got this from a traveler's blog. Check out the pics here on her blog but I copied and paste her experience here.

Up until now, our interactions with people have been solely with those of the Han nationality. THis isn't surprising, given that the Han makes up the overwhelming majority of people in China - 93% of the nation's 1.3 billion. As soon as our plane landed in Guizhou Provence, however, we noticed a difference in culture. The women on the streets of the city of Guoyang were not all dressed in the western clothes that even the people in the rural villages near Luoyang wore, but instead sported silk-embroidered velvet tops, and piled their long black hair on top of their heads, adorned with a flower, comb, and decorative chopsticks. These women carried a wooden yolk balanced on one shoulder. Fastened to either end of this straight, flat stick is a basket, filled with grapes, peppers, silk, or other products that they are selling in the city. On their backs they are often seen carrying a child in an embroidered velvet backpack.

Trying my hand at plowing a rice field

Behind the outward appearance of the small, sturdy-looking women, is a long history of migration and persecution that parallels that of the Jewish people in the west. These women are part of a culture that call themselves Hmong, and who the Chinese call Miao. I have heard different stories from different Hmong people about whether they embrace or are offended by the term Miao, so I will use Hmong here. They are, however, the same culture, carrying the same rich history.

My host parents saddling their pack pony

The first impression that I had of the Hmong, women with fancy hairdo's and elaborate clothes, soon opened up to me as a colorful and culturally rich group that works hard, laughs often and fully, and holds strong to their traditions. The Hmong have been pushed around China and other parts of Asia since before recorded history. Five thousand years ago they were pushed west from the coast to the Yellow River Valley, and 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty they were pushed southwest into the mountains, developing a gift for turning even the most difficult terrain into productive farmland. The Chinese exploited this talent, and again "relocated" these farming communities 600 years ago to the hills in Guizhou where they remain today.

The Village of Xijiang

I had the privaledge of staying in one of the larger of the Hmong villages, Xijiang, about a two-and-a-half hour bus ride southeast of the city of Kaili. From the bus, I became familiar with the intimate relationship the Hmong had with the limestone mountains of Guizhou. Thankfully for my stomach, which was becoming overwhelmed with foreign bacteria and spicy food, the roads were mostly paved, albeit narrow, full of potholes, and abutting a steep drop-off with no shoulder whatsoever. The mountains are landscaped with terraced gardens of sweet potatoes, corn, squash, a decorative grass used for basket-making, tomatoes, cucumbers, forests of pear trees, and rice paddies! Yes, rice! Growing on flat terraces high in the mountains! My previous experience with rice is that it is a wetland crop, refusing to grow unless submerged in shallow, slow- or non-moving water. I was shocked when I realized that this plant was happily growing hundreds of feet about the stream-beds, and enquired about this to the guides. I was expecting to hear about genetic engineering and drought-tolerant varieties, but what Iearned was even more amazing: the Hmong farmers have manipulated the landscape and built intricate aquifer systems that channeled all the rainfall on the mountain and trapped it in the rice terraces. I was still skeptical, and spent a lot of time examining this during the three days we spent in our village homestays. The terraced rice paddies do indeed trap water in flat-bottomed man-made ponds that ducks played in and children catch on lines small fish with a dorsal fin that encircled their bodies. And rice grows there, too!

Women working on the tourist buildings

There are very few places on the mountain that do not support a harvestable plant. Along with those for food grows Tung Oil Trees, whose fruits are squeezed for their oil that is used to coat wood to keep bridges and houses brightly colored and rot-free. My host mother is up before dawn each morning working in the rice fields or tending to other vegetables before collecting sweet potato greens and other weeds (in her double baskets, swung over her shoulder on a yolk) which she grinds up and cooked with grain and water over an open fire to feed to her pigs. After slopping the pigs and gathering eggs from the chickens, we cooked and ate breakfast. My host father was already gone, having saddled up his pack-pony, he made his way down the mountain to help move earth and bricks to build the new shops and hotels in the valley. The Hmong in Guizhou found a new, easier way to make a living: catering to the ever-increasing tourist population. They are currently exploiting to the fullest the fact that people want to come see indigenous communities, buy their traditional products, and stay in 5-star hotels with air conditioning, and eat western food with only a sampling of the traditional rice noodles with fried eggs and scallions that we had for breakfast that morning.

A Hmong woman hard at work in a rice paddy

My host family's life is an interesting mix of their traditional way of life and modern amenities. They cook over a wood fire, pry corn kernels off the cob by hand, peal potatoes with a sickle, get water from an outdoor faucet, and relieve themselves in an open latrine, and yet have reliable electricity, and we watched the lead up to the Olympics in Chinese on TV during dinner. Technology has not missed this rural mountain village!

The Culture of the Hmong has not been lost, despite the infiltration of television. I was fascinated by watching the women. They have their own language, different from the Hmong language spoken throughout the village, and the Mandarin that is making its way in, of which most people in the village speak at least a little. This language of the women is a sing-songy, melodious speech that, although I don't understand a word of it, appears to be full of ritual and respect. As I walked with my host mother by the house of her sister-in-law, my host mother chanted and sang until her sister-in-law came to the window. They exchanged songs, and between each one we would walk away, only to be called back by the singing woman at the window, who apparently beckoned a reply. This ritual was repeated at least eight times before tradition permitted us to be on our way.

A group of dancing girls

Courting and marriage are other customs that are rich in culture and tradition. Young women wear their hair piled in the signature oblong bun on their head. Married women wear their hair in a mushroom-like or umbrella swooping over their ears and the side of their faces, and also have it piled on top of their heads. Tradition states that women have to marry men outside their village and move to their husbands village. I have heard lots of different courting rituals, including girls handing boys bells if they're interesting in courting, and girls parents cutting a small hole in her bedroom wall that boys come up to at night and sing through. If the girl is interested, she sings back. If they sing back and forth until sunrise, it's a sign that they should get married.

Looking down at the terraced rice paddies

My interest in fabric arts made the embroidery one of the most interesting Hmong traditions to me. Girls each embroider a beautifully decorated skirt for ceremonial dances. We were welcomed into the village by two chanting women wearing these skirts and their matching embroidered jackets with silver necklaces and crowns, carrying bowls of baiju for us. We were also serenaded at a feast for us by women singing and dancing, and men playing the lu sheng, a multi-piped wind instrument that reminded me a lot of bagpipes. I had a chance to use the brightly colored silk thread to embroider a dragon on a piece of cloth. I'm not sure what it was for, but the pattern was beautiful.

I fear that this rich culture will fade over the next couple of generations. Tourism is becoming a bigger and bigger industry, and with tourism comes money and modern amenities. On one side, it will make the lives of these hard-working people easier. On the other, with an easier lifestyle comes a loss of culture and tradition because it will no longer be necessary, and introducing people of different traditions will water down their own traditions. I am curious to see how much this village will change in the coming years.


Hmong Family and Clan

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hmong are group oriented. Hmong society is built on thousands of years of war, resistance to oppression, and dislocation. In these circumstances, the survival of the individual depends on the survival of the group. As a result, the interests of the group come before the interests of the individual. A Hmong person belongs to a family, the family belongs to a clan, and the clan belongs to the Hmong people. Hmong often use the term we to refer to their family, their clan, and their identity as a people. It is very common for a Hmong person to say peb tsev neeg (‘our family’), peb lub xeem (‘our clan’), and peb Hmoob (‘our Hmong people’).

The family is the basic social unit in traditional Hmong society. It serves as the unit of production, consumption, socialization, social control, and mutual assistance. While a Hmong household may vary in size from a married couple to more than 20 people, a typical household consists of an extended family made up of many generations.

There are about 19 Hmong clans in Laos: Cha or Chang, Cheng, Chu, Fang, Hang, Her, Khang, Kong, Kue, Lor or Lo, Lee or Ly, Moua, Phang, Tang, Thao, Vang, Vue, Xiong, and Yang. Within the clans, there might be several subclans, whose members can trace their ancestors to a common person or share a common tradition of ancestral worship and other ritual practices. Clan membership is obtained by birth, marriage for women, and adoption. Although a married Hmong woman continues to identify herself by her birth family’s clan name, for all practical purposes she is a member of her husband’s family and clan.

Members of a clan consider each other clan brothers or clan sisters. Socially and culturally, they are obligated to help each other. When two Hmong meet each other, they greet each other by saying Koj tuaj los! (‘You come!’). When someone passes through a Hmong village, a villager usually greets the passerby and insists that the passerby stop by his or her home for a meal or at least a cup of water. After greeting, they exchange names, ages, clans, and generations to establish their relationship in order to properly address each other. If they belong to the same clan, they will establish the precise relationship within the clan. If not, they will establish their relationship through the marriage of their kin, beginning with their wives and aunts. They will address one another using kinship terms, such as brother, uncle, aunt, and so on. In the highlands of Laos, every Hmong is related, either through close or distant relatives.



Zong Khang Yang Raises Awareness About Plight of Hmong People in Thailand and Laos

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The image “ The image “

Zong Khang Yang has a personal mission--but he doesn't feel like it should be a personal mission. Since discovering the plight and persecution of Hmong people left behind in the jungles of Laos and Thailand; the conditions his "family members and people" are living under have been the focus of his activities.

On June 16, 2004 he lead a group of 13 young people on what was dubbed, "The Long Walk For Freedom," from the State Capital in St. Paul to Washington D.C. The group made several stops along the way and worked to educate anyone and everyone they met along the way about the conditions and human rights abuses that the Hmong surviving in Laos have endured

Most recently his work has shifted to raise awareness about Hmong people in Thailand. With most of the refugee camps now closed, many Hmong find themselves at odds with the Thai government. The Thai government has kept no secret about the plans to return the Hmong to Laos. Several NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders/ Medicins Sans Frontieres have been working within Thailand to try and prevent this from happening.

On June 22 they failed in their efforts. 800 Hmong people were rounded up by Thai police and military and forced to return to Laos. Some reports say that the people were also badly beaten. There have been little to no reports about what happened to them after they were returned to Laos.

To raise awareness about their situation Zong Khang Yang built a large wooden cross and carried it along University Ave. from the State Capital to Norm Coleman's office. Yang said, " I was very concerned [when I heard of what happened in Thailand], some of our senators are also concerned, but that's our congress, our leaders. Are we going to sit and do nothing?"

Khang wore a traditional long jacket, "to symbolize my culture," and carried the wooden cross, "to symbolize suffering." Across the cross was written the words, "Please save my people in jungles Laos, Thailand Now!" Khang said, "I have no choice but to prick my own finger and write the words in my blood."

Fong Yang accompanied him carrying a Minnesota flag and Tyvone Lee carrying a United States Flag.

Khang stopped at Betty McCollum's office and several other offices on his journey, but he especially wanted to "encourage Hmong community to do their job"-call their family members to raise awareness and request that they call their representatives and senators and say:

1. Stop the Thai government from arresting Hmong and using force.

2. Allow an international peace commission to go into Laos and Thailand.

3. Follow-up on the 800 people returned to Laos. Say, "I am concerned about shelters, safety, medical attention. They have no place to live and possibly face execution. I am wondering if the Lao government will accept them."

Khang brought these requests to several local senators and representatives. Now he hopes to spread the word across the nation.



Minneapolis police: A mistake, an apology and then medals

Sunday, August 3, 2008

David Joles, Star Tribune

Vang Khang traded gunfire with Minneapolis police in December when
they raided his house looking for a violent gang member. Khang’s
family counted 22 bullet holes


Last update: July 30, 2008 - 5:27 AM

First, the city apologized. Then it gave awards.

Eight Minneapolis officers received medals in City Hall Monday for
their valor in a botched raid that the city apologized for last year. That
isn't sitting well with the family shot at multiple times by the officers.

"I'm shocked that they're receiving awards for that night," said Yee
Moua. "My family is a mess right now. My [9-year-old] son, who saw
the shooting, still has nightmares and has needed therapy. They've
ruined a life, and I don't understand why they would get rewarded for

The awards stemmed from a high-risk search in December. The eight
officers -- who had SWAT training -- entered the house expecting to
find a violent gang member. Instead, they found Vang Khang, a
35-year-old homeowner who thought he was being robbed. Khang shot
through his bedroom door at the officers until he understood who they

In the midst of the shootout were Moua, who is Khang's wife, and their
six children, who range in age from 3 to 15. Moua said her family has
since abandoned the house and can no longer afford to keep it.

Minneapolis police spokesman Sgt. William Palmer said Tuesday the
department has acknowledged the raid was a mistake and has
apologized to the family. But he said the officers "performed very
bravely under gunfire and made smart decisions."

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said that he knew giving the award
might get negative attention but that "we've never not recognized an
officer shot in the line of duty."

Three officers received shrapnel damage to body armor and their
ballistic helmets, Palmer said.

Dolan said he did not speak with the family prior to the award
ceremony, but he did speak with Hmong community leaders in north
Minneapolis who were "mostly understanding."

"I can understand [Moua's] feelings, but the officers didn't make any
mistakes and they were able to stop things from getting worse," Dolan
said. "Like the old maxim says, 'You don't punish your officers for the
mistake of the general.'"

'We almost died that night'

Police said they acted on bad information from an informant, who
reportedly was a victim of a crime at a house in the 1300 block of
Logan Avenue N. Police said they had no reason to believe the
information was inaccurate and they had the right address on the
warrant, but the house wasn't occupied by anybody they wanted.

The raid was part of an investigation by the department's Violent
Offender Task Force, which typically goes after the most violent gang
members and drug dealers. Officers had retrieved guns in searches
connected with the case before the raid.

According to police, officers entered the home without knocking -- a
standard procedure in cases where officers expected to find weapons --
and called out, "Police!" as they searched the home's first floor. They
didn't find anybody, so went to the second floor. At a small landing at
the top of the stairs, they again shouted, "Police!"

Shots then came through the walls and doors as officers searched two
bedrooms, police said. It was Khang shooting from a third bedroom.

Authorities said there were children in the other bedrooms, and the
officers quickly realized there was a language barrier. The older
children were able to communicate to their father that police were in
the house and to stop shooting.

"As soon as they started taking fire, [officers] got in front of the kids
and used their body as a shield," Palmer said. "They used great
restraint and shot precisely at where the bullets were coming back

Moua disputed the police account.

"They never identified themselves; we thought they were a whole
bunch of drunk, crazy guys," she said. "We didn't know anything until
my oldest son yelled, 'Dad, it's the police!'"

She also said the officers did not try to protect her children, but rather
hid themselves behind furniture and shot back indiscriminately. She
said officers treated her and her husband roughly, and did not explain
the situation after the two surrendered.

"They stepped on my husband, and we kept asking, 'Where are the bad
guys?'" she said. "We were just trying to protect ours kids. We almost
died that night."

Lawsuit against the city

Sgt. Jesse Garcia said the city conducted an internal affairs
investigation after the raid and the SWAT team was cleared of any
wrongdoing. He said no other details were available because the
investigation was still open.

Casper Hill, a spokesman for the city of Minneapolis, said the city has
reimbursed the Khang family $7,500 for "miscellaneous expenses."

The family's lawyer, Thomas Heffelfinger, said that he has had ongoing
conversations with the city attorney's office and that there will be a
lawsuit if they cannot reach a resolution.

"They fired 22 rounds with 9 millimeter automatic weapons into a
room with two adults and four children," Heffelfinger said. "That's not
protecting kids. They were firing at a room they couldn't see into. They
fired with the intent to kill the person on the other side of the door.

"To give these men awards for that behavior is nothing more than an
attempt to sanitize their conduct."

Heffelfinger also said the family had lived at the house for four years
and had no history of wrongdoing. He said police "failed to do their
homework" and "acted outrageously once they got there."

Officers receiving medals of commendation included Sgt. Nicholas
Torborg and officers Steven Blackwell, Matthew Kaminski, Ricardo
Muro and Craig Taylor. Sgt. Michael Young and officers John
Sheneman and Alan Williams received medals of valor.

"We knew there might be political implications with this," Palmer said.
"We're not passing judgment today on the rest of what happened there.
But those officers were shot in the line of duty, and there isn't an
appropriate level of award for that."

Staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. Rodrigo Zamith •

Tsi Meng, 6, was one of six children in the house during the shootout.

Officer receives medal.

Monday's award ceremony



Fresh Traditions: Center for Hmong Art and Talent fashion show

Friday, August 1, 2008

First of all, I want to give a big shout out to my girl Stephanie Ta Yang Xiong for doing some of the hair for the fashion show. Go girl! Did you know she graduated beauty school and is ceritified now?
Yes, Fashion Show was in Minnesota.

Five design lines premiered on the runway at the Varsity Theater Saturday night, July 26. Fresh Traditions II Fashion Show was presented by the Center for Hmong Art and Talent (CHAT), whose organizational mission is to nurture and develop Hmong artists to enhance the community. Fusing new, contemporary designs with the old, CHAT and the designers recognize the importance of the history of Hmong art, which is deeply rooted and woven into the textiles and fabrics of the clothing.

For more pics, go to the photographer website