Hmong Heritage Month in San Diego

BRIEF

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City of San Diego recognizes December as Hmong Heritage Month.

In the News

Acceptance Speech

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Background

Heritage, what does it mean and how can it be achieved?  Heritage refers to history, culture, religion, artifacts, and tradition that have a special meaning, particularly in society.  Many of the aforementioned are simply habits and values that had been inculcated or handed down for generations from parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.  Heritage is what distinguishes one group from the others; it cannot be achieved because it is something we already have.  Every culture has its own unique heritage; the Hmong people are no exception.  Hmong heritage must be elucidated so that other cultures may witness the vibrant culture and its beautiful accoutrements.  Hmong people must repudiate the notion that they are victims of vicissitude and they must not draw attention to themselves.  Moreover, there is a misconception that Hmong people must identify themselves as Lao-Hmong simply because our parents and grandparents were from Laos.  This stigmatism or ideology is what fueled the passion to promulgate Hmong people and their culture.  More important, as older generations pass on, the knowledge of the culture, tradition, and heritage among Hmong-Americans will be lost if we remain stagnant.

Planning

The time is now; we must collaborate and share our culture, our tradition, and our heritage. We must tell our Hmong story. The Hmong heritage must be preserved and recognized. The Hmong community of San Diego has been without a voice for quite some time. Perhaps, the community sense it was time to create a legacy for the Hmong people of San Diego and Hmong community at large; and be one of the first if not the first to pursued recognition for Hmong heritage. We know there is a Hispanic Heritage Month – nationally recognized and there is the Black Heritage Month, also nationally recognized. These two cultures celebrate their national heritage in the month of September and February. Similarly, recognizing Hmong heritage is salient and must be of the same caliber and magnitude, which is why December is fitting for Hmong heritage month.   Only through a thorough comprehension of culture, traditions, religion, and history will we understand heritage; and only through recognizing the heritage will we be able to appreciate it.

community leaders and public officials. The meetings were followed by community forums, which provoked deeper thoughts of what the Hmong values are and what they stand for. Progression (in this case, achieving recognition) requires abandoning the ways of old such as attitudes, habits, and values that had been inculcated in many of the elders. Thought provoking questions were proposed to community members, leaders, and scholars. The community knew of the Hmong Day in the state of Minnesota, recognizing Hmong veterans in the month of July; however, the Hmong community of San Diego wanted to seek for something greater than just a day. The Hmong community of San Diego wanted to capture the heart of our true concern, which is the dying heritage and culture of our people. Hmong Heritage Month was the panacea.

In the Hmong community, everyone had a voice and everyone shared their stories, inputs, and opinions openly. As a result of opened dialogue, what the community leaders found and identified were more questions than answers, but one thing that was consistent and all agreed on was keeping Hmong traditions, culture, and heritage alive. The community leaders felt the urgency to evince Hmong heritage to the general public. Through a collaborative effort between the Hmong community, its leaders, and several passionate supporters, a draft for Hmong Heritage Month was germinated. Dr. Xiong, True VanHou, Police Service Officers Ping Yang and Allen Tarr were instrumental in the development of the Hmong Heritage Proclamation verbiage. The proclamation was neither myopic nor vacuous; it truly represents coalesce of ideas from the Hmong people. The time was ripe for Hmong heritage to be memorialized and recognized.

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Significance of Hmong Heritage Proclamation

The Hmong Heritage Proclamation marks the end of an old era and the beginning of a new chapter in Hmong history. A new beginning, means, we, as Hmong people must be open minded, inquisitive, and perhaps, demanding at times. The Proclamation serves to promote not only one individual, but the entire Hmong race. It shares with the rest of the world our culture, customs, traditions and our Hmong story. Further, it serves as an identity platform for our young Hmong men and women, struggling with insularity. It is a platform for Hmong leaders to demarcate the Hmong identity from other Asians.

The Hmong culture, traditions, history, and artifacts will be preserved through this proclamation. It is important that others know about Hmong, but more important, our children must have a comprehensive understanding of our culture, customs, traditions, and history. How the aforementioned are showcased will depend on how community members engage the next generation and how community leaders engage city government. It is then fitting to say that the Hmong Heritage Proclamation requires our Hmong parents and leaders to rise above the status quo as they continue to promulgate our culture, traditions, and heritage.

For many decades, the Hmong people were invisible, lost in the sea of humanity, and suffered much reprisal. There will be no doubts that leaders and community members alike will face future challenges regardless of status or recognition. However, a true leader must not give in to temptations or be quagmire. It is in our darkest and most difficult moment that true leadership emerges. The Proclamation is a promissory note, a reminder that we are entitled to unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How we choose to exercise our rights is how we will change history. There are opportunities to lead and make changes every day; it is up to us to write the next chapter in our Hmong history. It is my hope that this proclamation inspires the young and old alike; more importantly, that it fuels the burning desires deep within our hearts and give us the courage as Hmong-Americans to stand up and lead our people and our country, the United States of America.

Note: Please acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions, inputs, and inspiration for both the Proclamation and this article.

  • Chao Xiong
  • True VanHou
  • Ping Yang
  • Allen Tarr
  • Janet Yang