A month-long celebration
Mai Neng Vang, a junior, has kept the memory of her late grandfather in mind throughout the month of April.
“He told me that one day, when I get older, my generation and younger may not know,” she said. “He was afraid they will no longer know where they came from and have the knowledge to participate in different culture rituals and ceremonies; I always had that fear of losing my cultural traditions.”
After two years of pondering and a few months of planning, Vang and a small committee of students and faculty have put together and hosted Hmong Heritage Month, a celebration of Hmong culture and history throughout the month of April.
Eau Claire is the third city in Wisconsin to start holding such activities, Vang said.
“Another reason I wanted to do something like this is because there’s a lot of disconnection with Hmong culture and cultural identity,” she said. “There are a lot of people at EC who don’t know who Hmong are. It’s also a chance to promote Hmong culture and let people know why we are in America.”
Sophomores Jessica Kennedy and Mandy Kissinger attended Monday night’s event, which taught community members how to cook a Hmong meal.
Kennedy said it is important for the majority population of Eau Claire to be aware of the Hmong population in the city.
“They are diverse and very proud of their culture,” she said, “and to be able to share it with the rest of us and be open about it is cool.”
Kissinger also said the Hmong community brings a lot to Eau Claire.
“I know Eau Claire and central Wisconsin have a higher Hmong population than other parts of the United States, so to have this culture around and learn from it is exciting,” she said.
A city proclamation on April 10 named April 2012 as Hmong Heritage Month in Eau Claire. Since then, a variety of events have taken place across campus, including a day of traditional Hmong dress and a hut on display in Davies earlier in the month.
Ongoing events include exhibits in McIntyre Library and Hibbard, as well as window paintings in Davies Center.
“I’ve had a lot of people interested in learning about what’s happening in the rest of the month, and there’s a lot of interest that has even been spread out of the campus,” Vang said. “We even have elementary and middle schools participating.”
The rest of the events for the month include a panel discussion at 11 a.m. on April 24 in the Presidents Room of Davies, the “Hmong’s Got Talent” show from 6 to 9 p.m. on April 29 in Schofield Auditorium and a volleyball tournament.
Vang said she wasn’t sure if she would be a chair of the event next year but hopes to see it continue.
“I want it to become a tradition,” she said. “I want them to recognize it in Eau Claire, and my goal is to eventually have it nationally recognized.”