For those of you that don’t know I am a writer for the Hmong Times, a local ethnic paper. I have been with them for over 7 years, before I was a mom, farmer, or Amy Doeun. It’s hard to put in words (even for a writer!) what the experience has meant to me, including what I have learned about myself, culture in general, sharing culture, and being a world citizen in my own backyard. The Hmong people are an ethnic group from Southeast Asia. They came to America through a long and complicated history involving war, the CIA and lots more. For more information about them I recommend the book A People’s History of the Hmong by my good friend Paul Hillmer.
One of the things that I find striking about the Hmong community is their respect for “The General” the past 50 plus years General Vang Pao has been a guiding influence for his people, lobbying for rights and advocating for needs. He and a select group of elders have lead their people through much turmoil in the past 50 years, including efforts to safely resettle virtually a whole population uprooted by war. This year the General turns 80. It is also the 30th Hmong Freedom celebration (and 30th anniversary of Hmong settlement in St. Paul) at nearby Como Park.
This event is the event in the Hmong community and families gather from all over the country and the world. Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening dinner celebration at Aldrich Arena a few miles from my home.
The General was there. As always when he is introduced the entire company stands with respect. I have yet to actually meet the General and if I did I would probably be completely star struck honestly. But I was close enough to him to get a picture, if I had a better camera. While I am a writer our paper is small and so I am often photographer as well. I have always had an interest in the art form of photography but for some reason have yet to pursue. Last night as i was oh so close to an amazing personage but didn’t want to get in his face with my rinky dink camera (did I mention the children were in tow) I decided my goal for next year is to save for a really nice camera and become a photographer in addition to a writer.
Another close friend of mine Seexeng Lee produced his own tribute to the General in the form of a series of paintings, on hand for signing as a birthday gift to the General. Seexeng is an art teach in Minneapolis Public Schools and a well known artist in his own right.
This weekend will be a busy one celebrating in the Doeun household. We work hard, so we can play hard. More on Monday.