Hmong culture spreads throughout campus

Junior Kinesiology exercise science major, Alexander Danes, poses for a picture during Hmong Day at the Free Speech area on April 28, 2017. (Christian Ortuno/ The Collegian)

Music, history, language and traditional clothing were shared with the campus community April 28 as Hmong culture was brought to life at the University’s Speaker’s Platform in honor of Hmong Day.

“Here at Fresno State, we do serve a large population of Hmong students,” said Justine Cha, education chair for the Hmong Student Association.

Cha said Hmong Day is usually celebrated in May, but they wanted to celebrate it at Fresno State during diversity month.

Although their association serves approximately 70 students out of the entire Hmong student body Cha said, they are still there for a resource. She hopes the event showcased their outreach efforts on campus.

“We are here. This is who we are. This is what makes us special,” Cha said while looking at the history and culture that was displayed on the association’s table.

Aside from traditional clothing displays a “try-on station” was available for anyone curious about what wearing Hmong clothing is like. Cha said the clothing was made available so that people could learn about why and when it’s worn.

A scrapbook was available for people to look through and see photos of past events and how the association has grown.

They also had on display an award the association received the same day from Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula celebrating Hmong Day on campus.

By sharing the historical background and Shamanistic religious practices of the Hmong community, Cha hopes her peers at the university who are not Hmong can gain a better sense of what the community represents.

Association member Kevin Lor said he wanted to inform people about the history of the Hmong people and how they immigrated to various parts of the world.

“For me, [this] is important because Hmong people have been in the United States, and spread out in the world, for more than 40 years, and not [many] people know about what Hmong is and who are the Hmong,” Lor said.

He said the day has a special significance because he gets to help promote the culture, traditional religious beliefs, clothing and the history.

“I hope Fresno State students and faculty know that we are also here and that they see we are here, we also contribute and we are also Americans,” Lor said.

He added that although some identify as Hmong-American, it is important to maintain the culture and belief systems.

“I hope Fresno State accepts us, our culture and what we believe in,” he said.

Keng Vang, member of the association and president of the Hmong Language Club on campus thinks students on campus don’t don’t know much about the Hmong people.

He said the club, was created to support the newly created Hmong minor that is now available for students.

“We’ve been having Hmong language tutorials, tutoring sessions, events, workshops to improve Hmong language skills and create awareness about the culture,” he said.

Vang said the celebration helps create diversity on campus and shows the “beauty” of culture and community.

Vang said he is often mistaken for Chinese, which furthers his belief that the community does not know what Hmong history is and what it represents.

“Chinese and Hmong are totally different,” Vang said.

He added that it may happen because there isn’t a specific country where the Hmongs are from.

“We came from Laos, then we went to Thailand, from Thailand refugee camps we went everywhere around the world,” he explained. “We are somebody.”

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