ArticlesA Hmong-American Womxn Fights For Freedom

Julie VangFebruary 27, 2019107815 min

My mom shook her shaman’s cymbal-like bells and began chanting while standing on top of her wooden bench.

Nyob zoo, koj tuaj los. (Hello, welcome.) I greeted the guests at our door with a warm smile.

Freshly cooked chicken thigh

The males entered in and walk straight to the main living space, shaking each of the other males’ hand in the room. While the females walked awkwardly into the kitchen, standing still asking what sort of work needs to finish. As for the kids who tagged along with their parents, they ran to join forces with the other kids or hid behind their mother’s back, squeezing onto their shirt and follows them around.

Don’t forget the pile of shoes all scattered everywhere by the entrance door. You pray that once you take off your shoes, you hope nobody steps on them and that you leave with the right pair of shoes on.

Coming from a traditional Hmong household, every weekend consisted of my mom’s intense ceremonies/rituals, many new and familiar faces, and delicious warm food. Whether an ua neeb (ceremonial healing practice) or a hu plig (soul calling), these sorts of gatherings are about reuniting and soaking in further knowledge of the Hmong ceremonies/rituals and customs. My parents’ hope is to continue passing down these traditions to us, so the existence of the Hmong people lives on.

Often, the Hmong people are unheard of and unseen of. They are usually invisible from the larger Asian ethnic group and comes from the mountains of Southeast Asia; particularly Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Around the mid-1970s, Hmong families began relocating into the United States as refugees from the Secret War, also known as the Vietnam War.

As soldiers protecting their families from the Secret War, my parents evacuated their small village from Laos into Thailand. My parents always told vivid experiences about their escape from the war into the United States. My mother held my oldest sister by her hand and wrapped my second oldest sister at her back. Walking long distances through the jungle, they were told to walk quickly but quietly. They slept in made-shift shelters and ate what little rice they packed, along with edible plants, and bamboo shoots they found along the way. My father said it was challenging to sleep at night because that’s when they heard the most gunshots, bombs, and people screaming. He got shot multiple times and hardly made it alive. Thankfully my uncle was there to rescue him quickly. Four gunshot wounds remain in my father’s chest. I did not realize the significance behind my parent’s sacrifices and losses until I lived independently on my own. The inheritance of my parents’ experiences, their courage, and oral stories are embedded in my identity, core values, and I carried their narratives as my projection for greater success.

Paj Ntaub (Hmong Story Cloth)
As I grew older, I realized the lotus flower doesn’t always root itself in muddy water. I noticed the segregation of family members, their roles, responsibilities, and expectations at these gatherings. I saw inequalities such as classism, sexism, ageism, and ableism but at the time I didn’t have the knowledge to it. Unable to understand why my female cousins and aunties were always in the kitchen cooking when the guys were playing and laughing about their fishing trip or questioning why the men ate first; I was confused, yet extremely upset at this reality. Even as a Hmong daughter, I was not allowed to date. If I were to go anywhere with a guy, one of my siblings would have to tag along. The Hmong New Year celebration was the big event I looked forward to every year. It meant meeting new people and seeing friends from out of town. The best part was dressing up in traditional Hmong clothes and seeing Hmong-aspired entertainments ranging from beauty pageants to dancing, and singing to reading poems.

I began to understand why my parents would keep us confided in our home; why they would continually shelter us, restrict us from venturing out too far. Of course, I was a curious and a stubborn child, I would disobey my parent’s order, with the consequences of getting punish. My parents’ actions are inexcusable but understandable when I witnessed and heard of their lived experiences filled with hate and ignorance. They knew that barbaric white kids had no reservations in harming you. Throwing rocks and calling you ching-chong-chong while you’re gardening your front yard. They knew that grown black adults have no guilt when burning our first family van, with no consequences when the police were called to the rescue due to language barrier. My parents knew we were different, and that ignorant, heartless people would always help to make us aware of that in the evilest way.

My mom’s shaman altar

It wasn’t until later in life I understood what these experiences meant and that I could do something about them. It was during the end of my high school years that I had the language, strength, and voice to call out this patriarchal system and the “isms” manifested in my people, in my community, and in this society. These were inexcusable practices and customs created by white supremacist males who held mighty power over generations and oppressing my beautiful Hmong culture. Even our education system is refusing to teach our native language, our history, our spiritual realms, and our diversity.


I choose to not uphold the status quo, bigotry, oppression, injustices, and White supremacy.

I am my great grandparent’s lineage.
I am my grandparent’s child.
I am my parent’s daughter.
I am a Hmong womxn.

And I will continue to document the legacy of my ancestors, a reminder to always and forever nudge us to fight lovingly onward.


Original Source: This article is from the website “Memoirs of Julie Vang”. You can check out this article and more like it on the link below.
Link to Original Article:

Julie Vang

Julie Vang is a Hmong-American womxn from St. Paul, Minnesota with a mission in building collective power with community through the work of liberation, voice, agency, and healing. She enjoys connecting with others, being active, and having deep honest conversations.

Asian Articulations 2018 © All Rights Reserved