Joe Kaojio Liow Phan, Ed.D.

Joe Kaojio Liow Phan, Ed. D., born in Laos, escaped to Thailand and is currently living in Sacramento, California.

Video Timeline

Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.

00:00 – Introduction

00:44 – Clip 1
Joe starts with his name and explains the naming conventions.

01:21 – Clip 2
Recalls earliest memory of being a songwriter and how distances traveled over dirt roads are still measured in 1/2 and 1 day vs. miles.

03:56 – Clip 3
Talks about his family’s change from self-sustaining farmers when Laos fell to the communists. Mien were being persecuted, therefore, his family fled to Thailand. First attempt was foiled by communist soldiers shooting at the people step-dad hired. Second attempt to cross the Mekong was a success; however, upon arrival and unpacking from boat, they were robbed.

10:09 – Clip 4
Explains that his family was sponsored by the Catholic Church in Fargo, North Dakota. Had to leave grandparents behind, as only immediate family members of a soldier were allowed to come to the U.S. In-laws were excluded. Recalls arriving in San Francisco, where he appreciated, but did not understand why he was being giving a heavy coat. Upon arrival in Fargo, where it was snowing, he understood why the heavy coat.

15:05 – Clip 5
As the oldest child, Joe served as the translator for his family, even though his vocabulary was limited to “yes” and “no.” He was “blessed” by his friendship with Christie, who was instrumental in making him feel he could make it through the 4th grade – even getting him through his first experience with a birthday gift.

19:10 – Clip 6
Discusses his religious beliefs-animism through shaman. Step-father communicated to sponsors that because of their religious beliefs, family felt that they should move from Fargo, North Dakota to Seattle, Washington, to be with relatives, where they lived for 3-4 years.

23:19 – Clip 7
Explains how his dad lost his job and the family moved to California in 1983 or 1984. During his last year in Seattle, Joe and friends volunteered to help teach traditional dances and attended many community events.

27:23 – Clip 8
Discusses how his involvement in community as a band helped him stay connected to his culture. He goes through period where he wants to “fit in” with American culture, but also understands he is always going to be part of Mien culture, self-acceptance even when American society might not accept him.

38:55 – Clip 9
Recounts the confinement of the refugee camp and that you needed permission to leave the camp. Valid reasons included visiting family or looking for employment, but it was very difficult to get permission.

41:40 – Clip 10
Joe doesn’t recall people standing up for him, but remembers  that his friends were there to support him in ways his parents could not.

43:09 – Clip 11
Arrives in Sacramento in 1983/4.  Mien culture clusters in Oak Park area.  Eventually 5 or 6 families within a few blocks of each other. Mien cluster for safety, support and sense of belonging.

44:41 – Clip 12
Explains that the Mien bring their political structure into community, which includes elected district leaders.

47:12 – Clip 13
Joe states that it’s his 16th year teaching and how he spent  5 years as an aide before that.  He taught in West Sacramento, Oakland, Elk Grove, and now in Sacramento City Unified teaching math.

47:56 – Clip 14
Shares that he wants students to know how to retain their culture values regardless of where they are. Cultural identity is what makes you who you are, which is the most important thing as you progress through life.

53:16 – Credits

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