Community Events

Hmongstory 40 Fresno Grand Opening

The weekend drive to the county fairgrounds in Fresno, CA, was well worth it. We are very glad to have been part of the opening day celebration of the Hmongstory 40 Exhibit. A special part of the Exhibit was visiting with Maykou Vang, Project Manager and MC of the event. (We interviewed Maykou over the summer for the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project and her story/video will be available on the website soon.) We recognize the incredible amount of planning (3 years of work) that the Hmongstory 40 committee devoted to making this event a reality. 

The program showcased guest speakers representing city, state and Hmongstory 40 team members:

  • Maykou Vang, Project Manager/MC
  • Misty Her, Instructional Superintendent, Fresno Unified School District
  • Jim Costa, Congressman, District 16
  • Rickie Vang – Speaking on behalf of his father, Colonel Tru Vang
  • Sal Quintero, Councilmember, City of Fresno, District 5
  • Joseph I. Castro, Ph.D., President, California State University, Fresno (Keynote Speaker)
  • Lar Yang, Hmongstory 40 Director

Some of our favorite quotes and take-aways from the opening ceremony included:

“Diversity is what makes our community, state, and nation so great.” – CSU Fresno President Castro

“The greatest gift we can give, is the gift of history.” – Councilmember Sal Quintero, City of Fresno, District 5

The definition of “America” vs. the definition of “American” – thought provoking part of Sal Quintero’s speech.

“The Hmong story cannot be Googled” – Rickie Vang

One of the highlights of the opening ceremony was the announcement by Fresno State President Joseph Castro that the campus would be the first in the Western U.S. (and 5th in the nation) to offer a minor in Hmong Studies. To read more about CSU Fresno’s upcoming program, click here.

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CSU Fresno President Joseph Castro speaking to the media about his announcement

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Ribbon Cutting – Hmongstory 40

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Media and attendees capturing the ribbon cutting

The Exhibit is organized to include displays depicting four phases of history. Each phase includes archival photos, display boards and artifact collections:

  • Life in Laos
  • Secret War
  • Refugee Camps
  • Arrival in California

Some of our favorite artifacts were regional clothing, jewelry, musical instruments, as well as items used in farming, such as baskets.

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Hmong region fashion display

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Gail Desler taking a closer look at Hmong embroidery

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Hmong silver necklaces and earrings

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Fine art display 

A highlight was being able to walk through the different sections and join in conversations with volunteer docents and fellow visitors. It was very moving to note how many families came and to witness the pride in elders sharing with children and grandchildren about their history and heritage.

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Sharing history across generations

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Hmongstory 40 Interactive Guide 

When looking through the Interactive Guide provided to attendees, we noticed a set of objectives for the Exhibit:

  • Celebrate and highlight forty years of accomplishments by the Hmong in California and abroad.
  • Recognize and pay tribute to our leaders, parents and community members.
  • Bridge and connect a new generation of Hmong Americans to the trauma and experiences of refugee settlement endured by their families.
  • Educate the general public about the Hmong and the events that led to the changes in their history.
  • Encourage the importance of cultural and historical documentation and preservation of the Hmong experience for future generations.

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Refugee Mural – At the refugee camps, each individual was given a refugee identity number for processing before they were transported to their future homes, which could have been in the U.S., France or Australia

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We happened upon a impromptu photo shoot in front of the “Crossing the Mekong River” display

We left the Exhibit feeling that we had gained a better understanding of the enormous challenges faced by refugees in leaving their homeland and coming to a new country. The Exhibit definitely succeeded in meeting the above goals. And the last goal – Encourage the importance of cultural and historical documentation and preservation of the Hmong experience for future generations –  is at the heart of our Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. We look forward to the Exhibit eventually making its way to Sacramento.

 Gail and Kathleen

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