Belong; Struggle and persevere:

The first generation Hmong immigrants to the US have a pride which I don’t fully
understand. In the 80's I recall watching a Hmong man in a uniform one size too large. His
green camouflage sleeves were just short of covering his finger tips. With his
sleeves flopping, he saluted General Vang Pao and the US flag as tears
trickled down his face. I couldn’t grasp what compelled this man to cry. All I could
see was how he did not belong.

As a second generation Hmong American, I grew up with the desire to be less
Hmong and instead looked to more predominant Asian groups on how to be
“Asian” and blend in (such as Koreans, Japanese, Filipino, etc).
Being Hmong in the 1980s & 90’s meant: poor, prone to gangs and marrying
young. The Hmong future looked bleak to me. Being Hmong then meant success
was just an idea; not reality.

I’m in my late twenties now. I’ve disappointed many who have confidently tried to
guess my ethnicity. I’ve given countless mini history lessons on The Hmong. I
usually begin with, “I’m Hmong”. I then wait for the questions: what is Hmong?
What country is that? Oh; Mongolia? I then follow up with the questions: Do you
have at least 10 minutes? Do you want the long version or the short version?
These countless conversations however, have helped reminded me of who I am.
Each time I have this conversation, I inadvertently reinforce that "I am Hmong" and
add another tally mark on my internal scoreboard of Hmong pride.

I’m more curious than ever about defining what it is to be Hmong. Each time I
read publishings about the Hmong I feel I’m worthy of another one of the
millions of stitches on my beautiful Hmong dress that my mother has worked so hard
to provide me. Each time I hear a Hmong story of struggle and perseverance I
have a deeper understanding of where the Hmong pride comes from. Each time I
greet others "Nyob Zoo", I remind myself that I belong; that I am Hmong.

Your Hmong Sister and Co-Founder of Hmong Roots,
Janny Vang