Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jai Lao Foundation hosting August 8th Benefit Dinner

One of the organizations to catch my attention recently has been the Jai Lao Foundation, a San Ramon-based grassroots network. 

In brief, they're Laotian Americans who are working together to improve conditions in Laos. I first met them in April during the International Lao New Year Festival, and was impressed by their passion and energy. My good colleague, Laotian American musician Ketsana has been a very strong and vocal supporter of them.

They are definitely needed. One of the great struggles for many positive Laotian American projects is the lack of funding available from mainstream sources and even from within the Laotian community. 

As the members raise funds to support different projects the Jai Lao Foundation is interested in, it is my hope to see many others rise to the challenge and put issues like theirs on the table.

Specifically, the Jai Lao Foundation strives to improve the quality of schools and education for disadvantaged children in Laos. 

In addition, Jai Lao endeavors to support higher education for the children of Lao refugees living in the United States through the provision of need-based and merit scholarships. 

Considering that in 2000, less than 10% of our community had graduated from college, and that over 40% of our population was under 20, the need for meaningful resources for our youth cannot be stressed highly enough. With nearly 400,00 Laotians trying to rebuild their lives here in America, a decisive investment in the higher education of our youth is critical, even as we remember our community abroad.

The early 2000s were devastating for many enclaves of the Laotian refugee community as many non-profits collapsed, often because of funding. 

Having traveled widely across the country these last two years to observe the different Laotian American communities in action, I can say the loss of many of these organizations is a tragic setback. 

But I am encouraged by the passion and energy of members of the Jai Lao Foundation who I expect will set a great example in the coming decades ahead for others to pattern themselves after.

They're a relatively new organization, but they've been building up steam. 

Their website at isn't yet as fully loaded with content as one would like, but many of our best organizations are like this- deep in the trenches and on the front lines of helping others, operating with limited resources that prevent frequent updates. 

I imagine it won't be too long before we see more information about the projects they're taking on. You can find them more easily on facebook at the moment. 

On Saturday, August 8th, 2009, in California, they'll be holding their first fundraiser dinner party celebrating Laotian Art and Culture, "One Night In Laos." The cost to attend is $50, but it's for a wonderful cause, and there will be many fine activities and food for those who attend. 

I'll be going there, and several other amazing voices from the Laotian American community. 

I'm excited about the Jai Lao Foundation's future.  How excited? Well, so excited I finished an all-new collection of poetry because of the energy they generate. That's how excited. When you get involved with them, they really bring out exceptional creativity and positive community spirit. And that's refreshing. 

But you should definitely find out for yourself by checking them out.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An Interview with May Lee Yang

This month, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent is presenting writer May Lee-Yang's Sia(b) at Gremlin Theater from May 29th to June 7th. 

May Lee-Yang is a playwright, prose writer, poet, and performance artists living in Saint Paul who has been involved with theater since she was
 eighteen. Her plays include Stir-Fried Pop Culture, Sia(b), and The Child’s House.  Her writing has been published in the following magazines and anthologies: Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans, Water~Stone Literary Review, Unplug Magazine, Paj Ntaub Voice, Jade Magazine, and others.  She is a two-time recipient of the MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant and of the Playwright Center Many Voices fellowship.  She was one of the 2008 recipients of Intermedia Arts’ Naked Stages Performance Art Mentorship Program. We caught up with her recently to discuss her work.

What led to this latest collaboration?  
May Lee-Yang: About two years ago, I was writing what would later become Sia(b).  I had an opportunity to hire an actress to perform my work out loud so I could  see how it flowed. By chance, my director Robert Karimi and I decided to ask Katie to come to the table because we'd heard about her. It was a lucky coincidence that Katie and I clicked and though I'm credited as playwright for the show, Katie has played a big part in helping to put the work together. The process of creating this play involved not just writing but also improv work that we did together.  
What are some the directions you're trying to take Hmong American performance art?
MLY: For one thing, I'm trying to move beyond the refugee mentality. What I mean by that is that, when people come to a Hmong play, they expect an exposition on who the Hmong people are, how they came to the United States, etc. I want to take us to the next level and talk about real Hmong people who live and breathe beyond just being refugees. Having said this, I should mention that,  if you come see the show, you'll notice that, despite what I just said, the "refugee mentality" still finds its way into my show.

Do you see an evolution in your work?
MLY: Definitely. When I was twelve, I imagined that I would be a novelist. In my early twenties, I started doing spoken word, and now I spend most of my days writing plays and doing performance art work. These are all still part of me, but I've evolved as different pieces of my work required different mediums in which to exist. I've also found that, especially in the past year, my work has gotten darker and darker. The fun, quirky side of me still exists but, for some reason, the dark stuff is pushing its way to the surface. 

How do you feel your vision as a community activist intersects with your vision as an artist, if at all? 
MLY: Lately, I've been hesitant to call myself a community activist. When I think of those folks, I think of people who rally in the streets and do grassroots community organizing. But I would also be selling myself short if I didn't acknowledge that my work--whether intentional or not--is a form of community activism. I have to remind myself that the act of someone who has previously not had a voice speaking their stories is powerful. 
When I start to create a work, I don't think of how it is a form of activism, but they are.  The title of my "Sia(b)" is an example. Some people might say, "Why not choose a title that's more accessible?" My question is, "Accessible to whom?" Of course, the answer is "Non-Hmong people." Why can't I name my show something from a language that is a part of me despite that most people don't know what it means? The activist part of me is always like, "Do what you want to do. Don't compromise."
As a result, even my director, who is an Iranian-Guatemalan by birth, can say my full-length Hmong name (which is way more complex than May Lee-Yang), and can understand enough Hmong to know when I'm talking smack. 

What is your sense of the arts community in Minnesota?  
MLY: The arts community in Minnesota is quite diverse and exciting. I didn't realize how lucky we were until I looked at resources for artists nationally. We have a lot of great arts organizations, tons of theaters, and many grant opportunities to develop emerging artists. On top of that, we have a strong community of artists. Whether I'm in my "writer" mode or "performance artist mode" or even "spoken word artist mode," I have a community with whom to connect.  

Can you talk about what challenges have arisen in embarking down the path of an artist?
MLY: One of the biggest challenges as been just plain economics. I've always known I wanted to be an artist. About three years ago, I quit my full-time job to live out my dreams. While I now have a flexible schedule and have accomplished a lot more work than I did while working full-time, I still have to think about things like access to health insurance and a steady income. The great thing, however, is that I have a supportive spouse and family. No one has said to me, "May, grow up. Get a job." Instead, most people have said, "What project are you working on next?"  

Are you trying to do something different now than you did in your previous works, or do you feel you are trying to extend those performances?
MLY: I've been trying to write a memoir (or several ones) for years now and oddly enough, instead of a book, you get a play out of me. But the rules of theater are trickier than books, I think. With theater, there's some wiggle room for playing around whereas, in a book, I'd probably stick to all the rules of keeping it real. I think that I'm also growing as an artist. One of the reasons why Katie was originally cast in my show was that, despite having done acting and performance work, I was apprehensive about being in a show about my own life. Now, having worked through this show, I've already done one solo show through the Naked Stages program at Intermedia Arts and am writing a new one called "The Sex Lady," which is about how we talk about sex in a culture that supposedly doesn't talk about sex. Two years ago, the idea of doing a solo show didn't even click in my head.    

How do you negotiate your work in the nonprofit community, do they help or hinder the other? Is it instructive for you as artists to be involved in the world of art through a non-profit organization than through academia? 
MLY: Despite my own delusions about how smart I am, I don't belong in academia. I've worked in the non-profit sphere for 10 years now and it has done a wonderful job of informing me as an artist. Through this work, I've gotten to work on real issues, meet real people in the community, and develop leadership skills. Through this work, I also see a strong connection between art and community. When people use these terms together, I often hear an underlying sneer as if "community art" is inferior somehow. I think art can be both for the community and yet maintain high aesthetic standards. But anyway I think my experience in the non-profit sphere has actually helped me be a more socially-conscious artist. For example, if I want create work that is accessible to an audience that has never accessed theater, I need to think about 1) how will this population know my work exists, 2) can they afford to attend my events and 3) does my work even impact them on any level?  

Where in your work are you trying to push yourself, challenge yourself, risk something?
MLY: Whether I am conscious of it or not, I am always pushing myself. Because certain pieces of my work needed to exist as a theater piece, I opened myself up to the possibility. It might have been more comfortable for me to not be on stage, but I'm pushing myself to tell my own stories. I've also realized that if I have the nerve to put the audience on the spot, to make themselves vulnerable, I have to do the same. But I think the way in which I have risked the most artistically has just been being honest. I once worked with a sixteen year-old girl. She shared a poem with me and I thought, "That was great. That was wondeful." This was because she was so raw and honest in her piece I couldn't help but gravitate towards it. Since then, I've told myself, I can't keep hiding behind walls. If I want to create something great, I need to risk something too. 

When did you fall in love with the arts? 
MLY: I was twelve. I was stuck at home with nothing to do. From there, I began reading books. I averaged seven per week. I began watching tons of movies and fantasized about directing them. Since then, I knew that I would be involved in some medium of storytelling.  

Monday, May 11, 2009

Souphine Phathsoungneune To Receive Vermont Heritage Artist Governor's Award

The Vermont Heritage Artist Governor’s Award will be presented to Souphine Phathsoungneune on Wednesday, May 13th, 2009, in a ceremony at the statehouse beginning at 5 pm. 

Mr. Phathsoungneune is a master folk opera singer from Laos who has made his home in Brattleboro, Vermont for the past 30 years. Among his well-know performances was a joint production called “I Think of This Every Time I Think of Mountains” in which he sang and Phayvanh Luekhamhan read poetry.

Many are ecstatic that an elder of our cultural community is being so honored. This is the first time the award will be presented to a Southeast Asian American. As Phayvanh Luekhamhan has remarked, "Even in his eighties, Mr. Phathsoungneune is forging a path for the rest of us."

Phayvanh Luekhamhan will be joining the festivities, to read the English translation of “Girl Missing Lover”, the song he has chosen to perform on Wednesday. The photo is of Souphine Phathsoungneune in Brattleboro, Vt, 1981, taken by Steve Crofter.
Align Center

The link for a Vermont Public Radio story by Susan Keese:

Adapted from nominator Leslie Turpin's recent note:
I am writing because an elder Lao/Thai Lam Leung master, Souphine Phatsongneune, has just been selected to receive the Vermont Heritage Artist Governor's Award for 2009. Because he was a participant in my doctoral research and because I nominated him for the award, I have been asked to introduce him at the event.

Souphine was born in Song Neune, Thailand in the late 1920s and moved to Laos as a young man where he became nationally recognized as a traditional folk singer, Lam Leung director, performer and writer. His troupe in Laos was called Sau. Siang Pin. Many people have told me that he was so popular that he was considered the equivalent of Elvis Presley in Laos. During the war, he was hired by the USIS to work as a /lam patana/ singer in the rural areas of Southern Laos. He escaped from his home in Paxhe, in 1974 and continued to train singers in Thailand and Ubon camp before coming to the US in 1979. 
Since living in Vermont, he received funding from the Vermont Arts Council to create one Lao Opera that was performed in VT in 2004 and he has continued to write several songs, some of which I have recordings and copies of. He has already received 3 Vermont Folklife Heritage Apprenticeship Awards which were awarded to him to pass his singing tradition on to the Lao Community in Brattleboro, VT. He also worked with a troupe in Rhode Island and wrote an opera for them which they performed in the 1990s and which was the basis of a doctoral dissertation by Jean Bernard. I will be introducing Souphine (stage name Banana: Ajaan Guay) at a ceremony at the Vermont State House on May 13.

This is the first time that a Southeast Asian has received this award in Vermont.

Because there are so few Laotians living here, they are somewhat invisible to the rest of the state. I would like to be able speak to the Governor here about the national significance of Vermont choosing to give this award to him.

Only one artist from the state is chosen each year, so it is quite an honor.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Photostudy: Wat Lao Buddharam: Hampshire, Il

Here are some images from Wat Lao Buddharam in Hampshire, Illinois, which is set deep within the farmlands of the state. There are a number of other large churches in the nearby area as well, and a giant microwave tower on the most common route to the wat. There are currently two monks who reside at the wat, which has very spacious grounds and ample parking for community festivals.

Noi Sengsourigna and the Children's Music Center

This May, I had the opportunity to meet with the immensely talented Lao singer and activist Noi Sengsourigna who is currently touring the United States as a cultural ambassador from Laos.

She is also working to bring attention to the amazing work at the Sengsourigna Children’s Music Center (SCMCC) which is working under the umbrella of Social Science Researchers Art of Speaking Promotion Association or SRASPA. The inspiration for the Center came about in 1982 in Sihome Village. There Noi Sengsourigna’s father ran the Traditional Music Center. The Sengsourigna Children's Music Center is devoted to teaching dance, music and Lao culture to Lao children in Shihone primary schools and other locations. In addition to dance and music, children are taught painting, drawing, reading, storytelling and other graphic arts.

It's really a terrific project. You can find out more at

She's a wonderful conversationalist with some exceptional ideas and a generous character. She was immensely helpful to me with a number of ideas I'll soon be integrating into future works of mine. If she is touring near your area, I highly recommend you catch her concert and performances. She'll be leaving the US on June 26th.

NGEC Organization Fellow [MN]: Shades of Yellow

Shades of Yellow (SOY) is the first Hmong GLBT organization that supports Hmong GLBT and their families in the Twin Cities. Our mission is to provide support, education, cultural awareness, social gatherings, and advocacy to Hmong GLBT, SOY members, families, allies and the Hmong community in the Twin Cities.

The Shades of Yellow
NGEC leadership team includes:

Kevin Xiong is currently the Executive Director for SOY, having served on the Executive Board as Vice President for three years. Kevin received a Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration and Human Resources Management. His previous experiences include Human Resources, recruiting, training and development, project coordination, and management. He was also the Finance Coordinator for the Pakou Hang for her City Council campaign. He currently sits on the board of Hmong American Partnership where he also serves on the Scholarship and Planning Ad Hoc Committees and has spent numerous hours volunteering for Take Action MN, Outfront MN, and ColorCoordination.

Pheng Thao serves as the Board Vice President of SOY. He currently works as a Criminal Court Advocate/Community Prevention and Outreach Coordinator for Project P.E.A.C.E., a local domestic violence program in Northwest Hennepin County, MN. He serves on the board of a couple local nonprofits, whose missions’ are violence prevention and intervention. He attained his Masters in Liberal Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with an interest in cultural diversity. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Law Enforcement from Minnesota State University-Mankato. 

Yer Yang
is a volunteer for SOY. She graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Minnesota at Morris. She is currently working for Wilder Research as a Research Interviewer. She also spends time at Kinship, Inc. mentoring and teaching children and adults vital communication skills. She also worked as a Canvass Field Manager for Take Action MN where she gained experience in political and community organizing. Ms. Yang also has a passion for art, thus she spends time teaching art and “paj ntaub” at the Hmong Cultural Center.

Above: Shades Of Yellow and the Lao Assistance Center teams meet in Oakland, California, in February 2009.

NGEC Organization Fellow [MN]: Mu Performing Arts

Mu Performing Arts has been the premier Asian American performing arts organization in the Midwest for over fifteen years. The third largest Asian American Theater company in the nation, they define their target audience as the Asian-Pacific population of the greater Twin Cities area as well as the non-Asian community. 

Through their main stage performances, festivals, taiko classes, and outreach programs, they reach over 40,000 audience members annually in the Twin Cities area, greater Minnesota, and as far away as Alaska. 

Through their exciting theater productions and our dynamic taiko performances, Mu Performing Arts shapes the cultural landscape of the Twin Cities by giving voice to the Asian American experience. their vision is to fill every seat and transform every heart through the power of theater and taiko.

Mu Performing Arts' NGEC leadership team includes:

Rick Shiomi has been one of the leaders of the Asian American theater movement over the past twenty years. He is a playwright with over twenty plays to his credit including Yellow Fever, Rosie's Cafe, Uncle Tadao, Mask Dance and Journey of the Drum. He has also directed many plays for Mu. He is a founding member of Theater Mu (1992) and has been the artistic director since 1993.

Don Eitel, Managing Director of Mu since August 2007 has been involved in the Twin Cities theater community since 1993. Starting as an actor, Don later became Managing Artistic Director and Founder of Starting Gate Productions, a small theater company that appeared in many end of year top critic picks. He also worked as Development Associate for Park Square Theater.

Iris Shiraishi is currently the Taiko Programs Director and a performing member of Mu Daiko. She has been affiliated with Mu for 12 years and has a background in music, music therapy and arts administration.

NGEC Organization Fellow [MN]: Lao Assistance Center

Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota (LACM) was established in 1981 and works to increase the capacity of the Lao-American population in Minnesota by responding to community identified needs through programs and services that will promote the well-being of families and children while retaining their cultural heritage. 

With five full-time staff and one part-time staff and a network of energetic volunteers, the Lao Assistance Center currently works on issues of chemical health, problem gambling, tobacco prevention and other special issues that affect our community.

The leadership team for the Lao Assistance Center includes:

Sunny Sinh Chanthanouvong has been with the Lao Assistance Center since 1992, starting as a Youth Specialist. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Minnesota State University Mankato and is a court certified interpreter fluent in Lao, Thai, and English. With extensive experience in social service, legal, community liaison, and administrative areas, Sunny has been the Executive Director since 2001. He is a member of the Minnesota Compulsive Gambling Advisory Committee and was recently selected for service on the Minneapolis Human Rights Commission. Sunny is currently a Board Member of NorthPoint Health Wellness Center, Asian Pacific Endowment Fund at St. Paul Foundation, Harrison Neighborhood Association, and the Minnesota Asian/American Health Coalition .

Saengmany Ratsabout is currently the Chemical Health Program Coordinator with Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council. He has obtained a Master of Arts in Southeast Asian Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Mr. Ratsabout has taught Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies at Saint Cloud State University and is interested in exploring the social history of Laotian Americans and how immigration laws and legislations affect the community. He has worked in the non-profit sector for over 8 years in various capacities. Mr. Ratsabout is currently a Board Member of Laotian American National Alliance and an Executive Board Member of the Center of Lao Studies. In addition, he works as a consultant to the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota. As a consultant with LACM, he has worked on the Get Out the Vote project, research analysis, grant writing, planning and evaluation, and community assessment. 

Chongchith Saengsudham was born in Vientiane, Laos and graduated with a degree in Library Science and worked as a business person and entrepreneur owning movie theaters, a book store, restaurant and gas station in Southeast Asia with her family. A refugee of the war in Laos, she came to the US in 1975 working in technology and business. In 2005 she joined the Lao Assistance Center to provide broad-spectrum services for the ethnic Lao community throughout Minnesota, particularly on issues of mental health, youth support and tobacco prevention, an issue that has deep personal connection to her own family.

NGEC Organization Fellow [MN]: CAPI

The Centre for Asians and Pacific Islanders (CAPI) began in 1982 as a Mutual Assistance Association, responding to newcomer needs of Southeast Asian refugees. It has evolved into an inclusive multiethnic organization with over 20 employees who serve 3,000 immigrants and refugees from Asia and Africa per year. Governed by a 15-member Board of Directors, our mission is to provide culturally-grounded services to communities in transition, achieved mainly through two integrated programs of workforce development and basic needs social services.

Alexander Erolin joined CAPI’s board in 2008. He is a retired US Air Force Officer and has done five years of humanitarian relief work. Alex holds a graduate degree in Business Administration. Currently, he is working for a global financial company as Director of Crisis Management.

Pham Thi Hoa is the Executive Director of CAPI. Prior to CAPI, she had managed programs serving refugees and internally displaced persons in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leon, Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia for major international non-governmental organizations, including Save the Children/US, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee, and the American Refugee Committee. She received her Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University.

Ekta Prakash
has been serving as CAPI’s Social/ Health Services Manager since February 2007. Ms. Prakash has earned her bachelors in Sociology from Patna University and then later pursued her Master’s in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics. Before coming to United States Ms. Prakash worked as a volunteer for a Women Literacy program. After finishing her education, she came to United States in 2001. Her career has revolved around non-profit organizations serving diverse communities. Ekta also has a Masters in Public and Non-profit Administration.

Caroline Yang is an Employment Counselor with CAPI since May 2007. Caroline has over 6 years of experience in Social Service programs. Ms. Yang actively engages in community events, volunteering in youth and elder projects for social change such as Avenue for Homeless Youth and Elder Haven.

NGEC Organization Fellow [MN]: Center for Hmong Arts and Talent

Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT) exists to nurture, explore and illuminate the Hmong American experience through artistic expressions. CHAT envisions a vibrant community where Hmong American artists are inspired to share their perspectives, valued for their creative contributions and empowered to challenge life’s boundaries. CHAT is a multi-disciplinary arts organization that engages different groups within the Hmong community through programs, including: Art Saves US (ASU), out of school program for youth to learn about themselves and different art forms in tandem; Youth Leadership Group (YLG), to gather future leaders around community issues; ICE Open Mic, to encourage talented individuals to test the performing waters; DabNeeg Dawning Theatre: Old Stories in a New Light, to develop skilled artists for theatre productions; Fresh Traditions Fashion Show, to highlight Hmong fashion designers; CHAT Radio, bringing the community the latest in arts, news and culture; and Annual Hmong Arts and Music Festival, showcasing and celebrating Hmong visual and performing artists.

At the moment, the core CHAT staff includes:

Kathy Mouacheupao, who has been the Executive Director since December 2005, but started her relationship with CHAT in 2001 as a contract artist to instruct the Video Poetry class. After graduating from Concordia University in 2001 with a BA in Education and a minor in Sociology, she took the position as the Outreach and Educator for Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM) and the House of Peace Shelter, a nonprofit dedicated to ending domestic violence. In 2003, she made the life-changing decision to continue her community work through the arts with CHAT. She believes that the arts focus on the positive and productive parts of the community and can be used as a vehicle to strengthen the community by addressing all issues experienced in life. In addition to her daily responsibilities, Kathy writes for Hmong Today Newspaper; is an active member of the Hmong Women's Giving Circle, and serves on the Steering Committee for TakeAction Minnesota.

Tou SaiKo Lee, who is a spoken word and hip hop artist/activist, born on a refugee camp in Thailand raised in New York and currently residing in Minnesota. He is the Coordinator of Creative Development and Outreach for the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). He is part of a dynamic hip hop duo called Delicious Venom with his younger brother and lead MC for a socially conscious funk, hip hop band called PosNoSys: Post Nomadic Syndrome. He organizes a monthly all ages open mic event called I.C.E. Innovative Community Elevation. On special occasions, he teams up with his grandmother Youa Chang who does the traditional Hmong art of kwv txhiaj (Hmong Poetry Chanting) to form the group "Fresh Traditions." He has a passion for working with and mentoring youth at schools and community centers across Minnesota and California. He is also the co-founder of “The H Project” an Art for Social Change effort of a national music compilation CD inspired by the Human Right Violations of Hmong people in the jungles of Laos.

Angie Hardy. Hardy has been a freelance theatre artist in the Twin Cities for the past three years. Her primary field is in stage management, but she has also worked as a director, choreographer and set designer. In 1998, Angie co-founded the Two Time Theater Company, which wrote and produced 7 original productions. Since receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts from Augsburg College in 2003, Angie has worked with CLIMB Theatre, Stages Theatre Company, Stepping Stone Theatre Company, and Intermedia Arts. She has also done administrative and customer service work with corporations around the Twin Cities, but has since found a home with the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). She stage managed CHAT's 2006 production of Hmong! The CIA's Secret Army and now works part-time to keep Hmong Artists connected to the arts community and the community at large.

CHAT's three NGEC leadership team members are Kathy Mouacheupao and Angie Hardy, as well as noted Hmong actress, artist, writer and activist, Katie Ka Vang:

Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong-American interdisciplinary artist who is a performer and writer. She has performed on stages around the Twin Cities, such as Pillsbury House Theater (Late Night Series), CHAT, Pangea World Theater, Mu Performing Arts, Intermedia Arts and Expose Brick Theater. She co-wrote and directed the play Myth of Xee and was a recipient of a Jerome Foundation Naked Stages grant to create a solo performance art piece called 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening. She is also the recipient of a Artist Inititive poetry grant from the MN State Arts Board, helping her produce her first chapbook. Katie is serving her second term on CHAT’s Board of Directors and is involved with CHAT as a volunteer, artist and ASU instructor.

NGEC Fellow [MN]: Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women

Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM) was formed in 1981 as the first non- profit organization operated by Hmong women, to serve Hmong women in the United States. 

The agency was established to address the evolving needs of Hmong women and their families. Today, AAHWM helps women and girls from Minnesota’s 60, 000 Hmong to gain knowledge and skills to help them succeed and plan for their future and their future for their families. AAHWM also provides programs that help Hmong women and girls stay connected with their unique cultural heritage.

The Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota was one of the first organizations I ever ran into when I started doing work with the Minnesota non-profit community and work on Southeast Asian refugee resettlement back in 1996. Ly Vang was the executive director back then and she continues to serve there.

The current staff members who are part of the NGEC team are:

Ly Vang, who has served as the Executice Director of AAHWM since September 1988. Her role is the overall managing of the agency and staff, the agency budget, fund-raising, and developing programs and services for the community. Ly has thirty years of experience as a professional interpreter, health interpreter, CNA, long term home health care. She completed a degree in Public Administration and Management from the University of Minnesota, a degree in Family Mediation at the University of Hamline, and a Mini MBA for Nonprofit Organizational Management from the University of St. Thomas.

Douachee Lisa Ly Vang has served as the Youth Program Coordinator of AAHWM since 1997. She works with youth in programs such as Teen Pregnancy Prevention, Leadership Skills, and Culture Education through Performing Arts. She has a degree in Psychology and Social Work from the College of St. Catherine.

May Her has served as Board of Director of AAHWM since July 2003. She received a degree in Administration and Social Work from St. Paul Technical College. She has been actively involved with community and has ten years experience as a Board of Director for local organizations.

NGEC Organization Fellows!

Recently, the Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy named 12 organizations as fellows in their National Gender & Equity Organizational Fellowship Program, which established a $2.7 million investment in twelve Asian American organizations in both California and Minnesota. This was a major undertaking with an interest in promoting the ideas of social justice.

The Minnesota cohort includes the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, Centre for Asian Pacific Islanders, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, Shades of Yellow and Mu Performing Arts.

This weekend, I'll be posting some of the profiles on the key staff and the organizations so you have a better sense of who they are.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Surprise reading with the Asian Storyteller's Alliance!

I just found out I will be giving a surprise performance with the Asian Storyteller's Alliance tonight at the Coffee Ground Coffee Shop at 1579 Hamline Ave. North, St Paul from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. It's a free event in celebration of May Asian heritage month, especially for elementary school children! :) If you can make it, I'll see you there! :)

This event is sponsored by the Northstar Storytelling League and the Coffee Grounds Shop!