Created on Monday, 13 December 2010 10:11
By Georgia Pabst. Along with the dancing, music, pageantry, cultural exhibits and food that celebrate the Hmong New Year this weekend at Wisconsin State Fair Park, the community will honor Chasong Yang, a longtime leader from Sheboygan, as the Hmong Man of the Year.
The honor of Hmong Woman of the Year ended in a tie, according to Vicki Kalman, a member of the award selection committee.
So both Chia Youyee Vang, an assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Mayhoua Moua, founder of a consulting firm that provides translations and diversity training, will share the award.
Modeled after awards presented in the Latino community by UMOS Inc. that each year selects a Hispanic man and woman to honor, the Hmong community last year began to recognize a man and woman who have done outstanding work in their community, Kalman said.
Yang, whose family was one of the first Hmong families to settle in Sheboygan in 1976, has been executive director of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association for the past 27 years.
He's the most senior director of a Hmong association in the state and has served two terms as president of the Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations, the statewide umbrella organization of all Hmong associations.
Now 50, he came to the U.S. at age 17 after his father sent him from Laos to France to study until the family could leave a refugee camp and resettle here.
After studying English, Yang said, he worked doing translations for his family and the community in clinics, hospitals and schools and eventually went to work helping refugees with Lutheran Social Services and later with Dane County Social Services.
In 1983 he went to work as director of the association, an organization his father helped start with other early Hmong arrivals.
In his spare time, he coaches soccer. He is married to Miva T. Yang, a public health nurse, and they have four children.
Hmong studies professor
With a doctorate in American Studies, Vang, 39, is the only Hmong tenure-track faculty member at UWM, where she helped establish the new certificate program in Hmong studies.
She was born in Laos, and her family immigrated to St. Paul, Minn., where she grew up. Five years ago, she said, she moved to Milwaukee to teach at UWM, where she's an assistant professor in history teaching ethnic and Hmong studies.
Her area of research is refugee resettlement, Hmong history and diaspora studies. Her latest book is "Hmong America: Reconstructing Community in Diaspora," published by the University of Illinois Press.
She's also on the board of the Hmong American Peace Academy and serves on various boards including the Hmong Cultural Center.
She's married to Ton Yang, who runs a printing business in Minnesota. The couple have two sons.
Community role model
Moua, 41, won't attend the Hmong New Year here because she will be in Thailand this weekend on a previously planned trip, said her sister May yer Thao. This is Moua's second trip to Thailand, where she works with missionaries and the Catholic community there, she said.
So Thao plans to accept the award on behalf of her older sister, whom she said she considers a role model.
"My sister is the oldest of nine, and when my parents were divorced she became my mom's right hand helping to raise us," she said. "She's been a role model for me and the community."
The family originally settled in South Dakota, then moved to California and later Minnesota. When Moua married she moved to Milwaukee.
In addition to running her consultant firm, Moua is chair of the Hmong Milwaukee Catholic Community of St. Michael Church. She also was a founder and chair of the Hmong American Women's Association.
In her new book, Vang discusses the importance of the Hmong New Year, which traditionally takes place after the harvest.
"It's a time to eat and enjoy and a time to celebrate and to give thanks," she said.