In 2009, I joined the Hmong Organizing Program at TakeAction Minnesota. I took on the role as the secretary in the Hmong Education Committee. That year the education committee launched the work to get Hmong history implemented in Saint Paul Public Schools. Throughout my leadership growth at TakeAction Minnesota, I’ve learned appropriate tools to build effective relationships, attended trainings and did research visits with SPPS board members along with meeting the Superintendent Valeria Silva. As a leader at TakeAction Minnesota I had a wonderful opportunity to attend the Gamaliel Foundation Training in Illinois. During this weeklong training it taught me what public and private life mean. I have always lived a private life where only my family, relatives and friends mattered to me. What I didn’t realize was that my community mattered to me as much as anything. With clarity about my path to power, I knew that I can do more than just creating change within my immediate family; I wanted to create change in the community and in the state.
I grew up attending Saint Paul Public Schools and I didn’t have the chance to learn about my history, which for many reasons has affected decisions that I’ve made in life. As a teenager I didn’t want to be Hmong. I was ashamed of my culture and the way my parents treated me. I couldn’t stay after school to participate in any programs, my parents expected me to do daily chores, and I didn’t have the freedom that my other friends did. I was confused why my parents treated me the way they did and why I needed to always be the good daughter. Now that I’m a mother of two children and am learning about my history and culture, I’ve realized why my parents treated me that way.
On March 30th, 2011, the Hmong Education Committee and Saint Paul Public Schools hosted a community event to launch the first three lessons about Hmong history that will be implemented into classrooms in May 2011. I’m proud to say that we’ve made history by getting Hmong history included into SPPS social studies curriculums. This victory mean a lot to me because Hmong students in SPPS will start learning about their history, feel included, want to go to class, and their friends will be learning about the Hmong history too. I’m hopeful that this will create opportunities for Hmong students, their friends and teachers to start investing in each other. For Hmong children to understand and learn about their history and to have a clear identity so they can strive for success. My hope is to also make this a positive work that creates social and racial justice that can lead to dismantle racism in the Hmong community.
With this big victory accomplished the work does not stop here, the education committee will work to get Hmong history implemented throughout the state of Minnesota. Implementing Hmong history state wide will benefit all communities to understand about the Hmong people. As the new chair in the Hmong Education Committee, I hope to broaden the committee’s vision and mission by working closely with TakeAction Minnesota, Organizing Apprenticeship Project and along with other allies to make sure there is Education Equity at the state levels in all school districts.
Chong Lee is a leader in TakeAction Minnesota’s Hmong Organizing Program and a resident of St. Paul, MN