Hmong Heritage Month: Making Space to Belong

April 18, 2023 

UW-Oshkosh Hmong studies director Dr. Mai See Thao (center) presents an exhibit on the St. Norbert Campus. Thao is gathering personal artifacts and histories for a traveling, community-based exhibit called “Cia Siab (Hope) in Wisconsin: A HMoob (Hmong) Story,” set to launch in 2025.

By Erika Ritchie
Staff, Greater Green Bay Community Foundation

Wisconsin is home to a vibrant Hmong community of more than 62,000 individuals as of the 2021 U.S. Census. Brown County has the fifth largest Hmong population in the state – comprising a large segment of the growing Asian population here. The diverse experiences, contributions, and perspectives they bring present endless opportunities for broader engagement and connection.

One of the most pressing concerns uncovered by our 2021 LIFE Study was the need and desire for additional cultural spaces that welcome everyone in our community. April is Hmong Heritage Month, and we at the Community Foundation are proud to support regional efforts to create spaces that lift and celebrate Hmong culture, foster belonging, and provide a sense of safety and stability all year round. These efforts reflect the impact of the Hmong community while also highlighting the challenges they face as individuals, families, and leaders.

The following projects are helping to foster equity and inclusion of the local Hmong community:

  • Cia Siab (Hope) in WI: A HMoob (Hmong) Story – A 2022 grant to the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh is funding the creation of a traveling, community-based exhibit honoring the 50th year of Hmong refugee resettlement in the U.S. This exhibit will bring together personal artifacts and oral histories through community storytelling sessions in Brown, Winnebago, and Outagamie counties. Early participatory pilots include the recent “Ua Teb (Making Land)” exhibit on the St. Norbert College Campus from March 28 – April 6, 2023. The full exhibit is set to launch in 2025 with a focus on the ongoing historical trauma of war, healing, displacement, and revitalization.
  • Inspiring Community, Leadership – Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders (ACEL) of Northeast Wisconsin is launching its InspirASIAN speaker series, the first of which will feature Hmong American educator and director of multi-ethnic student affairs at UW-Green Bay, Mai J. Lo Lee on April 24. The goal of the series is to highlight diverse leadership and foster a stronger sense of community and belonging for all Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals in Northeast Wisconsin. More information about the event can be found here. Support for the series included a Funds for Greater Green Bay grant award, as well as connections to other regional funders.
  • Safer Communities – A 3-year grant through the Basic Needs Giving Partnership to Safe Harbor of Sheboygan County is helping to fund Hmong and Southeast Asian victim advocacy services in Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties. In the first year of funding, 80 adults and children living in Brown County were helped to heal and become safe with services that consider their unique cultural background and circumstances.

Feedback from participatory pilots like the "Ua Teb (Making Land)" exhibit at St. Norbert College will be used to improve the full traveling exhibit, "Cia Siab (Hope) in Wisconsin: A HMoob (Hmong Story)" launching in 2025.

To learn more about our grants programs and the opportunities they provide, visit our Grants Programs page. You can also learn more about the broader community initiatives we support to foster inclusive environments on our Community Initiatives page.


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