November 23, 2016

Hmong: Diaspora’s Elementary Students Perform New Year Ceremony

Photo courtesy of the Hickory Record

Hmong elementary school students in Claremont, North Carolina, promote cultural awareness by displaying their peoples’ rich indigenous heritage and Hmong traditions, such as their New Year celebrations, food and music. In an attempt to highlight the county’s cultural diversity, Oxford Elementary School has recently begun sponsoring a series of cultural events for different ethnic and minority groups.

Below is an article published in the Hickory Record:

It was all about appreciating diversity at Oxford Elementary School on Nov. 16 [2016] with an early celebration of the upcoming Hmong New Year.

Oxford Elementary has one of the largest Hmong student populations in the Catawba County Schools (CCS), and taking time to recognize the holiday has been on the school’s calendar for years. It’s part of a regular effort by the school to help immerse students in other cultures.

Oxford Elementary held a similar event for the Hispanic celebration, Day of the Dead, at the beginning of the month.

Kay Ying Lo, who works in the CCS International Newcomer Center, said promoting cultural awareness is a key objective because of Catawba County’s diversity – 28 languages are spoken in the school system. The Asian population for 2016 in CCS is 1,082, and the Hispanic student population is 2,469 out of 16,452 total students.

“One of the most exciting things about it is I can see the kids, the sparks in their eyes, and the Hmong students, they look so proud that they’re able to wear their clothing to their school to represent they are Hmong,” Lo said.

Students and visitors were introduced to Hmong food, music, traditional games, history and the language.

Hmong people generally come from the hill and mountain area just south of China, information at hmongculture.net says. Hmong people lived in China for 2,000 years before generally migrating south in the 1700s. Most Hmong in the United States come from Laos, but there are many others from Thailand, Vietnam and China. Hmong people have their own language in a couple different styles of dialect.

River Bend Middle seventh-grader Chialy Xiong is a former Oxford Elementary student and was one of the Hmong dancers at the celebration. She said her fellow students don’t usually ask about the Hmong culture except when there are special events.

“I think it’s a private thing but sharing it is very good, and it’s very good to have diversity in school because America is very diverse, so it’s good to learn other people’s cultures,” Xiong said.

Chialy Xiong and Pada Xiong, an Oxford Elementary sixth-grader, performed a traditional spring planting dance.

For Oxford Elementary principal Kelly Nicholson, this week's event was another good example of how her school teaches its students they are all, “one big melting pot” of cultures.

“It takes all of us to keep our world rolling and it teaches them to be respectful of differences we have but also see the similarities,” Nicholson said. “It just helps strengthen our culture … they love being able to put themselves in that other culture.

"They love dressing up…our Hispanic students are precious when they put on the Hmong attire and then our Hmong children are the same way when they do the face painting for the Day of the Dead celebration.”

Linh Her is a parent of Hmong children at Oxford and also sees the annual New Year's event as a way diversity is being embraced in local communities.

“Everybody is aware of each other’s cultures,” Her said. “It’s a good program to show other students the different ethnicities that surround them."