Shades Of Yellow (SOY), the first Hmong organization for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) began a new chapter last month as Oskar Ly agreed to step in as Interim Executive Director during a transition and search period for a new lead staff member. The move comes after Kevin Xiong, founding executive director of the five year old organization, decided to resign from the position as in October. Xiong is returning to his previous career in Human Resources Management with plans to finish his Masters Degree in Leadership and Management.
“I have enjoyed my five years at SOY both as the Vice Chair and Executive Director, but most importantly as someone who represents the Hmong LGBTQ community,” said Xiong.
Some of Xiong’s accomplishments in his tenure was with taking an informal association and turning it into a sound nonprofit organization with a clear advocacy and support mission. He is credited with increasing the organizational budget from $0 to $160,000.00 in a year and a half. He also helped the board create a three-year strategic plan from its updated mission, vision, and value statements that embodies the purpose of SOY.
“Please be advised that me leaving this position does not in any way jeopardize my passion and commitment to the Hmong LGBTQ movement,” said Xiong. “I will continue to advocate for access and equality for and within this community, and I challenge and encourage all of you to include me in future decision making processes for and with SOY.”
Oskar Ly is a long time board member who’s value, commitment, enthusiasm, and leadership are known in the Hmong arts, fashion, music and SOY community. The board credits her as a leader who has been instrumental in taking SOY into the forefront and empowering Hmong LGTQ to create positive cultural and social changes that enhance their lives and communities.
Ly has served as vice chair on the SOY Board of Directors since spring of 2009. The board says Ly is a unifying force during a crucial moment for SOY to continue community building and maintaining strong relations with stakeholders and community.
SOY started in 2003 when Phia Xiong and Xeng Lor wanted to create a social gathering place for Hmong LGBTQ. They wanted people to be able to talk about their lives together and have a place to meet where they feel safe and welcome. This spread into activities from picnics, volleyball and potluck dinners.
In 2006 the organization formalized with Hmong American Partnership as a fiscal agent. In 2008 SOY started work on attracting more women to the organization. In 2009, Xiong was hired as the first SOY Executive Director, which allowed them to apply to create programs and apply for grants.
The following summer SOY conducted interviews with members and held board retreats to create a new mission: To support a community of empowered Hmong LGBTQ to create positive cultural and social changes that enhance their lives and communities.
The SOY vision is to educate a community that is aware, supportive, and engaged in Hmong LGBTQ issues.
SOY is located at 379 University Ave. W #213, St. Paul, MN 55103. Call 651-309-0037 or visit online at www.shadesofyellow.org.