Kiran Ahuja, executive director, White House APIA Initiative
AAP staff report
The 15th Hmong National Conference was held at the Marriott City Center Minneapolis the weekend of April 22-24, drawing thousands of Hmong leaders and students from around the country to attend workshops and panels on the development of the Hmong American community.
Hmong National Development, Inc., previously headquartered in Washington, D.C., is now a subsidiary of Hmong American Partnership in St. Paul. The local-national connection and the conference size helped to attract major speakers including the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) welcomed conference goers on Friday, speaking about his trip to Laos last year to look into the government’s willingness to assist the repatriated Hmong from Thailand, after American family members and supporters feared for their persecution.
Bao Vang, President and CEO of HND, welcomed the conference participants in Hmong. She stated in the conference guide that more than 750 attendees traveled from 19 states to attend more than 70 workshops covering seven major disciplines.
“This conference would not have been possible without the selfless, unending efforts of our HND staff, volunteers and local planning committee,” stated Vang, who also thanked conference co-chars, Kia Moua and Bruce Kou Thao.
Franken called attention to the contributions of Hmong veterans. He recalled meeting Senator Mee Moua when he started his radio program long before he ever ran for the U.S. Senate.
Kiran Ahuja, executive director, White House APIA Initiative, was present for both days to attend two panel discussions. She addressed efforts to improve data collection among federal agencies with attention to analysis and dissemination of data on AAPI communities.
Ahuja said President Obama renewed the White House APIA Commission with for the purpose of working toward a goal that no community should be invisible because of lack of data or information to the agencies that serve them.
Ahuja said agencies are also addressing linguistically and culturally competent access to their Federal programs and services; improving civil rights protections and equal opportunity for AAPIs; increasing Federal employment and access to Federal grant programs for the AAPI community.
She said that it would take the participation of agencies and community organizations nationwide to ensure coordinated implementation of the initiative.
“Its important that we have this conversation but even more what we do after that,” she said.
Ahuja first addressed the importance of Asian American and Pacific Islander participation in federal programs, together with U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development deputy assistant secretary Francey Lim Youngberg, and U.S. Dept. of Education senior counselor Donald Yu.
On Saturday, Ahuja spoke on participation in federal health programs together with President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders member Doua Thor, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services outreach specialist Lina Choudhry Rashid, and Minnesota Commissioner of Health Edward Ehlinger.
Commissioner Ehlinger was introduced as a longtime friend of the Hmong community, who had delivered hundreds of babies as a practicing physician long before he became Health Commissioner in Governor Mark Dayton’s administration.
Former Minnesota State Senator Mee Moua was also present on the panel in her new role as vice president of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum.
Moua discussed health care programs at the federal, state and local levels, while Ahuja emphasized the importance of understanding more about what recent population shifts in Minnesota could mean for public policy and to help increase Asian American and Pacific Islander participation in important federal services.
According to the 2010 Census, Minnesota’s Asian American and Pacific Islander population is growing at record rates. Federal and state officials are monitoring how public services are meeting the AAPI community’s evolving needs. Hmong are the largest Asian American ethnic group in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington Metropolitan Area at nearly 31 percent of the total population.
The Hmong Leadership Banquet featured speeches and panel discussions with Dr. Yang Dao; Dr. Nkauj Lo Vaj; Dr. Steven Her; and Kazoua Kong-Thao.
HND organizers said the conference created a venue that succeeded in bring together leaders of various factions for a constructive forum. Leaders came together first honor the memory and leadership of the late General Vang Pao, which proceeded a dialogue on how to move forward and find common ground on divisive issues in politics, social and religious issues to advance the community.
Hmong National Development, Inc. is a subsidiary of Hmong American Partnership. They are located at the Hmong American Partnership building, 1075 Arcade Street, St. Paul, MN 55106. Visit online at www.hndinc.org.