August 13, 2022

My Grandma Can Freestyle: A special preview by Tou Saik and Friends, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street, St. Paul.

Audiences will experience a preview of excerpts from the memoir My Grandma Can Freestyle written by Tou SaiKo Lee about his intergenerational collaboration with his Grandma Youa Chang. The program will include, spoken word, hip hop performances, acoustic music and funk music for environmental instrumental.

Tou SaiKo Lee and his Grandma Youa Chang perform spoken word. Contributed photo

My Grandma Can Freestyle is a memoir about a Hmong performance artist and his grandmother. Tou SaiKo Lee arrived in the United States at the age of two months old and never learned how to speak the Hmong language. He was influenced to speak mostly English. His grandmother, Youa Chang, arrived in Minnesota in 1996 and could only speak Hmong. She never learned to speak English. Tou and his grandmother transcended their language barriers by collaborating in a hip hop/kwv txhiaj(traditional Hmong poetry chanting) performance duo. They called their performance collaboration Fresh TraditionsMy Grandma Can Freestyle is a collection of stories that reflect intergenerational cultural knowledge and experiences, especially as they relate to language, its migration, and how language differences because of age, location, and other circumstances can be transcended through collaborative spoken word poetry. It is also the story of how hip hop and a strong will to thrive was a turning point in a young man’s journey. Tou wanted more than a juvenile delinquent life, and he wanted to give young people reasons, meaning and options to make better decisions in their lives. Tou’s spoken word poetry performances have influenced Hmong students, not just nationally, but around the world.

Tou SaiKo Lee is a spoken word poet, storyteller, hip hop recording artist and writer from St. Paul, Minnesota. He collaborated with his late grandmother, Youa Chang or Zuag Tsab who does the traditional art of kwv txhiaj (Hmong poetry chanting) to form the duo “Fresh Traditions.” Lee received the Jerome Foundation Travel Study Grant in 2008 and is a 2009 Intermedia Arts VERVE Spoken Word grant recipient. Lee received the Bush Foundation Leadership Fellowship in 2016 to focus on utilizing creativity and arts to preserve cultural identity. Lee is developing inter-generational and world-wide creative resources for cultural identity through storytelling, animation and language learning with songs. Lee is writing a memoir about their collaboration with his grandma to honor her passing titled My Grandma Can Freestyle. He is releasing his first Hmong language Hip Hop album titled Ntiaj Teb Koom Tes which translates to “Unified Worldwide” in 2019.

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East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street
Free and open to all
[email protected] and 651-230-3294

Audiences will experience a preview of excerpts from the memoir My Grandma Can Freestyle written by Tou SaiKo Lee about his intergenerational collaboration with hisGrandma Youa Chang. The program will include, spoken word, hip hop performances, acoustic music and funk music for environmental instrumental. Click for more info on My Grandma Can Freestyle.

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