Here are the three reasons why I believe Xang Vang has transformed Minnesota, the US, and our world:
1. He is the first known Hmong Minnesotan to have been labeled as being a Master Gardener. He was charged with the responsibility to help the Hmong adapt to the new farming style of the modern-Minnesota world, as exemplified by "New Seeds in a New Land: Documentary on Agricultural Project for Hmong Refugees." I believe that the many successes enjoyed by the Saint Paul's Farmers Market and other farming projects later on were as a direct result of his contributions as well.
He then turned entrepreneur in investing in the Frogtown neighborhood as well as the University Avenue business corridor. Many of the old buildings there would have not been able to see its modern forms if Mr. Vang did not actively participated in investing and rehabilitating them.
2. As one of the few who could speak English in the early days of the Hmong-Minnesotan chapter of life here in Minnesota, he is one of the leading figures who were instrumental in setting up and maintaining the Hmong Mutual Associations such as Lao Family Community of Minnesota, Hmong Youth Association of Minnesota, and Hmong Lao Veteran of America, and Hmong American Mutual Assistance Association. With his involvement many of the Hmong refugees were able to access many social services and educational training.
True to his form, he and his family were again a part of another proud chapter of Minnesota history by committing and contributing $20,000.00 to the Center for Hmong Studies of Concordia University-Saint Paul.
3. His civic involvement in campaigning and endorsing local - federal politicians (parties) has also led the way for many to follow. Historically the Hmong, as dominated by colonial and imperial systems, were laid-back people and had to rely on acknowledgement from ruling officials to appoint, but Mr. Vang proved otherwise by being proactively endorsing and pledging to assist political campaigns of all levels.
With his contributions I am honored and privilege to say that Mr. Vang has transformed our state, our country, and our world greatly. As stated by Famous Dave’s LifeSkill Training Center, “Example. . .that is the definition of leadership.” Mr. Vang had done just that and more.
~Tzianeng Vang, St. Paul, MN
Helping people establish new roots
Born in Laos, Xang Vang came to the United States in 1975. He eventually settled in St. Paul, where he became a respected teacher and community organizer. In 1980, he was elected director of the Lao Family Community of Minnesota. After two years, though, Vang left his secure job to take a risk that paid big dividends for his community. Xang Vang left his job to plant a garden.
Through the help of the Ramsey County agricultural extension office, Vang leased land in Oakdale, a St. Paul suburb. He used his own money to clear and plow the land, and his own car to haul water to the site and to drive Hmong families to buy seeds and plants that they planted and tended in the garden. The following year, the University of Minnesota Agricultural Extension Department recognized Vang's work, and he became codirector of an agricultural training program based on his plan. Hmong farmers, according to Vang, "were used to slash-and-burn agricultural practices. We were all skilled in intensive labor and in using manual tools. Now, mechanical equipment and pesticides were readily available. Never before were we aware of poison on food production. Now we have to be sure that it is well cleaned for the consumer."
Vang's garden was the first step in helping Hmong farmers participate in Twin Cities farmers' markets. He started the training with 20 families; three years later, 200 Hmong families were selling produce at the markets. Vang's years as a community organizer paid off in his latest enterprise: "I spent countless hours fighting to have the Hmong be a part of the farmers' markets and local chain grocery stores."
Xang Vang didn't stop there. According to nominator Tzianeng Vang, "He then turned entrepreneur, investing in the Frogtown neighborhood as well as in the University Avenue business corridor. And true to form, he and his family were again a part of another proud chapter in Minnesota history by committing and contributing $20,000 to the Center for Hmong Studies at Concordia University-St. Paul."
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