Christine was a Seeding Change fellow in 2021 at Hmong Innovating Politics (HIP). Below is her reflection with Seeding Change this past summer.
I grew up in Butte county, in a small town an hour north of Sacramento, where my grandfather resettled with his family after fleeing Southeast Asia after the Vietnam (Secret) War. My parents don’t share much about what happened during the war, but I can hear the ache in my mother’s voice when she talks about her life before the war; before she had to leave her parents behind and everything she knew to start a new life in another country. My grandfather was the clan leader in our community; he was also a shaman, a medicine man, and a spiritual healer. I remember my family would be at his house every couple of weeks for a gathering or a healing ceremony for a family member, relative, or cousin.
I witnessed cultural generational practices and knowledge being passed down from my grandfather to my father, practices and healing that brought their community together. After my grandfather passed away, my father stepped into the role as the next community clan leader. My father accepted the role because he valued community and friendship. My parents would often receive phone calls to go to ceremonies, sometimes from distant relatives they didn’t know but they still went to support and connect with members in their community. To this day, I have a deep appreciation for my parents’ willingness to give back to their community and the amount of love they have for their community. When I am feeling down, my parents’ story fills me with aspiration and hope.
Growing up in a small town I didn’t have many spaces to process my experiences as an Asian American and the intersection of my identities as a Queer Hmong woman. I often felt I had to hide part of my identity around family, friends, and peers. In 2016, during my last year in college I found a Sacramento Hmong LGBTQ+ group, now formally now as, Hmong Queer Suab. Hmong Queer Suab was the first space I felt I belonged in a community. A space that celebrated all my identities. After college, I immediately went to work and I didn’t have the opportunity to slow down and think about how meaningful and significant community spaces were to me. Coming in to Seeding Change 2021 I felt distant from my Queer and Hmong identity, but with the care and compassion I felt from the fellows and organizers, this became an opportunity for me to share my narrative, speak my truth, and connect with my asian and queer identity.
During the first week of orientation for Seeding Change, I realized I had some unlearning, relearning, and healing to do. An “aha” moment for me was learning about the 4 I’s of oppression and wondered why I haven’t learned this before. As we took a deeper dive in our cohorts, I reflected that my future had been determined for me because of the systems of oppression I lived and continue to live in; but recognized that I have the power to change that by creating community spaces to process, heal, and build people power for systemic change. I started to believe that I embodied the leadership and wisdom to organize my community to protect and advocate for the future generations to come. This has been an ongoing journey of giving a voice to my inner child, sending affirmations to my young adult self, and being kind to my present and future self. I am so grateful for all of the facilitators who held space for us to learn and have important conversations, Seeding Change 2021 and HIP for all the support and love; together it was a transformational experience. Thank you for creating this community, and investing our growth and leadership!