By Per Peterson
Khou Lor has high hopes for a Thursday night event this week, and even higher hopes for something much bigger down the road.
The Hmong community is hosting a public film screening of a Pioneer Public Television “Postcards” episode called “Preserving Cultural Heritage in the Hmong Community” at 7 p.m. at Tracy City Hall. The series highlights the Hmong culture and heritage in Walnut Grove.
After, a public input meeting will take place to open discussion on the possible construction of a Hmong cultural community center in the area.
The event is being hosted by Project Uniting Southwest Hmong (PUSH), and Lor wants the public’s feedback on program serves, community needs, barriers, and general thoughts and ideas of what the center should entail.
“Our goal for Thursday’s event is to give the community an opportunity to learn more about Hmong culture, and to get to know their Hmong neighbors,” said Lor. “Our hope is to exchange ideas in which we can possibly meet and engage as a community through the project of a community cultural center. We hope that this event will serve as a bridge to positive relationships and cultural understanding throughout the community.”
Lor said the Hmong community has been a part of the region for about 20 years, yet they do not have their own facility to house the Hmong New Years event and other social events. She said many Hmong desire a location to call their own — a place to share with the community their events, cultural artifacts and gatherings.
“It’s not only that we want to be able to make our presence in the community known, but that we are actively contributing to the community as brothers, sisters, leaders and community members,” said Lor. “These conversations are important to have so we can discover how we can come together as a community that thrives in its diversity.”
The Hmong population in the area is steady right now, said Lor, but there is an increasing number of Hmong leaving the area because of limited opportunities. She said many Hmong youth are graduating college and looking elsewhere for job opportunities.
“It’s our hope that with the Community Cultural Center we may create opportunities for the youth to engage, stay, or think about returning to raise families in this area,” said Lor.
Lor said the community center would be open to all who wish to engage and learn more about the Hmong language, arts, music, food and culture.
“In addition to education and hosting events it is hoped to have a business incubator, community gardens, museum and much more for the entire community to enjoy,” she said.
A number of performances will take place at Thursday’s event, including traditional dances, instrumental performances and singing.
Lor said there has been some thoughts shared on how to pay for the cultural center, but it’s too early to confirm any financial plan.