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  • Writer's pictureChippewa Valley Equality Initiative

April is Hmong Heritage Month - Get to Know Local Hmong Leaders & Influencers in the Chippewa Valley

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

PART 1 - The Chippewa Valley is privileged to have a vast amount of Hmong leaders and influencers, who contribute to the community in major ways. In honor of Hmong Heritage Month, take a moment to get to know some of these individuals, and recognize their contributions, heritage, and value to our community as a whole. Because there are so many incredible Hmong leaders and influencers in the Chippewa Valley, we will be dividing this into a series.

Pa Thao is the Executive Director for the Black & Brown Womyn Power Coalition, Inc. She is a community organizer and an advocate for Hmong womyn and girls and deeply involved in the movement to end violence against womyn and children through her work with the international Building Our Future Campaign and the Wisconsin Refugee Strengthening Project. Thao is an experienced nonprofit professional with expertise in capacity building, program development, nonprofit management, and fundraising.

From Eau Claire, WI, She serves on local non-profit boards such as the Eau Claire Children’s Museum, the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Downtown Eau Claire Farmers Market Association. Thao also serve on the Budget Committee of the Wisconsin Governor's Council on Domestic Violence.

She is the recipient of the 2019 Volume One Vanguard Award and the 2016 Eau Claire Children's Legacy Outstanding Award. Thao graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI with a Bachelor of Social Work and completed her Master of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016.

Dang Yang is the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at UWEC. He plays a central role in advocacy, activism, and EDI (Equity, Diversity & Inclusion) work both on and off campus.

Prior, Yang served as the diversity manager at Chippewa Valley Technical College, where he supported multicultural students, students with disabilities, international students and nontraditional students. He was also the multicultural recruitment and retention coordinator in the School of Education at UW-Stout. Yang's research interests have included leadership development for students of color and how dominant cultural narratives perpetuate inequities in higher education.

In 2015, Yang received the Ann Lydecker Educational Diversity Award from the state Council on Affirmative Action and the Friend of Education Award from the state Department of Public Instruction. In 2017, he also received the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association's Recent Alumnus Award.

He is also a leader in the community-led effort to combat racism in the Chippewa Valley with the Chippewa Valley Transformation Project. This is a local non-profit that was specifically created to advocate for underrepresented groups in the Chippewa Valley.

Caitlin Mai Chong Lee is an Equal Opportunity Specialist at UWEC, and is committed to EDI work within the Chippewa Valley. She is a mentor to many, providing insight and information, and fighting for equity in the community.

Lee is the co-founder of the Hmong Women Summit: The Authenticity Project which seeks to educate, explore, and empower women around the issues of leadership. The Authenticity Project hosted workshops that provide space for shared learning, meaningful dialogue,

and opportunities to lead from the authentic Hmong self, resulting in a supportive sisterhood.

She has previously served as Board President for the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, and in continually involved in multiple EDI boards throughout the community including the Diversity & Inclusion Taskforce through the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce

In 2020, Lee received the Beloved Community Leadership Award, which honors people who have, through personal and professional leadership, advanced the ideas of racial reconciliation, excellence, inclusion, and opportunity for all. She was also the first woman in the state of WI to head any Board of Directors for a Hmong Mutual Assistant Association throughout the state of WI, and the first woman VP of the Board of directors for the Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Association.

In addition to her position at UWEC, she is currently the President of the ECASD Hmong PTA, and the owner of CML Consulting, and is in the process of leading the effort in establishing the Democratic AAPI Caucus of Wisconsin.

Dr. Kong Pheng Pha has dedicated his life to social justice issues and specifically elevating Hmong voices. Born in a Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand and later resettling in the U.S., he has committed his research to examine the constructions of race, gender, and sexuality within the Hmong diaspora in the post-refugee migration era.

He teaches courses for both Critical Hmong Studies and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program and serves as Chair of the Critical Hmong Studies Advisory Committee and I the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Steering Committee.

Beyond the classroom, Dr. Kong Pheng Pha has been published in scholarly books, as well as in scholarly journals and popular newspapers, including Hmong Today and The Twin Cities Daily Planet. He also works with Hmong American, Asian American, and queer communities on issues related to civic participation, racial and queer justice, and student engagement.

Stay tuned for additional parts of this series! Coming soon....

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