Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong American Performance Artist, Writer and Diaspora Rocker.
The first time my activism was intentional was in 2004 when I took part in a Hmong artist initiative called H Project. The H Project initially started as a CD to raise awareness about the Hmong Genocide in Laos. At that time I was a volunteer at Center for Hmong Arts&Talent (CHAT), a non profit arts organization in St. Paul. A group called H3 (Hmong Hlub Hmong or Hmong Loving Hmong), who sadly is no longer around, approached CHAT to be a collaborator on this project. H3 was approached by Fact Finding Commission a Human Rights investigation (FFC); with recent footage captured by underground journalists, of the Hmong people hiding in the jungles of Laos.
We did a national call for performing artists (musicians, emcees, poets) to submit pieces around this issue. Their requirement was to attend a workshop in their area or contact us to get a copy of the footage. We received over 30 submissions, which were all inspiring- at the end of the project we had a CD and a bonus CD.
We named it The H-Project: Silence No More. This project was our efforts in raising awareness about the genocide, but at the same time did more than that. The title represented a lot of the experiences we as Hmong Americans were facing in America- (it was probably also a reminder for us, to speak out about our own injustices too.); it also brought together a community of artists and challenged them to use their aesthetic as a tool for social change.
I remember us selling CDs out of our back packs at the outdoor Hmong July 4th Soccer Tournament (a huge event with over 25,000 attendees at Como Park, St. Paul), and many Hmong people wouldn’t give us the time or day, (which was very eye opening), but at the same time, there were many that would. We pushed these CDs and used them as a vehicle to talk to people about the issue; I think we each sold over 50 CDs single handedly.
That same year, CHAT dedicated its annual art festival to this issue and themed it’s festival The H Project: Silence No More. There, we had a public exhibit, of works in all genres (visual arts, performing arts, literary arts, dance); raising awareness and protesting the genocide, with about 2000 attendees.
Since then, some of the artists and participants who took part in the project have gone on to protest other injustices, such as the Chai Vang case (2005); the Hmong grave desecration in Thailand (2006); the Fong Lee case (2009); and other campaigns around the same genocide, have been birthed.
In 2007 The H Project CD went into its second production and is still being sold. [source]