Bee Yang Microgrant
Composing and recording traditional Hmong song poetry now that I'm in the third phase of my life, focused on my responsibilities as an old man, a grandfather. I want to do an album of song poetry about the things I am leaving behind. My voice is not as young or as handsome as it once was, scarred by time and circumstances, I now sing with an older man's tones. But even this is valuable for the human experience.
Kee Vang (St Paul, MN) Kee was a part of the Truth and Transformation conference/work with MHC, and is also serving on the Hmong cultural heritage panel. He is Hmong.
Leyla Suleiman (Minneapolis, MN) Leyla is a first year educator, author in the Crossroads: Somali Youth Anthology, and was a panelist for the Community Partner Fund and is also serving in the Somali cultural heritage panel. She is Somali.
Hibaq Mohamed (Minneapolis, MN) Hibaq is an MHC Increase Engagement facilitator, author in the Crossroads: Somali Youth Anthology, and is also serving in the Somali cultural heritage panel. She is Somali.
Minnesota Humanities Center
$850,000 the first year and $850,000 the second year are for a competitive grants program to provide grants to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of Minnesota.
The Minnesota Humanities Center must operate a competitive grants program to provide grants to programs that preserve and honor the cultural heritage of Minnesota or that provide education and student outreach on cultural diversity or to programs that empower communities to build their identity and culture. Priority must be given to grants for individuals and organizations working to create, celebrate, and teach indigenous arts and cultural activities and arts organizations and programs preserving, sharing, and educating on the arts and cultural heritage of immigrant communities in Minnesota.
I applied for the grant because I wanted funds to secure creative composition time to work toward the completion of a third album of traditional Hmong song poetry. My focus was going to be on the third segment of my life, all the things I have left behind for my grandchildren and other youth who may one day be interested in finding the art forms they came from. I could not have taken into account the Coronavirus and the revolution we are currently in. All of a sudden, I, who had felt like an old man, realized that the world was still young, that this country was still so new. To say the least: my focus has not been on the past but the present. This is a disruption, of course, to my original plan but also a chance to meet the world again as a young place. Also, as expected, this pandemic has interfered with my ability to creatively engage with my form. I am all of a sudden so very concerned about my family, especially the safety of my children who wander the world working. There has been a great many instances of racial discrimination against Asians, against my Hmong family. This has been a stumbling block to my poetry. But as I tell my children and myself, "Let us survive this moment first. The art is coming."
This opportunity has given me a stronger sense of artistic purpose. I know I sing for an audience of elders. I sing in the hopes that the young can hear it in the background of their lives and one day when they need it, it will rise from the past to show them a way toward the future. It has been a gift, everyday to go into my little closet and sing to my clothes, sing to the threads of my life. Yes, I believe I have achieved my goal, not in the way that I had planned, but in that I know that if we make it from our current moment together, then there will be many new songs to sing. I know that I have achieved this because in the time since this journey began, I have recorded two new songs that would not exist before now. I understand that "now" is a moment to survive and that my poetry of old are as powerful to me as the new poetry that will live after. There is a circularity to the way poetry works, to he way life unfolds, to the life of an artist. We sing those songs when we are young so that we can recall the beauty of youth; we sing the songs of our ages, so they can be a place of return. In this way, I have returned to pieces of myself I had been worried was lost: now is a moment not so different from my years in the jungle, my years in the refugee camp, my early years in America. This is how I know I have achieved; I am here to say these words to my daughter who types them down so they will not forgotten easily.