My name is Coua Xiong and I am Hmong American. I was born in Wisconsin and moved to Portland with my family in 2008. While attending the University of Oregon, I realized the importance of community, especially within underrepresented populations. Several Southeast Asian students and I founded the UO Southeast Asian Student Alliance. Through this group, we celebrated and highlighted various Southeast Asian cultures and traditions.
After graduation, I began attending New Year in the Park committee meetings. After last year’s celebration in April 2018, I took on the position as co-chair. In addition to New Year in the Park, I am a board member of the Hmong American Community of Oregon and the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, as well as a committee member of Hmong Women Today of Oregon.
Before finding these opportunities, I struggled to understand what it meant to “get involved”. As a recent graduate, my environment changed and finding affinity became a challenge. I think this challenge is common for many students and graduates. I appreciate the way New Year in the Park engages many student volunteers and paves a way for students to connect to fellow peers, take leadership roles, and foster cultural pride. We value intergenerational engagement and plan to integrate the topic of generational cultural gap into our promotions.
Although New Year in the Park does not celebrate a Hmong holiday, what I have learned from my community work during and after college is that lifting up community can not be done in silo, at least not effectively. I believe this value is one of the foundations for New Year in the Park, as this event uniquely brings together various Southeast Asian communities to celebrate a common holiday.
New Year in the Park is a free, fun, family-friendly festival with great authentic foods, unique cultural art pieces, entertaining performances and even sport tournaments. There are activities for all individuals and the high energy of Glenhaven Park during this festival is always inspiring and motivating for me. This event is created by people in the community that it serves and that authenticity shows on the day of. I am excited for the event this year and hoping for another year of great weather.
Rain or shine, I hope to see you there!