In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we are highlighting the voices of some of our amazing troop leaders that identify with Asian/Pacific Heritage. We connected with three of the troop leaders from Troop 57908, Kalue Her, May Xiong, and Mai Yang, to hear how they're celebrating AAPI month with their troop, what makes them proud about their culture, and why it is important to lead a troop that offers culturally relevant programming for Asian/Pacific youth.
Do you celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month? If yes, how do you celebrate?
Mai: I signed up to be a troop co-leader, and I also signed up my daughter in the troop because I believe in the Girl Scouts River Valley mission statement. Also, there needs to be role models/representations in the council for our girls of color and choosing Girl Scouts River Valley Council is a good starting point for me and my daughter. My goal is to continue to support the Girl Scouts’ mission statement and its core principles and to raise awareness about our girls of color. At home, I try my best to teach my kids about my Hmong heritage and my culture, whether by cooking traditional foods or talking to them in Hmong. I would also like to do the same with our troop members, to provide a place for them to talk and share what makes them unique and build girls of color to have confidence and accept them exactly as they are.
May: As a troop, I wanted to acknowledge the agricultural impact that Asian Culture has brought into the American system by introducing new produce and knowledge on farming, like the "Hmong American Farmer Association." Farming is a way of life for many Asian cultures. We're learning about sustainability and irrigation for farming as we participate in a community garden this year. How do I celebrate personally? I like to get my whole family dressed up in our traditional outfits and take pictures.
Kalue: As a troop, we did an activity about identity last year. The kids got to know each other aside from each other’s cultural heritage. Then we celebrated with some fun snacks from the Asian market. Personally, every day is an opportunity to celebrate AAPI. I share traditions, cultural stories, and ideas with my kids as much as I can. For example, we may cook a meal together that represents my childhood or stay connected to our language by learning a Hmong word of the day.
As a troop, are you planning to get your Asian/Pacific American Heritage Fun Patch?
What activities are you planning to do to get the Fun Patch?
Kalue: We are hoping to incorporate the history of agriculture in Asian countries as the troop learns to grow and take care of their own garden this summer. We will also snack on sticky rice and beef jerky, a common snack/meal combination for some Asian households.
Mai: I hope to incorporate more cooking recipes that are easy and accessible to our girls, to bring in awareness of the history of Asian Americans who have contributed to this country’s economy and richness. Also, to learn more about the many different countries Asian Americans represent all over the world.
What makes you proud about your heritage?
May: I am proud to acknowledge the long lineages of the Hmong in multiple cultures with the ability to adapt and survive through genocide and discrimination.
Kalue: I am proud to acknowledge all the valuable traditions, customs, and values that I have learned and grown up with. Especially the great food and rich artistry that tell our story, my story.
Mai: I am proud to acknowledge my grandparents and my parents for always having the courage never to give up and for showing me what it means to be a resilient person. I am also proud to acknowledge our early Asian Americans for what they have fought for. They have never given up and have continued to fight for what they believe in. I am proud of my culture and our heritage; it is what makes me so uniquely me.
What would you like to acknowledge/celebrate during Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month?
Mai: I would like to celebrate the girls for being who they are, their culture, and their heritage and to continue to work with them to be a light to the younger generation of girls and the community.
Kalue: Stories, art, and food (again). Try and experience it all. I also want to lift up and celebrate our people—the youth who crave to know who they are, the elders who have paved a journey for us to take, and the adults in between who continue to work hard in bridging the two.
May: I am proud to acknowledge the long lineages of the Hmong in multiple cultures with the ability to adapt and survive through genocide and discrimination. Despite all the negative impacts, the Hmong’s tenacity keeps our heritage alive through our community.
How does having culturally relevant programs in Girl Scouts impact girls’ growth?
Mai: Having culturally relevant programs in Girl Scouts helps boost their confidence levels to have a good sense of acceptance. To know they are being supported as well. To know that they should bring awareness to their community rather than being afraid to speak up because they may feel judged by others.
May: It has a major impact on how they [Girls] perceive themselves. It builds confidence to “know” where they came from. Many American kids cannot define and pinpoint where they came from due to generational assimilation in America. Girl Scouts programming provides the space to talk and explore these opportunities to learn more about us and our culture.
Kalue: I believe confidence is rooted in culturally relevant activities and programs. When a girl can experience opportunities like teaching their GS sisters how to make rice and sharing/learning a language they speak, there is a sense of validation that they are important to their community.
Why is it important for you to lead a troop that identifies with Asian/Pacific American Heritage?
May: I want to provide a safe space for my troops to be able to express themselves and give them opportunities to learn about the past, present, and future. In the majority of Asian cultures, women don’t have a voice or the choice to live the life they want. In America, they have the opportunity to live the life they choose. Life is what they make of it, and I’m just here to help guide them to make wise choices.
Kalue: There aren’t many opportunities that focus on Asian/Pacific American Heritage for young girls. I want to provide guidance and a safe space for my multi-level troop to express who they are, share their culture, and engage in a variety of activities that strengthen their identity.
Mai: Truly, for this country and even the world to be a better place for everyone, especially girls, we need a safe space to examine and share our past actions, behaviors, and policies that won't contribute to marginalization or create additional harm. We should focus on building strong and effective leaders in the community. We need more leaders in the community that look like them or are different than the status quo. As a troop leader, I plan to build strong girls, be a bridge of support and change, and provide a safe place of healing for all the girls.