16th Hmong National Development Conference

The year 2013 is historic for Hmong National Development, as it marks the 20th anniversary of the organization. Since its founding by community leaders from across the county in 1993, HND has advocated for the Hmong American community and been a voice in Washington, DC. HND empowers the Hmong community to achieve prosperity and equality through education, research, policy advocacy and leadership development. Every two years, HND hosts the Hmong National Development Conference (HNDC), the premier gathering of professionals, students, and community leaders from across the country. This year, HND, in partnership with the Fresno-based organization, Hmong Empowerment Resources and Outreach (HERO), will host the conference from April 5 to 7, 2013 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in downtown Fresno, California.

About the HND Conference
The HND Conference (HNDC) embodies HND’s mission and goals by bringing together community leaders, scholars, youth, business owners and more over the course of three-days and through various events to educate and discuss pressing issues in the Hmong community and identify solutions to address key issues. This year’s theme, “The Journey Forward: The Next Chapter of Hmong Americans,” is a call to action for the Hmong American community to recognize the disparities in our community and collectively work to address them.

The 15th HND Conference, held in Minneapolis, MN in April 2011, featured over 70 workshops presented by over 50 organizations, universities, corporations and federal agencies from across the country. It drew over 1,000 national attendees and linked participants with long-standing HND partners such as State Farm and multiple universities and federal agencies while building new partnerships with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and others.

Why Fresno?
This is the 16th year the three-day conference will be convened. The conference is organized and driven by a local planning committee with the support of HND and national advisors. In 2011, HERO submitted and won the bid to host the HNDC in Fresno. HERO is a Fresno-based, volunteer organization whose mission is to dialogue, network and collaborate to provide resources and opportunities for the Hmong community. HERO recognized that there is a lack of resources for professional and youth development in the Hmong community in Fresno and wanted to bring national attention to local issues.

HNDC Fund Development Chair, Ivy Xiong, stated, “There are many factors contributing to why I wanted HND to host their next conference in Fresno. The main reason is because Fresno needs this opportunity. Whether it be for students, young professionals, leaders, businesses or the community, Fresno needs an opportunity to bring forth the community and address critical issues that are ongoing and to create a plan, a blueprint, as to how we can overcome the issues by working together.”

Vang Yang, HNDC Arts & Entertainment Chair, attended the HND conference when it was first held in Fresno in 2005. An undergraduate student at the time, Yang lacked connections to other college students and professionals in the Hmong community. He shared that, “Attending the conference, was an eye opening experience. It made me realize firsthand how big the Hmong community really is. I had never met so many Hmong professionals and college students in one place at the same time. I built many bonds and made lasting friendships with a lot of people during the conference.”

The conference features over 70 workshops, plenary panels, a leadership awards banquet, networking sessions and live entertainment featuring Hmong American artists. The conference will provide participants the opportunity to engage with national experts and agencies from multiple perspectives and learn and share best practice models for local community development. Like Yang experienced, the conference provides a rare space for many Hmong people who have never engaged with other Hmong students or professionals or talked about important issues in the community.

Pov Xyooj, HNDC Co-Chair, stated, “I feel that many youth and young professionals are not exposed to how diverse and successful Hmong are all throughout America. I want them to be inspired and to build their self confidence to believe that they can accomplish and reach their dreams and goals.”

Engaging Pressing Issues
The conference workshops are divided into seven tracks, including: Professional Development & Business Acumen, Education, Health & Wellness, Advocacy & Civic Participation, Arts & Culture, Youth Development, & Round table Discussions. The latest research, innovative programming and best practice models, and facilitated discussions will touch upon key issues in the community. Some workshops will highlight issues such as domestic violence, education disparities, health disparities, gender and sexuality, transnational marriage and more.

Yang shared, “There’s a lot of time and effort that we have all sacrificed in putting this year’s HND conference together. We help our community by stepping up when no one is willing to. I am rewarded by knowing I have done something good and positive towards the Hmong community that I love and have grown up in. The conference may come and go, but the impact it leaves on the community stays.”

If you wish to be a part of shaping the next chapter for the Hmong American community, please join us at the 16th HND Conference in Fresno, CA, April 5-7, 2013. For more information on how you can support the conference as a sponsor, community partner or volunteer please contact: HND Conference Co-chair: Seng Alex Vang, sengv@hndinc.org or direct: (559) 473-3884

16th Hmong National Development Conference

About the Authors
Seng Alex Vang is HND Conference Co-chair and a K-12 educator in Fresno.
Bruce Thao is HND Senior Project Manager and Policy Analyst.