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Jonathan Yang




Jonathan Shia Yang (Jonathan Siab Yaj) was born in Fresno, CA in 1991 and moved to St. Paul, MN in 1996, where he grew up. He graduated from Bethel University in 2014 with a degree in Reconciliation.




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Jonathan Yang Transcription and Translation

My Name Is Hmong
Call Me Freedom
My name is not “Exotic”
My name is Freedom
My people are worth more than eye
candy and shallow praise,
We are from stolen territory
We are now sojourners in foreign lands
But we will not fit in the palm of a hand
To be controlled. We live in resistance
And die in resistance
We are offspring of Genocide,
survivors of imposed assimilation
Our legacy is the blood that streams through my veins,
through large arteries
pumping stories of forgotten people,

Kuv lub npe yog Ani Siab Yawg
(My name is Jonathan Shia Yawg)
Kuv Pog hu kuv Ani vim hais tias kuv yoj Vajtswv tu khoom plig
(My grandma calls me Jonathan because I am a “Gift from God”)
Kuv yah Siab vim hais tias kuv muaj siab, kuv lub siab siab tshaj
I am Shia (heart) because I have life, my heart is the highest

Lawv hais thia kuv paug hlub
(People say that I know how to love)
. . . Kuv lub peb Siab
(My name is Shia)
. . . Kuv lub peb yog kuv tsev neeg
(My name is my family)
. . . Kuv lub peb yog HMOOB
(My name is Hmong)

So the poem was inspired- one day, a couple years of ago, I was a junior in high school, I was on a trip, a mission trip for leadership through my youth group. I was down in New Orleans and we were kind of running through the hotel and this lady came up to me. Because I was- during the summer, I can get really dark- and this lady come up to me and was like “Aloha!” And I was really shocked. And I didn’t know what to say. I was surprised. And she just looked really happy to see me. I had never seen this lady. And she said “Aloha” and then she just left before I could say anything.
Where ever I go, whether it’s out of state or where there are not a lot of Hmong people or people don’t know about the Hmong population: “What is Hmong?” “Where are you from?” Different questions like that. And it’s hard to explain.
For me, growing up, I’ve been fighting through a lot of identity issues, understanding “Am I Hmong enough?” “Am I American enough?” “Am I… who am I?” And so that really, that moment really challenged me, and so out of that, a couple of years later, I thought of that moment and reflected on it and I started writing about it. And this poem “My Name is Hmong: Call Me Freedom” really exemplifies my story of kind of coming to terms with and being proud of being Hmong and my culture and my traditions, the rich heritage, the stories, the narrative, all of it. And really reclaiming who I am. Hmong is just one part, one piece, one part of my full identity. It’s not all of who I am. It is just a part of who I am.
Reclaiming the language, reclaiming the pride of being Hmong, and so that’s why I had to go to my mom and talk about how to translate it, and how to enunciate my words. And it’s still not perfect of course, but to me it’s just showing this connecting piece of English and Hmong and being Hmong American, having these identities. This is kind of like my go-to piece. It’s short, it tells you a lot about me. I performed it at local coffee shops, open mics, at college campuses, and this is actually my first piece that ever got published. In the Saint Paul Alamanc, two years ago, and I’m very proud of it. And it’s something that just keeps inspiring me. That’s the beginning, you know.