Hmong Story 40 exhibit a first in California

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Work is nearly complete on a first-of-its-kind exhibit exploring the Hmong culture, which is now deeply rooted in the Central Valley. (KFSN)

Work is nearly complete on a first-of-its-kind exhibit exploring the Hmong culture, which is now deeply rooted in the Central Valley.

Hmong Story 40 will be the first display of Hmong history in California. A glimpse at the exhibit was unveiled Friday. It is already proving an emotional experience for many second-generation Hmong who get to see now the struggles their families faced as refugees before relocating.

A $250,000 exhibit, complete with first-hand accounts of the Secret War, struggles living in refugee camps and memories of many who found a new life in the U.S., will soon be on display as the Hmong Story 40.

"It's emotional for me because I get to see pictures of how my parents grew up and the escape they had to make for self-preservation with their families," said Sandy Cha Mumper. She's a Fresno native and second-generation Hmong.

Looking at the photos of refugees, Hmong soldier and other items saved from life in Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and China, she's reminded of what she says is a horrible history that's given life to new beginnings.

"There's a sense of pride, but also sadness because I know that my parents didn't have the same opportunities, and so many Hmongs didn't have the opportunities that I did in growing up here in this country," Cha Mumper said.

Hmong Story 40 began as an idea in Fresno, a thought driven by fear that Hmong history was quickly fading.

"Our elders are passing away at a really rapid rate now," said Hmong Story 40 organizer Lar Yang. "And a lot of our stories are being lost. A lot of the children now are disconnected from that history. We have to set a strong foundation now to preserve those stories for future generations."

Yang is pivotal in Hmong Story 40, which is now being put together by more than 30 volunteers from Fresno, Merced and Sacramento.

"We all are a piece of the Hmong story," Yang said.

The exhibit also highlights successes like Hmong refugees who moved to Fresno to become educational and business leaders.

The free showcase even explores the different Hmong subcultures. It also gives us a chance to see the important items smuggled over by refugees as they moved through different countries during wartime in the 1970s.

"The story is just one generation apart from me so I identify so much with the plight and the struggles, yet I've been able to benefit so much from the opportunities in the United States," Mumper said.

Hmong Story 40 will be on display at the Fresno Fairgrounds for the month of December, in Merced in the spring and then Sacramento in the fall.

Organizers are still hoping to raise another $100,000 and find more volunteers to share their stories.

For more information about the exhibit, visit www.hmongstory40.org.
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