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Hmong Today TV: Continuing the Hmong Oral Tradition

NCM Profile

NCM, Elena Shore Posted: Jul 30, 2003

"No other TV station has done what we have done," says Ben Vue, the creator, host and producer of Hmong Today, a Hmong language news show in California's Central Valley. "We do what mainstream media has ignored or has not touched."

Every Saturday night from 8pm to 9pm, an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 viewers tune in to see interviews with Hmong leaders, news on current events and information on health, education, and political and social issues. The program is broadcast live on KNXT channel 49, owned by the Roman Diocese of Fresno County.

In 1993, when Vue started Hmong Today, no other television program existed for the Hmong community. At the time, the Central Valley town of Fresno was the Hmong capital of the United States. Today Fresnowith 22,456 Hmong people according to the 2000 Censushas the second largest Hmong population in the country after Minneapolis-St. Paul, with 40,707 Hmong people.

Vue estimates that there are now 300,000 Hmong people living in the United States, most of whom came here as immigrants after the Vietnam War. Many had been recruited by the CIA to fight the North Vietnamese in the United States' secret war in Laos. When American troops left Vietnam, the government in Laoscontrolled by the North Vietnamesetargeted the Hmong people for genocidal extinction. Hmong refugees fled through the jungle and the Mekong River to refugee camps in Thailand before arriving in the United States.

The Hmong community did not have its own written language until the 1950s, and has instead relied on a tradition of oral history. This made broadcast medialike Hmong Today TVa more effective forum than print to reach the Hmong population.

Today the television program features interviews with Hmong leaders including Minnesota Senator Mee Mouaa refugee from Laos and the first Hmong to be elected to the legislatureand General Vang Pao, the former commander of the CIA's secret army in Laos. Hmong Today also produces shows on important topics like U.S. elections to encourage viewers to register to vote; and it keeps Hmong traditions alive by showcasing traditional songs and festivities like the Hmong New Year.

Hmong Today's energy and success, says Vue, comes from the vibrant spirit of the Hmong community itself. After 9/11, for example, the Hmong community led a grassroots effort to raise funds for the victims. Hmong Today broadcasted the event from Fresno's Asian Village, interviewing community leaders and young people about their perspectives on the Afghanistan war. The effort raised $70,000 for the Red Cross, and, says Vue, reflected "the Hmong community's spirit, and how much we care about America."

Hmong Today
1550 North Fresno St.
Fresno, CA 93703
Tel: (559) 488-7440
Fax: (559) 488-7444

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