Newsletter: Happy Mien New Year!

Posted: Feb 5, 2021

From the desk and camera of Sirena Yang, Singer, Actress, and Model.

When I was a child, I was sometimes embarrassed to be Asian. Of all ethnicities on Earth that I could be, I’m Iu Mien, an ethnic group so small in America that rarely anyone I’ve ever encountered in my life is aware of, including other Asians. 

I distinctly remember looking into a mirror as a young teen, examining my facial features, and wishing that I were White. I thought that I would be so much prettier if I had blonde hair and blue eyes, just like the popular girls in class who got the all boys’ attention with little effort. I didn’t want to be known just as the smart Asian girl with glasses, nor did I want to be mocked by my peers with “hiyaaa” sounds or asked if I knew Kung Fu. 

My biggest pet peeve was when someone asked me if I was Chinese. I would get offended and yell back, “I’m not Chinese! I’m Mien!!!” Of course, since no one ever knew what Mien people were, that would annoy me even more. Looking back now, I’ve realized how ignorant I was because I am in fact part Chinese, but I’ve also learned over the years that the Iu Mien originated as hill tribes from China.

There was so much information that my parents neglected to tell me about my heritage when I was a child. All I knew about the Iu-Mien was that it was my ethnicity and Mien people have our own language, culture, and food. I didn’t even find out that I am also part Lao and Chinese until my older teenage years after interrogating my parents with multiple questions for an essay in high school. As I grew older, I gradually became more interested in my culture and learned to take pride in being Mien-American.

The greatest attribute of the Iu Mien is the strong community. One time during a trip to Thailand, I visited a Mien village with my uncle and others, and we were warmly welcomed with greetings and a great feast. Everyone we met in the village treated us like family. (Some of them might have actually been our family members, but it was still a sweet gesture nonetheless.) I am also so grateful for the Mien-American community in America for embracing me with open arms as I am one of the first few Iu Mien-American pop artists.

Being Mien-American has definitely affected me most in my music career. Since the vast majority of the world is unaware of Mien people’s existence, I knew that I needed to make a song to inform them of Mien people and culture. My second single that I released in 2019 with my label InRage Entertainment is titled, “M.I.E.N.,” which stands for “Making Invisible Exist Now.” To most of the population (especially in America), Mien people are invisible because citizens are uninformed, so the purpose of the song is to boldly declare that we exist and also that I am proud to be Iu Mien. I am no longer ashamed of my ethnic background, but instead want to inform others of the existence of Iu Mien and the beauty of our people.  

When I first released “M.I.E.N.,” I was extremely nervous because I wasn’t sure how other Mien people in America were going to respond to the song since it’s written in English with just a few Mien words. However, to my relief, I received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. The single has become the most popular song on my debut album, and I even filmed my first official music video for it. I’ve been able to perform the song multiple times for a couple different Mien New Year events and others as well. 

Mien New Year will take place on February 12th, the same day as Chinese/Lunar New Year. Since I was raised in a Christian household, I am not fully educated about all the traditions of Mien New Year, but one of my favorite traditions is dyeing boiled eggs red and hanging them with a special hand-woven yarn. The purpose is to bring prosperity and good luck throughout the year. I hung a red egg that I was given from someone for 2020, but last year didn’t turn out too great for anyone, so let’s all hope that 2021 will be better. We have survived a tumultuous year, so there will be much to celebrate!

Staying positive is the best way to approach any forthcoming, unpredictable situation. This is why I am happy to support Legacies of War. I appreciate Legacies’ mission, which is to remove the negative remnants of war from Laos while creating something positive by continuing the work to help bring healing, hope, and transformation to the lives and communities of those affected by the wreckage of war. I have personally never been to Laos, but both of my parents were born in Laos, as well as many other Mien immigrants their age who now reside in America. I am grateful that such an organization exists to help make my parents’ homeland safer.

I am grateful to Legacies of War for allowing me to share my voice of being Mien American in this month’s newsletter. In the future, I hope that there will be more opportunities that people of Mien, Lao, Hmong, and other ethnic groups in Laos can come together as a whole community to support one another. There is beauty in unifying and celebrating what makes each of our cultures unique.

Category: News, Newsletters