TEACHING ARTIST POST 2: A Piece of Me – Mai Yang Xiong

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I’m giving you 5 days of Street Stops and Mountain Tops from my personal posts. As you may know, a few of my colleagues and I are traveling abroad to the villages of Thailand to teach various forms of art to the children. I am honored and excited to be one of the teaching artists alongside of breakdancer, Lue Thao.

At first I wanted to do a video of myself explaining how I came upon SSMT and my inspirations of being an artist, but I really just didn’t feel like I can deliver my full story through a video log. I’m a singer/songwriter hence, I naturally write better. So here it is, I give you a piece of me. <3

This song is called, “Daim Av,” written by my older sister, MaiThao Xiong and arranged by me. It’s a song written in the more positive perspective of the Hmong not having a land – that our “land” is written through music, sewn on paj ntaub (flower cloths), told through dab neeg (story-telling), and seen through modern arts. Even though we do not have a land, we have our arts and music that are a part of us and makes up this intangible land.

In this performance, I featured Yeej Moua, Cody S. Lee, and Wonvuab Vang. For some reason, the video isn’t syncing with the music but it’s okay! You get the idea.

Here’s my story:
In order to explain why I partake in community services and why I believe in the work of SSMT, I have to share with you my personal story. I grew up with strict parents who did not allow me to explore the arts for the generic reason that art careers were financially stressful. For a while, I believed them because they were my parents – what else could I do? As a seventh grader, I remember hiding the guitar that I bought at a flea market in the garage and practicing only when my parents weren’t around. I would secretly buy a portable CD player and take it out only on the bus rides to and from school. I would get my friends to pick me up when I had performances and lie to my parents that I was going to go study. I always questioned why I had to live a secret life when it actually involved positive works. One evening, I worked up the nerves to invite my parents to watch me perform for the first time ever after having lived my secret life for about six years. My parents may not have seen my progression, but I can tell they were proud because it was something that they saw I clearly enjoyed. This was when I learned that it is okay to love the arts even if you’re breaking cultural norms. I am inspired by SSMT and was excited when approached to join the team. For SSMT, I bring my personal stories, talents, ideas, and passion for mentoring and teaching. As a Hmong woman who stood up to her own parents and cultural norms to do service and the things that I love, I hope to encourage curiosity in these youths the same way I did.

Enjoy. <3

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