Chai Lee is a communications professional with a background in local government service. He found his calling to serve others at a young age, being inspired by the late US Senator Paul Wellstone. It was a lucky coincidence that Paul’s son, Mark Wellstone, was Chai’s 9thgrade soccer coach and Spanish teacher. After graduating from Carleton College, Chai came home to work for the City of Saint Paul. He has now come to work in the nonprofit sector as a program coordinator for the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute at Nexus Community Partners. He helps run a leadership cohort program which trains leaders of color and others from underrepresented populations to get on publicly appointed boards and commissions.
I had the honor to meet Tou Saik as he had just entered to the Twin Cities artist scene around 2003-2004. Ever since then, I have always tracked Tou’s work in the community, organizing for justice and spreading awareness for opportunities in the arts. The good work of art is a sublime and necessary part of our human experience, and one of the quintessential ingredients of “culture.” Art is how we have communicated from the first morsels of intelligence gleamed since humankind left the sea, the trees, and walked upright to create fire at will. At the ends of the earth, when World War II threatened to engulf the entire globe into all-out annihilation, the Japanese had an a painter on their battleship to capture the final moments of their war machines. Likewise, the US Navy had documentary artists shooting live footage of the action. Art was with us from the beginning. Art will be with us until the end. As a people with diaspora, there can be no medium more gorgeous, no vehicle of communication more enchanting than to spread our love and intrinsic Hmong-ness through art from this hemisphere to another. This is why I support SSMT.