Interview by Xeng Moua
My name is Nelsie Yang, and I was born in Duluth, MN. My family came to the US in 1989 as refugees from Laos. They came to start a life where they could be safe, succeed and chase the American Dream. Unfortunately, that dream was dashed when our house was foreclosed two days before my high school graduation. I felt so much guilt and blamed my parents and I, until I realized that it was the system that caused us to lose our home. A system that perpetuates poverty, low wages, and lack of security for minorities and people of color.
I want to change that system, so I am running for City Council for the 6th ward of St. Paul, MN. I began my career in politics as a volunteer knocking on doors for council member Dai Thao. I got to connect with complete strangers and it was the most liberating experience in my life! I still continue to knock on doors and talk to the people. Some of the most touching stories I have heard are stories about violence and surviving violence, especially gun violence.
My vision for the 6th ward of St. Paul, MN is to bring change to it by creating more affordable housing, keeping businesses local and supporting them, making the neighborhoods safer and cleaner. The 6th ward is known for having a low voter turn -out and that’s due to lack of access to transportation, education, and not having their representatives reach out to them. I want to change that by being accessible and listening to the people. I also want to encourage everyone to go out and vote in November since that is one way of having your voices be heard.
I look up to and get inspired by former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. When Barack Obama ran for president, it was the first time I saw a person of color on television running for office. It made me realize I can also go out there and run despite my skin color. Council member Dai Thao taught me a lot including gender equity and how the political system works. Senator Mee Moua was also a huge inspiration being one of the first Hmong female Senators in the state of Minnesota.
My advice for the young Hmong people out there running for public office is to be true to yourselves and never let anyone define you and put you in a box. When I first started in politics, I met a lot of discrimination and sexism where people thought because I was a Hmong woman, I belonged in a kitchen cooking and wouldn’t last in politics. I had to work hard to change that very narrow minded view of me. Don’t ever let anyone define you and put you in a box because of your gender or your skin color.