Hli Xyooj ’07 was named a 2023 Changemaker by Minnesota Women’s Press for making a difference in the Hmong community, including empowering Hmong farmers, women, LGBTQ+ people, and youth through her multiple roles.
Her family was one of the first three Hmong refugee families to arrive in Minneapolis in 1979. Today, Minnesota is home to one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States and Xyooj’s contributions include
“It was the love, care, and kindness that my parents gifted to others, even when we had so little, that motivated me to me to be someone who can make positive and meaningful changes in my community,” Xyooj told the Women’s Press.
But the type of change she was driven to make stemmed from gender norms. “To have a life in the Hmong community is to be married well, to be a good wife, and to be a good daughter.” And she wanted to achieve more for herself and others.
After graduating from Mitchell Hamline, Xyooj worked as a licensed attorney with the Farmers’ Legal Action Group, where she helped Hmong farmers gain access to land and resources. She then earned an MBA from Hamline School of Business and co-founded Transforming Generation, an organization that provides resources to end gender violence in the Hmong community. And she co-founded Advancement of Hmong Americans that not only supports farmers, but also creates opportunities for youth and families to connect with the outdoors through activities like kayaking, camping, and hiking.
“In the Hmong community, we are connected to the natural world. Being outdoors is healing for our community,” she said. A lot of Hmong women, especially older women, farm not only because it’s a source of income, but because it is socially and spiritually healing.”
Currently, Xyooj serves as vice president of programs and services at New Millennium Academy, a charter school that offers Hmong students culturally responsive after-school and summer programs.
As for creating a better future, Xyooj would like local Hmong generations to take on environmental issues, especially since the community’s livelihood and land is threatened by it.
Read more about Xyooj and the 2023 Changemaker series.