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Event gets community moving while celebrating Hmong culture

More than 400 attendees and volunteers gathered on July 15, 2023, in Brooklyn Center’s Centennial Park for the third annual “Hmong Community Explore Your Parks.”

The event welcomed the community to explore some of the many healthful, active, fun, and culturally relevant things people can do outdoors and in parks.

The event engages the Hmong community, but also welcomes friends, family, and community allies.

kids playing large chess game outside

Two attendees played giant chess, one of many games and other activities available in the park.

Not your typical day in the park

The event is intended to encourage the community to be active for lifelong health. Event goers could try new or traditional activities at 18 stations, meet members of local organizations, and get information at 26 booths. The event included:

  • Traditional Hmong games, a Hmong art project, music, and cultural performances
  • Sports, games, and recreation activities such as archery, corn hole, and flag football
  • Story strolls, Teen Tech Squad activities, and free books
  • Biking information and bike safety tunes ups
  • Health-supporting activities and information, plus walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations
  • A display by Metro Transit for people to ask questions, try out bus bike racks, and get information on Metro Transit’s services and reduced fare program
  • Information and prizes from local organizations
  • Information from park programs about how to enjoy these and other activities all year long

kids doing archery outside

Event attendees tried their hands at archery.

Rooted in community, growing in health

A Hmong Community Leadership Team in 2019 came up with the idea for a project to increase physical activity for lifelong health by encouraging the community to use local parks more often. Their goal was to find ways to lower the disproportionately high rates of diabetes and its negative impacts in the Hmong community.

The event created a welcoming environment and provided culturally relevant activities and attractions for the Hmong community to get outside and be active. Attendees became more familiar with the park and its amenities through the event. They also built confidence biking and using walking trails and public transit, which can lower barriers to active transportation such as using modes other than driving a car.

Hennepin County Active Living supported the event. Since 2019, it has convened a group of community-based organizations and local government agencies to co-plan and host the event, provide activities, and reach out to the community.

This year, planning partners included CAPI USA, City of Brooklyn Center, MN Zej Zog, and Three Rivers Park District, as well as Hennepin County Libraries, Asian Connections Employee Resource Group, and Outreach and Engagement Services. Other event partners include Asian Media Access, BikeMN, Metro Transit, Hennepin Health, and UnitedHealthcare.

The key to its success is co-planning with community and providing culturally relevant attractions and activities to create a welcoming experience.

“Folks from the specific community must be intrinsically valued and strategically asked to be a part of the planning team in bringing their wisdom and expertise. . . Youths, elders, and everyone in between must also be involved in the planning. Bringing different voices from the community is essential to the success of the event.” – Pang Yang of MN Zej Zog

adults setting up a craft station outside

MN Zej Zog staff set up a station with an artist.

Active Living’s unique role

Hennepin County’s Active Living team is supported by Hennepin County Public Health and Housing and Economic Development. Leading an active life is a critical part of lifelong health. But how easy, safe, and enjoyable it is to be active depends on where a person lives. Communities that offer convenient, useful, pleasant, and safe active-friendly routes are healthier for people, businesses, and the environment.

Active Living’s mission of partnering to create healthier communities, places, and infrastructure aligns with the goals of the Hmong Community Explore Your Parks event, which are to:

  • Improve community health through increased physical activity
  • Increase community awareness and comfort using parks, trails, public buildings and spaces
  • Gather information from the community on their needs, concerns, and experiences using parks and public spaces
  • Increase the number of people who bike, walk, and use transit to access parks and local destinations