The Passing of Comedian and Activist Tou Ger Xiong

Comedian Tou Ger Xiong performing at the Tamejavi Festival in Fresno in 2004. He was a charismatic performer and loved to involve the audience. Photo by Eduardo Stanley
Comedian Tou Ger Xiong performing at the Tamejavi Festival in Fresno in 2004. He was a charismatic performer and loved to involve the audience. Photo by Eduardo Stanley
Tou Ger Xiong dedicated much of his time to connecting with youth. Here, he converses with a girl after a performance at the Tower Theatre in Fresno during the 2004 Tamejavi Festival. Photo by Eduardo Stanley
Tou Ger Xiong dedicated much of his time to connecting with youth. Here, he converses with a girl after a performance at the Tower Theatre in Fresno during the 2004 Tamejavi Festival. Photo by Eduardo Stanley

The actor, comedian and activist of Hmong origin, Tou Ger Xiong, died on Dec. 11. According to a statement from Xiong’s family, he was murdered in Colombia after being kidnapped by criminals who demanded a ransom.

Xiong had traveled to Colombia to visit and was in a romantic relationship with a woman from Medellín.

Xiong, 50, was born in Laos and later settled in Minnesota, although he traveled often to visit family and friends in Fresno.
Xiong performed in three editions of the Tamejavi Festival in Fresno, in 2002, 2004 and 2006, having a great impact on the audience due to his humor, dynamism and social commitment.

The following is a statement produced from the Pan Valley Institute of Fresno about the influence Xiong’s work in our area:
The news of the tragic and violent death of our dear friend, Tou Ger Xiong, profoundly saddens us. Tou Ger was a Hmong artist, storyteller, educator, comedian and cultural organizer. He was a headliner of the First Tamejavi Festival in 2002. He quickly became part of the Tamejavi family because he understood and shared the values guiding the work. He performed in three Tamejavi festivals and engaged in strategic thinking gatherings and dialogues as we set the foundation for promoting social change through the critical intersection of culture, creative expression, and active citizenship.

With his storytelling and comedy, Tou Ger contributed to the healing process from the collective trauma of forced displacement of his Hmong and other communities of color. He humanized the Hmong story and constantly encouraged young people to learn, embrace and tell their own stories. “Tell your own story because if you don’t, somebody else will, and it might not be your true story.” Tou Ger would often say.

Tou Ger, we will miss you dearly and commit to carrying on your mission of bringing joy to communities that have experienced so much pain. We will continue enabling communities of color to tell their stories and preserve their collective memory.
Lar Yang, a local graphic designer and cultural activist, expressed sadness for the death of Xiong. “He made us feel proud of ourselves, of our culture. He worked with youth, especially from rural communities, where he really made an impact.
“It’s not easy to go through life with your memories of displacement, of not belonging, of losing friends and relatives in a war. Xiong gave us a sense of pride and belonging. He will be really missed.”

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