Posted December 5, 2018
St. Paul has one of the largest Hmong populations per capita in the United States, according to Hmong Studies Journal. Many emerging Hmong-based companies have been growing in the last 25 years due to the population increase.
Radio station WIXK-AM is a Hmong-language broadcaster licensed in New Richmond, Wisconsin, but with its studio located in St. Paul. Mai Yia Vang bought the radio station, which used to have a country music format, in March 2006. Buying the station made an impact in representation for the Hmong community, Vang said, as well as for female business owners.
“You know, there were not many Hmong women who could do things like that — even 10 years ago, it was hard to make yourself a voice in such a male-centered culture,” Vang said.
While there are three other Hmong-based radio stations in the metro area, Vang doesn’t let that fact discourage her. Rather than seeing them as competition, she views the stations as supporters of one another.
Since there are other Hmong radio stations, Vang explained that she wants to share more modern Hmong music and bring out topics that the other stations don’t talk about such as starting up businesses and the Christian faith. Vang also likes bringing in young hosts who talk about news that is important to younger Hmong-Americans.
One of the many projects that she has been working on is making her radio station available to not only Minnesota and western Wisconsin residents, but to the rest of the world as well. WIXK has released a mobile application that allows listeners from all over the world access to the station.
“An app is pretty new to people especially peb tub (our) Hmong, they don’t know apps yet, so they’ll always answer back… but it’s not a true radio, you can’t interact with the people,” Vang said.
While the adjustment to smartphones is still very new to the older generations, Vang said that the app has been successful with more than 20,000 listeners using it.
Avid listener Spencer Vue resides in New Richmond. He recently moved to the Midwest with his family from North Carolina. He described the radio station as “refreshing and modern, but you still get a sense of the original Hmong culture.”
Vue said that WIXK is a great outlet to get the latest stories that are talked about in American news today, but the station brings a Hmong twist to help better understand the topics.
For example, the station recently covered a story on LGBTQ+ issues and interviewed young Hmong adults about their experiences. Vue said that although this is a topic that is being shown more and more in the world, “it is very different when it affects people in your heritage that you can relate with.”
Vang said that her vision for the radio station is growing and expanding every day. She hopes to keep promoting discussion of taboo topics in the Hmong culture and further the technological advances to keep up with future generations of Hmong-Americans.
WIXK can be heard on 1590 kilohertz on the AM dial.