Kazau Vang, also called Mae, is a 23 year old Hmong American resident of the Washington Park neighborhood. She resides with her extended family in a duplex house. She lives downstairs with her mother, her brother and her nephew while her older brother, his wife and their 2 children live upstairs. She is excited that she will soon become an aunt since her sister-in-law is expecting a third child. Growing up around many younger siblings, nieces and nephews made Mae interested in elementary education. She studied education before switching to a business major.
Her parents were refugees from Laos, but she lost her father in November of 2000. Vang comes from a traditional shaman household. Although she has chosen to practice Christianity since she was 14 years old, Vang sees her beliefs as a hybrid between her shaman upbringing and her Christian views.
Although Vang was born and raised in Milwaukee she has moved around in the city, living in at least five different locations and homes. She has lived in three different houses in the Washington Park area itself. She likes her current home the most because, unlike her previous houses, Vang got her own room in this abode. The kitchen is her favorite room and she talks about the importance of cooking in Hmong family life, "We always cook for each other, cook enough for the whole family to eat. That’s how we grew up." Despite being the youngest sibling in her family, Vang tries to be as independent as possible. She explains, "I spoil myself. Everything I have I bought myself. My Mom is proud of me for that because growing up I always had hand-me-downs."
Vang’s stories of the Washington park neighborhood are varied and have not always been positive. Her car was broken into and there are issues with neighbors using their property without her permission. Nevertheless she feels comfortable and safe in the neighborhood, has great dreams for this community and has tremendous respect for her neighbors. Recalling an incident in which her mother’s turtle was stolen from her backyard, Vang explains how her neighbor witnessed what happened and reported the situation to them. She appreciates having neighbors who look out for each other, and hopes to see more examples of this for the future.
Mae Vang, interview by Elizabeth Rose Osborne, Matthew Karl Stuessy & Wei Ye, June 2015