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Cece Chan ’24 elevates the experience of Hmong Farmers and their rich history with Seattle’s Pike Place Market

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Student leans on a banister and smiles into the camera, flags are in the background.

Image: Cece Chan ’24 is a double major in communication and gender, sexuality, and race studies from Seattle. (photo by Sy Bean/PLU)

May 20, 2024
By Nikki McCoy
PLU Marketing & Communications Guest Writer

For Cece Chan ’24, what began as a love of student advocacy and social justice in high school, has blossomed into activism through art at Pacific Lutheran University. From serving as ASPLU president her junior year, to spending a semester in Trinidad and Tobago, to using film as a catalyst for change, Chan has spent her time at PLU highlighting the experiences of her community members—especially those who haven’t traditionally held a seat at the table.

Chan has spent several seasons working with Hmong flower farmers in Seattle as part of her PLU journey, complementing her double major in communication and gender, sexuality, and race studies. Chan’s capstone project documents the farmers’ lifestyle, struggles, culture, and significant contributions to the area’s most iconic destination—the Pike Place Market. Chan’s film will highlight a full growing season with the farmers.

“Pike Place Market is such a central hub and has such an impact on our Washington community,” says Chan. “The market would not be as vibrant and iconic if it weren’t for Hmong farmers and all other Asians who were there before. I have a new respect for Pike Place Market – and now I can help make that connection for other people.”

Following the farmers’ daily lives meant Chan witnessed the grueling 16-hour days, the devastation of having to relocate due to unjust landlord practices, and the hardships refugee communities frequently face.

Chan also witnessed the resilience, the joy, the solidarity and the beauty of these farms and of these families. And she’s made it her mission to encourage others to witness it, too. From Instagram reels to her capstone film, the footage she captures is engaging and real. Promoting the farms on social media brought new followers, supporters, and flower buyers.

Chan first got involved with the farmers through an internship with Friendly Hmong Farms, an organization that supports local Black and Brown farmers and BIPOC communities. She continued to grow her relationships and involvement with the organization and Hmong communities over the years. Documenting was a natural next step.

“Being involved in social justice means supporting communities in their culture and keeping them alive and strong,” says Chan. “I’m not a farmer, I’m not Hmong, so I see myself as a middle person.”

Chan is already planning ways to continue pursuing her passions. This summer, she plans to teach film to high school students and travel to China with her sister. During graduate school, Chan plans to apply for a Fulbright grant in hopes of heading back to Trinidad and Tobago to study social work. There, she’d like to learn more about mental health and the diverse ways people heal, especially where culture and health intersect.

Chan’s thoughts on wrapping up her time at PLU?

“I’m just so thankful for the past four years,” she reflects. “I’ve had so many blessings of leadership and exploration of self-discovery. I just thank God.”

BELOW: An example of the social media video reels Chan produced to help promote Hmong farmers in Seattle.