Over 100 Lao American scholars, artist and community builders will be gathering for Our Shared Journey: A Symposium on 40 Years of Lao in the United States..
This event takes place only once every five years. The next one won’t happen until 2020.
The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. Phitsamay Sychitkokhong Uy, an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Lao refugees have been resettling in the United States since 1975, following a civil war complicated by U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Minnesota was chosen for this event because it has the third largest percentage of Lao Americans living in the state.
Prominent delegates who will be attending include Lao Canadian Souvankham Thammavongsa, whose book of poetry won the CBC Book of the Year Award in Canada and the prestigious Trillium Award. This will be her very first visit to Minnesota. She will be reading along with Bryan Thao Worra, the first Lao American to hold a Fellowship in Literature from the National Endowment for the Arts and the recent recipient of Book of the Year Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association.
Catzie Vilayphonh, the first Asian American woman to appear on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam on HBO and curator of the acclaimed Laos In The House interdisciplinary exhibit in Philadelphia will be sharing her experiences as well as actress Kulap Vilaysack, who inspired a DC comic book character and is currently working on a documentary of her life, Origin Story, which raised over $110,000 on Indiegogo.
Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, founder of the international Center for Lao Studies will be among those discussing current efforts with Lao oral history projects. Dr. Adisack Nhouyvanisvong, founder of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project and the Minnesota-based education technology company Naiku will be speaking on the legacy the early Lao American writers created.
Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director of Legacies of War, an international advocacy group that has helped to raise awareness of the US cluster bombs still contaminating over 30% of Laos 40+ years since the end of the war will also be in attendance, along with the Kinnaly Traditional Arts and Dance Troupe of Seattle, Washington who have performed internationally to preserve the 600-year old traditional arts and dance of Laos.