Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lao American Writers Summit a success

On August 13-15th, we reached well over 120 people throughout the first national Lao American Writers Summit.

Over 14 award-winning Lao American writers and activists from across many disciplines worked with both Lao and non-Lao community members including Hmong, European American, African American, Thai and Tongans to discuss the importance of art, community and the approaches Lao American culture uses to remember our history and traditions.

Of course, support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council was a significant part of helping us to obtain support from many other organizations and foundations, including the Jerome Foundation, the national Association for Asian American Studies, the national Asian Pacific American Librarian's Association, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the Center for Lao Studies, Asian American Press, and the Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota.

We were able to energize and inspire our youth audience, who comprised a majority of the participants, as well as elders who'd never been to facilities such as the Loft Literary Center and the Open Book.

Many of our elders were excited at the opportunity to come forward and tell our stories and their journey, including one elder who'd lived in Minnesota for years, quietly working on a history of the Lao people and a dictionary. He hadn't realized there were so many writers and artists across the country and he was overjoyed that there was a young generation who wanted to continue the study of art and culture.

We learned many things from the process and have discovered many ways to improve our process. But most importantly, we had unfettered opportunities to speak our hearts and share our experience.

We're all looking forward to providing a full overview of the Summit, which was even selected as a literary event of the week by the Pioneer Press, and picked up by Asian American newspapers and bloggers in California, Tennessee, Georgia, Vermont, Philadelphia, Illinois, Washington D.C., New York and many others. But I feel the most important consequences of the Summit will bloom over the course of the next several decades within both our elders and the younger generation.

Thanks to everyone who came and I look forward to working with all of you again in the coming years ahead.

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