Friday, November 29, 2013

Celebrating 2014: 60 Years of Lao Independence

So, sixty years ago, 1954 was the year Laos formally achieved independence. That's a diamond anniversary. How will the Lao communities across the country and abroad celebrate the occasion? Will we even consider it something to celebrate, or has our sense of our collective history atrophied to the point that we cannot take the time to remember those who came before us? That there are no moments to reflect on what they dreamed and fought for, what they sacrificed, and what they wanted us to remember?

My personal recommendations would be to organize a series of events that bring all of the diverse aspects of our experience into focus. Readings, performances, exhibit displays, concerts, and community forums are all within the capacity of even the smallest communities in the US. It doesn't always have to be an elaborate production. Give yourselves something fun to bring out the best of Lao independent spirit, independent voice!

For many of the community organizations I'm advising at the moment, I am working with the following template to help them organize their planning. Try to focus on at least one event a month, even a simple one, and you can grow a great audience and bring more of the Lao journey into greater focus and clarity:

January: Most of us are recognizing the Western New Year. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is this month, and it's a great time to reflect on the Civil Rights Movement and how it affected all of us. It's also National Hobby Month, National Soup Month, and National Hot Tea Month. Since we're getting a bit short on time to plan something super big, this year, it's a month where I'd recommend you open it with something fun and simple. Maybe a showcase of your favorite Lao soups, for example.

February: February is the month many of our communities hold Valentine's Day concerts. So, it's a nice month to do something like host a relationship workshop or community arts performance of popular Lao love songs, love poetry, and other expressions. February is also National African American History Month and it would always be great to see the various ways the African American community and the Laotian American community have collaborated over the last 60 years. February is also Chinese New Year and Vietnamese New Year, so this is a good time to recognize the relationship between these communities and ours, as well.

March: National Women's History Month. The Lao society has many amazing and inspirational women who've been leaders and key figures in our politics and community building. Take time to recognize them.

National Poetry Month, and the traditional Lao New Year. A great occasion to hold a reading or performance. This year it will be the Year of the Horse.

National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. It's a good time to have a class or workshop on the Lao American journey and to participate in many of the other Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrations happening in your state.  May is National Teacher Day, so it's a good time to thank Lao American educators and those teach Lao Americans. Official Events Local Events Gala CBW Committee Voting May 12-18, 2014 is National Children's Book Week. It's also National Barbecue Month, so you could certainly take the time to hold a great cook-off to demonstrate the best Laobecue your state has to offer.

World Refugee Day is Friday, June 20th, established by the United Nations to remember the world's refugees. Lao community members around the world can certainly connect to this occasion. It's also the month many of our communities celebrate Boun Phra Vet, so it may be a good time to plan fundraisers for your local non-profits and volunteer organizations.

The 4th of July or American Independence Day makes this a month where you can find ways to talk about your community's appreciation of the occasion. It's also National Anti-Boredom Month, so I'm certain you can come up with an event to address the occasion. You could also use this as a season to highlight the traditional rocket festival of our community.

This is the month when the UN Convention on Cluster Munitions went into force, in no small part because of the Lao experience. It's also the month of the Laotian American National Alliance Conference and Laotian American Artists Heritage Month. This is the month we encourage you to set up exhibits and performances for the community. I would also advise your organization to help Lao residents participate in National Night Out events.

This is back-to-school month for many. More interestingly, it's also Classical Music Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, National Courtesy Month, and Self Improvement Month. All things that have interesting possibilities for our community.

The natural thing that comes to mind for October is Halloween, and taking the time to have a session of traditional or contemporary Lao ghost stories and folklore. The first Friday of October is National Smile Day, so Lao community members should have that one locked up.

This is National Novel Writing Month, National Adoption Month and Thanksgiving. There's a lot to encourage during this time, and holding a reading reflecting on what we're grateful for at your local libraries, schools or other community centers is certainly a great way to mark the occasion.

This is the month Laos formally achieved independence. It's also the big holiday season and a great time to discuss the meaning of gifts and community of course. It's also National Write A Friend Month. I suggest observing that. The second Sunday of December is World Children's Day, and there are some great occasions on December 10th and many other days worth checking out.

But I hope this gives you all some ideas of where you can start planning your ideas. What else would you like to do this upcoming year?

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