Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Where do we take Lao American stories?

It's hard to believe how fast the time has flown with the participants in the Living Arts Outreach program. We've been seeing some incredible stories discussed and shared between one another and the people who make up our neighborhood. One of the nice things as an artist is that in hearing others share their stories, I've grown, too.

We don't make judgments in this program. That's essential to anyone who wants to implement a similar project. We're trying to record an account who did what to whom, so that so many puzzles from our shared experience can be put together. We need to understand that written documents will one day make up only one part of the archive. Our archives will come to houses photos, films and many objects that one might not expect.

The question has come up more than once in private and in the group discussions, what next? Where do we take these stories, what are we to make of them? What might our writers become, and aspire to?

Ideally, of course, in telling their stories, I hope many of the students will go on to become  incredible role models not just for our fellow Lao, but for people of any culture. When written well, we can see so many stories of resilience and courage, particularly in stepping forward to acknowledge the past and to share their visions for a brighter future after their time in the refugee camps and making the journeys around the world. This is empowering.

I'd love to see our writers dedicated to the idea of ensuring the world never forgets the dark periods in our collective history. I expect we'll find their books ultimately to be somewhat unusual books, but texts that leads us to change our thinking about the Secret War. I'm glad that we had so much time together to make this possible thanks to the support of the Lao Assistance Center and the CURA ANPI grant this year, in particular.

We will hopefully come to see our multitudes affected not as a matter of statistics but as the fates of individual human beings who deserve to be remembered lest there be a repetition. Like so many survivors,

I hope these writers and artists go on to become teachers, bearing witness to our past and teaching students of all ages our most meaningful values of tolerance, democracy, respect for human dignity and decency. Despite all of the suffering and heartbreak, how we choose to survive can make all the difference in the world. It's been a privilege to read everyone's work so far. I'm look forward to seeing what we all bring for our final session in November.

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