Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lao Assistance Center Celebrates 27 years!

On October 9th the Lao Assistance Center will be gathering community members, friends, families and supporters to celebrate 30 years of Lao in America and 27 years of the organization.

"We're so happy to be able to celebrate this moment," said Executive Director Sunny Chanthanouvong. "It is our time to remember where we've been and where we're going."

The evening will feature traditional live music, dance, fine dining, door prizes and other entertainment. Established in 1983, the mission of the Lao Assistance Center is to increase the capacity of the Lao-American population in Minnesota by responding to community identified needs through developing programs and services that will promote the well-being of families and children while retaining their cultural heritage. It is currently housed in the Harrison Community Center in North Minneapolis and focuses on five areas to meet the needs of youth, elders, adults and promote civic engagement, philanthropy and volunteering.

Modern Laos, a nation approximately the size of Great Britain, is home to over 160 ethnicities, each with their own traditions and customs, including Khmu, Tai Dam, Mien, Hmong and ethnic Lao. In the United States there are approximately 200,000 Lao who have resettled here since the end of the war in 1975. Minnesota has the 3rd largest Lao refugee population in the US with over 25,000 residents.

With an award-winning staff, the Lao Assistance Center has been busy in 2010 with bringing in the Legacies of War exhibit and the play Refugee Nation, as well as supporting the national Lao American Writers Summit and conducting community listening projects. It most recently completed a three-day training in the Harrison neighborhood on the subject of undoing racism. They also participated in Census 2010 outreach efforts and efforts to support the transition to DTV and issues of media justice. the Lao Assistance Center also has taken on a new role in supporting oral history collection thanks to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and the Minnesota History Center. They are currently taking on work on issues of unemployment, housing foreclosure and addressing alcohol, tobacco and drug use in the community through their Southeast Asians Living Chemically Free program.

The Crystal Community Center has long been a part of many key events in the Lao Minnesotan community, including weddings and other family celebrations. It is located at 4800 Douglas Drive North in Crystal, Minnesota. Tickets are $20 at the door and $15 in advance. For more information, guests and sponsors can contact the Lao Assistance Center at sunny@laocenter.org or call (612) 374-4967. Doors open at 6pm.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Refugee Nation coming to Minneapolis!

REFUGEE NATION: Co-presented with Pangea World Theater
October 8-17, 2010, Based on stories of Laotian Refugees.
Written and Performed by LEILANI CHAN & OVA SAOPENG
Intermedia Arts

A mother lives alone in the darkness. A father struggles to forget a lost war. A son battles in the streets of urban America. A daughter searches for answers in her community. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas war. What can we learn from the wounds of a war over 30 years ago in the hope to find healing?

Refugee Nation tells the stories of a community created by a U.S. led secret war in Laos. Intricately connected to the Vietnam War, Laotian refugees struggle to create a future as their American descendants struggle to understand their past.

Since 2005, collaborators Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng have been collecting oral histories from family and community members across the country to create an interdisciplinary theater performance that explores a growing part of the Asian American Diaspora that is yet to be included as part of the American experience.

Through theater and movement they re-construct the stories of families trying to rebuild a community that has been spread like ashes across the U.S. and the world.

More than just a telling of Laotian American history, the two-person performance eloquently touches upon issues relating to the refugee experience, assimilation, generation gap, and mental health using drama, film, music, and audience interaction, and personalizes these issues through a genuine Laotian American perspective.

The result is a product that not only brings to light the hidden stories of Laotian Americans around the U.S., but one that is able to unite people from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, and histories by relaying the ideas of change, loss, struggle, healing, and the unrelenting strength of the human spirit.