By CARLOS GALLEGO
AAP contributing writer
CRYSTAL, Minn. (October 9, 2010) – More than 300 people gathered at Crystal Community Center to partake in an evening of festivities to celebrate 30 years of Lao in America, October 9, to both remember community roots and share a common spirit of unity in forging a distinct Lao American identity for the future.
The evening featured the traditional music, dance and food of Laos, in celebration of a culture dating back to the 14th century. The event was kicked off by noted Lao writers Kak Nachampassak and Bryan Thao Worra.
Speakers and honored guests included U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, State Representatives Bobby Champion and Melissa Hortman, as well as Illean Her, executive director, Council on Asian Minnesotans, and Lao Assistance Center volunteers John Tucker and David Zander, who since retiring from the CAPM earlier this year continues to contribute to the Asian community through his leadership with the Americorps program at Lao Community Assistance Center.
The audience was full of notables from the Lao community as well as many from other communities. Organization staff in attendance included from Lao Women’s Association and Harrison Neighborhood Association, Resources for Child Caring, and C. Ting Insixiengmay, editor in chief of Asian Pages.
The evening events began with a generous buffet of traditional Lao dishes and desserts. Following the dinner, presentations and traditional dances followed as the evening closed with a Lao dance.
Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota provides programming to the support the Lao community is various areas including: education, social and economic development, tobacco cessation, and cultural preservation. www.laocenter.org
There are approximately 200,000 Lao, mostly refugees, that are now resettled in the United States since the end of the War in Southeast Asia. Minnesota has the third largest Lao American population of 25,000 residents.
Lao Assistance Center supports its community with outreach efforts with social services, and works as an advocate on unemployment, housing foreclosure and alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in the community through its Southeast Asians Living Chemically Free program.