August 11, 2022

Laos in the House is bringing Lao culture back to the Philadelphia community this year for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

The popular #BLESSED Lao New Year Pop-Up Dinner series will celebrate Lao New Year 2561 with their specially invited guests Chef Phet Schwader of Khe-yo Restaurant in New York City, Nana Sanavongsay of Cooking With Nana from California, and Itsara Ounnarath of White Tiger Distillery in Maryland, all sharing a dish and telling their story. In keeping with tradition guests will enjoy a Lao dining experience of multiple-course dishes served community style, while sitting on the floor with shoes off, soma, a forgiveness ceremony that will take place before dinner, a pakwon available for guests to tie wrists threads and give their own blessings, and mor lum karaoke music videos playing a celebration soundtrack.

It will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 12 at the Fleisher Art Memorial at 719 Catharine St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The mission of the Fleisher Art Memorial is to make art accessible to everyone, regardless of economic means, background, or artistic experience.

Laos in the House integrates storytelling with art, seeking to engage community members to share their own personal stories, allowing them to do it in the way the Lao American community wants it to be done, seen and heard. They acknowledge the work of Lao American artists already sharing their own stories while giving voice to those who cannot do so for themselves, in the hopes of healing the scars of war and beginning the process of regular intercultural, intergenerational exchanges.

The diaspora of Laotians living outside of the country of Laos spans all over the world, from France to Australia, Argentina and the United States. This is a result of war – three to be exact, all happening simultaneously: the Lao Civil War, the neighboring Vietnam War and perhaps the most devastating, the U.S. Secret War in Laos — a military campaign that averaged a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, for 24 hours for 9 years, giving Laos the title of the most bombed country in the world. What makes Lao Americans so unique then, is their experience living in the very country that nearly destroyed their own homeland.

The evening is organized by Catzie Vilayphonh, an award-winning writer and spoken word poet. As a founding member of the group Yellow Rage she was one of the first Asian American females to appear on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Through her work, she provides an awareness not often heard, drawing from personal narrative. Throughout her artistic career Catzie has been a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Award recipient, a 2012 Creative Capital finalist, a 4-time Leeway Foundation honoree and was most recently named a 2016 Woman Non-Profit Leader by Philadelphia City Council. She is a co-founding chair of the Lao American Writer Summit, an active volunteer with the Lao Family Community Organization of Philadelphia, and was recently appointed to the Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs. A child of refugees, Catzie was born in camp, on the way to America, and thus considers herself part of the “.5 Generation”. She resides in South Philly with her family.

You can visit them online at: https://www.laosinthehouse.com.

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