Lao, Southeast Asian American Conferences Convene at End of July
It’s the perfect time to be a community builder as multiple Lao and Southeast Asian gatherings come to a head at the end of July. The Multicultural Education Outreach Foundation is hosting a Lao Youth Summer Camp, the Laotian American National Alliance Conference is meeting for its eighth year, and the Southeast Asian American Studies Conference moves to bring together several different Asian American groups. Some still have registration open so take these opportunities to learn how to make a difference in your community.
Multicultural Education Outreach Foundation Lao Youth Summer Camp – Elgin, Illinois
The annual Lao Youth Summer Camp offers an engaging and structured environment for children to learn about and cultivate appreciation for Lao culture. From July 17-28, campers will learn about Laos’ history, arts, traditions, dances, and language, as well as take field trips to educational spots around town. Not only does the programming offer access to Lao customs, it also showcases other cultural activities like Spanish classes and Filipino Tinikling dance performances.
Sixty-three campers ages 5-14 will experience the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Chicago, meditation, crafts, and more, while 35 youth leaders help guide classes and events. The camp’s press team said they wanted to inspire campers to embrace all cultures, preserve their heritage, become globally educated, and engage in community and civic activities by the end of the program.
“We believe in emphasizing youth engagement because we know that by getting our youth involved in meaningful and collaborative activities we are empowering them to become leaders,” the press team said. “Being engaged teaches our youth the skills to make positive decisions not only for themselves but also for their community.”
Established in Elgin, Illinois in 2014, the camp was based on the success of the Kinnaly Lao Traditional Music and Dance Troupe’s Lao Summer Day Camp in Seattle, Washington. Now in its fourth year, enrollment in the camp and its yearlong leadership program has seen significant growth.
Laotian American National Alliance Conference – Elgin, Illinois
The Laotian American National Alliance Conference also convenes for its eighth year in Elgin, Illinois from July 28-29.
A networking mixer Friday night allows attendees to meet and mingle before the following full day of events, which include sessions addressing community needs, pressing issues and bridging divisions.
Albert Chanthaboury, a graduate assistant at Northeastern Illinois University, said this year will be his first time attending but looks forward to meetings others in the community.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I know it's not as large or big compared to other conferences, but the Lao community needs people like us to attend, and one day it'll be as large…I look forward on discussing topics about how to engage the Lao community toward education, more so higher education, since there is an extreme lack of Lao representation in the student body nationally.”
There is still time to register for the conference―tickets start at $10 and can be found here.
LANA works to advance the social and economic growth of Laotian Americans through civic participation and public policy advocacy. It is 100 percent volunteer based and is the oldest and only Laotian 501.c.3 national development.
Southeast Asian American Studies Conference – Lowell, Massachusetts
The Southeast Asian American Studies Conference will bring together researchers, community organizers, artists, students, community members, and more to reflect on the histories and current states of Southeast Asian American communities on July 27-29. According to the SEAAS website, they will discuss pressing matters facing Southeast Asian Americans and also attempt to connect people across disciplines to create a more unified and collaborative community.
Workshops, performances, films and speakers all help showcase and celebrate Southeast Asian culture in an easily accessible way.
Some of the people you will find are Channapha Khamvongsa, founder and executive director of Legacies of War, Catzie Vilayphonh of Laos in the House, Rita Phetmixay, showing her short film, “Phetmixay Means Fighter,” Chanida Phaengdara Potter of Little Laos on the Prairie and The SEAD Project, and writer Bryan Thao Worra, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association and author of “The Other Side of the Eye.”
The SEAAD conference is an expanded effort to include a range of issues and people in Southeast Asian America. The first Southeast Asians in the Diaspora conference took place in 2005 at UC Riverside, which began as a conversation between scholars in Vietnam Studies, Southeast Asian area studies, and Asian American studies.
The conference location, Lowell, Massachusetts, houses the second largest Cambodian American population in the United States, as well as Vietnamese, Lao, Burmese, and Bhutanese Americans.
Registration can be found here. Tickets are $60 for students and community members, but those who cannot afford the fee should email firstname.lastname@example.org as alternate plans can be arranged in certain situations.