The national Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit — titled “Our Shared Journey” — is being held this year, marking the first-ever national Lao American symposium, and the second meeting of the national Lao American Writers Summit five years after it took place in 2010.
Asian American Press reports that over a hundred Lao American artists, writers and community leaders will gather tomorrow in Minneapolis, Minnesota to explore Lao American history and identity, on the 40th anniversary of the first arrival of Lao Americans to the United States in 1975. Lao Americans arrived as refugees from Laos and other wartorn parts of Southeast Asia heavily disrupted by the violence of the Vietnam War, a civil war strongly influenced by US military intervention. Heavily bombed by US military forces between 1964 and 1974, Laos remains the most bombed country per capita in the history of the world. This violence led to the displacement of over 700,000 Lao refugees, including 400,000 who relocated to the United States. Today, Minnesota is home to the third largest community of Lao Americans in the country.
The conference is the first time many prominent Lao American writers, scholars, artists and advocates will be able to congregate in a single place to discuss the Lao American experience and Lao Diaspora. It also falls upon the 20th anniversary of the creation of the SatJaDham Lao Literary Project, which the organizers say was responsible for “creating some of the very first collections of Lao literature since the end of the war in [their] own words”.