Over the weekend I learned that forgetting 12,000 to 25,000 people who've been living with you for 30+ years is one of those things.
As was the case with the organizers of this year's Twin Cities World Refugee Day on June 5th.
Now let's be clear: I really like the idea of World Refugee Day. Absolutely. It's important to highlight the journey of refugees to understand who refugees in America and around the rest of the world are. It was my pleasure and an honor to present and perform at the celebration in downtown Minneapolis, even in the rain:
2010 is the 35th year since the end of the war for Lao refugees and it's a really big one for us: Northeaster artist Mali Kouanchao just received both an Asian Pacific American Leadership Award and a Bush Artist's Fellowship, with a book about her life coming out later this year.
Laotian Minnesotan Bounxou Chanthraphone just received the $100,000 Enduring Vision Award for her groundbreaking work as a traditional Lao weaver. Previously she's received some of the most prestigious arts awards this nation can give.
And Lao Minnesotans have been busy preparing for the national Lao American Writers Summit in August and bringing the acclaimed Refugee Nation: Legacies of War exhibit in October.
By all accounts Minnesota has the largest Midwestern population of Lao refugees and is #3 in the country. So where did we go?
The organizers claim there are over 85,000 refugees in Minnesota with the top refugee nationalities in the state in 2006 being Hmong with 21,844, Somali 15,704, Vietnamese 15,023, Soviet 8,294, Cambodian 4,983, Ethiopian 4,799, Liberian 3,481 and Bosnian at 2,380.
I just don't understand how a population of 10,000+ doesn't qualify for mention.
When I asked the organizers, I got a reply that said: "Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. As I'm sure you are aware, there are many refugee communities in the Twin Cities, and it is always a challenge of World Refugee Day to include all of them. I do not mean that as an excuse but only to say that we appreciate people like you who work to ensure that all communities are included."
And I really would have been satisfied with that until I sat in the movies this weekend and watched the A-Team and they mentioned Laos.
Look, when a remake of a 1980s screwball action show can remember Laos but community organizers who've lived with 25,000 people for 30 years can't, I'm sorry, but in my book you gotta be called out on that.
So, we have to be constructive about this. But if it happens again? Well....
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