Lao Artist Festival part 1

The first Annual Lao Artists Festival was held in Elgin, Illinois and organized by the Lao Professionals of Illinois. There was an incredible round-up of heavy hitters such as:

Khampa Bouaphanh - photographer and photojournalist who has covered a wide spectrum of assignments, notably the war in Iraq, the Asian tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He was twice named photojournalist of the year by the Houston Press Club.

Thavisouk Phrasavath - filmmaker, screen writer, and author who is an Oscar nominated and 2010 Emmy winner for the documentary, The Betrayal, which he was both subject and co-producer. He has two upcoming books, Step Out of the Womb and Old Seed On The Soil, and a new screenplay for his upcoming feature Lover Beloved.

Kevin Vong - fashion designer who graduated with honors and was a Presidential Scholar for two consecutive years from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. He owns a boutique in Manhattan and one of his creations was featured in the soap opera, As The World Turns.

Ajahn Malavanh Douanphoumy - Lao traditional music recording artist and professor who sings the art of folk song, lum, has studied at the National Academy for the Arts and has traveled internationally (Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Burma, Singapore, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, etc) as an ambassador of the Lao folk art. She's worked on over 50 recording projects, 15 of which were solo albums.

Ajahn Bounseung Synanonh - Lao traditional Kaen musician and professor who is considered one of the world's best. Master Synanonh recorded the album, Bamboo Voices under the World Music Institute label under the direction of world-renowned ethnomusicologist Terry Miller. He's also performed for President Reagan at a White House cultural event in 1987, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to more than 10,000 festival goers.

Nor Sanavongsay - Interactive Media artist from Illinois. He is trained in both design and programming of interactive media. He’s created award winning projects for retail giants such as Sears, Motorola, and many others. He is currently working on two children’s book which he plans on publishing within the year. During his rare off-hours, he donates his time to design posters and flyers for many community services across the US.

Malichansouk Kouanchao - Visual Artist, Web and Interactive Designer whose multidisciplinary works explore the relationship between art, transformation, and communal healing. She serves on the advisory committee for Legacies of War, a national project established to raise awareness of the Secret War in Laos, as well as to advocate for further U.S. support toward the removal of cluster bombs and increased aid for cluster bomb survivors. She is the subject of the new childrens' book “Mali Under the Night Sky” by Youme Landowne, a recipient of a 2010 Bush Artist Fellowship and a 2010 Asian Pacific American Leadership Award from the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, and the Bush Artist Fellowship.

Sisavahn and Oulinthong Sihanath - Crafts and Jewelry Designers who create cultural pieces for Temples and weddings.

Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan - Theater directors and performing artists from Los Angeles. They are the Founding artistic directors and artists of TeAda Productions Company and creators of Refugee Nation, a play about the Lao-American experience based on stories of Lao communities across the US.

Pom Khrampradith - Lao traditional dance instructor and director of the Lao Heritage Foundation Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's also the artistic director of Kinnaly, a Lao traditional dance and music troupe based in Seattle, WA where she teaches over 60 second generation Lao American youth. Her teaching and work experiments with incorporating contemporary Lao music and dance styles.

and then of course, Catzie, Bryan (who was honored with a Literary award), and Saymoukda were also there - rocking the house with our poetry at a workshop for the Lao community in Elgin.

Kids say the darnedest things during spoken word poetry performances.

Lao Artist Festival part 1

I love the youth. Khampa capturing Lao Hip Hop artists performing.

Photo-op with traditional dancers and Lao reggaeton artist Alex San Dinero

Master Bounseung and Master Malavanh perform a traditional Lao song
during the awards ceremony at Hemmens.

Goofing around backstage before the big show.

A dancer from the Kinnaly dance troupe performing The Monkey King and The Mermaid.

Musician Ketsana and MC Vannasone singing goodbye to the happy people after the awards ceremony.

Ketsan, Khampa, traditional dancers, Catzie, Me, Ova

The 3 Literary Stooges, as we are known.

Catzie and I with legendary singer Voradeth Ditthavong and Silavong Keo

Look at us with our totally rad certificates!!


Lao American Writers Summit: The Good, The Bad, and The Lao'd

Our interns and volunteers pretty much perfectified the nitty gritty of the summit.
Here we have Danny countin' the dough.

Everybody say, "Kaoh neaow!"

Summit Chair Bryan Thao Worra, Lori Phanchichone and friends.

Our adorable and hard-working interns!
Say, "Sabaidee, kids!"
Kids: "Sabaidee!"

Beautiful Chanida, blushing from all of the corny and wonderful things I had to say about her leadership-taking-no-surrender-to-vendors-or-interns attitude. Chanida oversaw the aspects of catering, volunteer and intern recruitment, website and viral publicity, and sooo much more!
Don't let that innocent looking smile fool you, she's one tough cookie.
Loves her.

Official LAWS t-shirt.

Michael, Saymoukda, and Thavisouk: L-A-O
lunching @ Pho Tau Bay

Powerhouse scholar, Bounheng, telling the kids whats really good. Boungheng Inversin is a prominent Asian American activist and community member who has played a prominent role in Laotian refugee resettlement through her involvement with the Lao American Womens Association in Washington D.C. and many other causes. With Daniel Duffy, she edited the 1999 short story collection of Outhine Bounyavong, Mother ' s Beloved:Stories from Laos, presented by the University of Washington Press.

2010 Emmy winner, 2009 Academy Award (Oscar) and Film Independent Spirit Award nominated Thavisouk Phrasavath is an accepted member of WGAW (Writer Guild of America West). Also a creative consultant for film, television and other media, Thavi has directed documentaries, dramatic short and music video for independent record label and artists, published poetry and won awards for paintings and illustrations. Author of the upcoming book Step Out of the Womb (Memoir of the Journey to Land Where the Sun Fall) and Old Seed On The Soil (Planting Generation) and a new screenplay for his upcoming feature Lover Beloved. His background in community work includes assisting Gang Prevention for Youth and Family Crisis Intervention and working with the police as a liaison and consultant for the Lao community. Thavi has consulted for the New York City Board of Education. The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) was the film that he was both subject and a filmmaker.

Catzie Vilayphonh is a Lao American writer and performer. A child of refugees, she was born prematurely on the way to America, and considers herself part of the ".5 Generation". A member of the spoken word duo Yellow Rage, Catzie appeared on Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam in 2001 and performs at various venues across the country. She has performed with Ursula Rucker, Sarah Jones, Danny Hoch, Beau Sia and I Was Born with Two Tongues. Vilayphonh was the Fashion Director for two.one.five magazine in Philadelphia, where she also wrote her weekly column Catz Out The Bag interviewing everyone from designers to directors and artists to actors. She was also the Transmit Editor for Theme Magazine, a contemporary Asian American culture publication based out of New York

Mali Phonpadith is a Lao American writer/poet. She is the co-founder of Reflections Within, LLC and she has been writing poetry, short essays, and short stories for over 20 years internationally. She has over 400 pieces of written work and was nominated as Best Poet of the Year by the International Society of Poets in 2007. Mali has been a tireless activist within the community, and often volunteers many hours and resources to the causes she loves, including the Young Professional Leadership Group, the International Society of Poets, the National Association for Women Business Owners, the Lao Heritage Foundation, Arts of Falls Church and is an active volunteer with Teatro de la Luna.


Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry

Earlier this month, I received the 2010 Alred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry for my poem, "When Everything Was Everything" from New York poet, playwright, and journalist Brandon Lacy Campos, who started the award to honor his Grandfather Alfred Charles Carey.

"I started this award to honor my Grandfather...[who] was a tremendous human being...a working class mixed race man of Irish and Ojibew descent. His Mother, Suzanna, was born on La Courte Oreilles Reservation in Wisconsin, and my grandfather worked his whole life as a roofer. He was a scion of one of the original families of Duluth, MN and he was the gentlest soul I have ever met. I love and honor my grandfather. He was, in many respects, the ideal male figure in my life, and I miss him dearly."

-Brandon L. Campos

To read "When Everything Was Everything," please visit My Feet Only Walks Forward


Lao American Writers Summit

Hey everybody! I'm so excited! I hope you all come and join me for the first national Lao American Writers Summit I'm chairing this month on August 13th-15th at the world-famous Loft Literary Center.

We have Lao writers and artists coming from all over the country, meeting each other for the very first time to see how we can help each other take it to the next level! The last few months have been funky fresh and totally killer as we got help from some many wonderful people and organizations to make this event possible. We only have a few spaces left for the program but we want you to know we're totally committed to making this awesome. Even if you can't join us for the whole thing, come join us for the free public reading at 7PM at the Loft Literary Center at 1011 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis on Saturday, August 14th! It's a Pioneer Press pick of the week! www.laowriters.org

Summit Committee: Bryan Thao Worra, Catzie Vilayphonh, and me.