Best of Neighborhood News 8/29: Networking, empowering and healing at Because Black Life Conference

Along with a team of artists, organizers and educators, poet Keno Evol held the first Because Black Life Conference in the Twin Cities. The conference focused conversation around issues that impact black communities in our neighborhoods and making space for networking, healing and community building. “Black thought, black people and Black concerns. This is a bridge for networking which we will leave, perhaps, with mentors and mentees. We want to have community engagement initiatives from our conversations. Continue Reading

North Minneapolis Laotians give garden tour

On Tuesday, August 25, 80 people gathered at Olson Townhomes to participate in the North Minneapolis Laotian Garden Tour. Laotian gardeners led neighbors and fellow gardeners through dense rows of long beans, hot peppers, Vietnamese mint, cucumbers and tomatoes. Channel 5 and channel 11 also came. After the tour participants enjoyed delicious kou pun curry made with vegetables harvested from the garden

The garden tour was organized to highlight the importance of the garden to the Laotian community. The Laotians hope to be able to preserve the garden even when the construction of the Bottineau LRT and related development comes. Continue Reading

When the idea of a bomb-free Laos became possible: An interview with Channapha Khamvongsa

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) are explosive weapons that did not explode when they were dropped and still pose a risk of detonation, many decades after they were used or discarded. About one third of Laos remains contaminated with UXO left behind from a Secret War bombing campaign during the Vietnam War era, including about 80 million cluster munitions. The majority of victims are children, who mistaken them for toy balls. Continue Reading

My run-in with art pieces in Laos

The door was open. I dropped in, of course. It became a gallery. Paper, paint, textiles— all scattered across tables and floors. I quietly called across the room, hoping to not wake anyone up but still intrigued to step in like the curious explorer mae always scolded me as a child. No one answered back. I walked through a maze of art pieces hoisted along the walls from top to bottom and rows of old books and sheets of paper tightly and neatly stacked high on broken tables. The pieces spoke of an artist who had more than one love. There were influences of Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh in the impressionist brush strokes and style of bright colors. This was an artist who was privileged enough to have studied from a Westernized paintbrush, but held a Lao eye to what the pieces had to say about the Lao consciousness. I sat on a bench, the only bench, and waited in anticipation. After 20 minutes of sitting and observing, no footsteps in the distance was heard. No artist. I walked out, but I was already inspired. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | We Theater’s “The Shadow War:” Descendants of Hmong soldiers and CIA operative illuminate history

The Shadow War focuses on the years leading up to, during, and after the Vietnam War, when the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces developed a secret army made up of Hmong and Lao fighters to combat the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Playwright Amy Russell, who created the play based on her experiences growing up in Laos as the daughter of CIA operative, explained that this became a workshop project as she developed it with the Hmong community and the actors themselves, including producer and actor Sandy ‘Ci Moua.

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Refugee nerdery

MarsCon is coming up this weekend, one of the first major science fiction conventions of Minnesota each year, along such popular conventions as ConVergence, Diversicon, Crypticon, Anime Detour, Arcana, MinnCon, and the like, each a celebration of the fantastic and the futuristic. I enjoy these events. As I often tell my writing colleagues, I think many literary festivals could take a cue from events such as these, where you see so much passion and talent on display. Continue Reading