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IRCO celebrates Asian culture


Shefali Kanal performs the Indian classical dance, “Bharat Natyam” at the Legin restaurant last month during Asian Cultural Night.
At the Asian Cultural Night held last month, young dancers from the Cambodian American Community of Oregon performed the traditional Cambodian dance, “Flower of the World.”
Mid-county’s Immigrant and Refugees Community Organization annually hosts Asian Cultural Night. Here, the Au Co Dance Group performs a traditional Vietnamese Umbrella Dance called “Mua Hoa Anh Dao.”
Dancers from the Nattasin Lao of Oregon Dance Team pose for a picture.
On Friday, May 11 at Legin Chinese restaurant, (located at Southeast 82nd Avenue and Division Street, by Portland Community College’s Southeast Center) hundreds of people gathered, packing a large conference room, to join in celebration of Asian culture. The occasion, “Asian Cultural Night: A Celebration Across Culture and Time,” is an annual event hosted by the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization’s Asian Family Center.

This year, which marks the AFC’s 12th anniversary of operation; Asian Cultural Night featured a five-course meal from Legin, a variety of traditional Asian dances, a raffle, and keynote speaker, Sho Dozono, Chief Executive Officer of Azumano Travel.

According to IRCO’s Executive Director Sokhom Tauch, IRCO “has been sponsoring this annual event in May to celebrate AFC’s successes, honor Asian Heritage Month, and [to] increase the visibility of the Asian and Pacific Islander community.”

May, which has been recognized within the United States as Asian Heritage Month since a Congressional Resolution in 1978, is today celebrated by millions of people nationally and internationally. Within Portland, IRCO’s Asian Cultural Night is just one of many events occurring in May in celebration of Asian culture and heritage; judging by the turnout, this event was a definite success.

The night’s entertainment consisted principally of dances hailing from various Asian Cultures. Grammar-school-aged girls commenced the festivities with a performance of “Flower of the World,” a traditional Cambodian dance. This act was followed by a traditional Vietnamese Umbrella Dance, a Filipino cultural prosperity dance for the harvest season, a three-man modern street dance, or “break dancing” exposition, and a traditional Hmong dance.

The diversion was interrupted just long enough for guests to enjoy the bok choy and mushrooms, broccoli and beef, sautéed green beans, and the Kung Pao chicken; but, then came a classical Indian dance depicting scenes from Indian folklore, and finally, “Kinnaly,” a traditional Lao dance.

The night also featured a display of Korean drumming by Osanori, a volunteer group of fourteen to twenty-year-old Korean Americans practicing and preserving their culture’s musical heritage.

Between the dancing, eating, and music, keynote speaker, Sho Dozono, recounted the story of his life and told of his immigration to the United States from Japan in the 1930s. He talked about Japanese Internment during World War II and how it related to racial profiling of the Muslim and Middle Eastern community in a post-9/11 atmosphere. He also spoke about being a minority in the United States, concluding with the sentiment that “in the community of the human race, there are no minorities.”

Other speakers, such as County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, and IRCO’s Family Services Director Lee Po Cha, related Asian Cultural Night to some broader issues of diversity and equality, as well. They congratulated Mayor Tom Potter for being the first Portland Mayor to march in uniform in a Gay Rights Parade, and they celebrated Governor Kulongoski recent signing of HB 2 and SB 2, which granted greater legal equality for gays and lesbians in Oregon.

Proceeds from the Asian Cultural Night went to support the Asian Family Center’s youth programs, which include youth gang violence prevention, the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program, tutoring and academic assistance, and anti-poverty services.
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