Stand Up for Something

Lao Traditional Dance

Growing up, I was heavily immersed in the Lao culture. My grandma, Kongkham Sananikone, took it upon herself to ensure that our traditions and values were instilled in me. Whether it be chanting Theravada Buddhist sutras, to learning the classical arts, I welcomed it all. But, what stuck with me the most was traditional dance. Back in Laos, my mom and her sisters were trained by masters in Vientiane to learn various dances. My mother would go on to teach traditional dance to the youth of the Lao community in Amarillo, Texas for over thirty years. For me, dance is a form of healing and growth. Anytime there was something going on in my life that was overwhelming and tough, I would stop whatever I was doing, play a traditional Lao dance song, and just perform the choreography. Whether I was dancing in my living room or at the UNT college dorm, traditional dances were my quick escape from reality. Now, I am able to help many other youth connect with their culture through traditional Lao dancing. As a traditional dance instructor for the Lao Heritage Foundation, I have been able to travel to various cities across the United States every year to teach what the art I love the most in this life. It is so fulfilling to watch my students excel not only in dance, but in all aspects of their lives as well.

For this project, I am dancing “Fon Ouay Pon Ton Hup” which is a traditional blessing dance used for various occasions. In the video, I periodically transition from my traditional Lao attire to wearing my “Asians for Black Lives” shirt with leggings and a face mask. The audio I am using features my students from Fresno, California who played this song during their 2019 summer camp recital, where I supported them with my vocals. The purpose of the transitions throughout the dance is to highlight the intersecting identities in which I hold. No matter if I am in my traditional clothing or sporting casual attire, my values, beliefs, and the issues in which I stand for will never change. Just like how we are all interconnected, our struggles and oppressions are also similar. As Audrey Lorde once said, “there is no such thing as a single issue because we do not live single issue lives.” We must stand up for something or else we fall prey to anything. From COVID-19 to Black Lives Matter, I will continue to advocate for the issues in which our Brown, Black, and Indigenous communities face. #HateisAVirus #Asian4BlackLives

By Kelly Phommachanh

23, Fort Worth, TX

Sabaidee and Hello! Kelly Phommahanh (she/her/hers) is currently a first-year PhD student at Texas Christian University studying Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Higher Education. She is an alumna of University of North Texas and University of Oklahoma, where she holds a Bachelors of Science in Integrative Studies and Masters in Education, respectively. As a first-generation college student and daughter of Lao refugees who fled the Vietnam and Secret War, the pursuit of higher learning has always been an ongoing goal she has set for herself.




Amplify Youth Voices: Youth Power Rising

This project is commissioned content for a digital campaign organized by Youthprise in partnership with Juxtaposition Arts, Brooklyn Bridge Alliance, and The SEAD Project. The campaign exists to value and amplify young folks: perspectives, creativity, and thought leadership. We are promoting youth voice as we believe there is wisdom and hope needed to address the dual pandemics of Racism and COVID-19 and their unique impacts on BIPOC communities in Minnesota. Learn more at: