February 22, 2011

Hmong: Celebrate CommUNITY: Fond Du Lac Gathers for Diversity Event.

Shou Herr from the Hmong community showed visitors some of the story quilts created by the Laotian people. The embroidery tells the story of the Hmong people's journey from Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

Below is an article published by: Fond Du Lac Reporter

As Russian dancers twirled before a large crowd Saturday attending Celebrate CommUNITY, Ishmon Harris told of the event's origins.


It started, he said, in his living room in Fond du Lac back in the 1990s after his son was beat up by a gang of so-called "skinheads."


A grassroots group of citizens came together that day to see what could be done to encourage cultural acceptance in the community.


"We have come such a long way since then. People talk about the level of change. I witness daily affirmations that people in Fond du Lac are embracing diversity," he said.


This year marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of United for Diversity, a group a volunteers from all walks of life who promote respect and education through maintaining pride of new generations and their heritage.


Saturday's fourth annual Celebrate CommUNITY drew an estimated 4,000 people to the Fond du Lac County Fairgrounds to enjoy cultural music and dance, ethnic foods and flavors, artisan crafts and activities.


Nationalities


About 30 different nationalities were represented at the event, with entertainment from a wide range of cultures: Polish, Scottish, Filipino, German, Cajun and more.


A member of the Brothertown Nation, Michael Pelky of Plymouth carried a flag for the welcoming ceremonies, which included the Brothertown Indians Drummers and words from Native American Elder Richard Welsh.


Pelky said his people are still struggling to gain tribal status. They first petitioned the government in 1980 to be recognized as an official Indian tribe.


"It's an honor to be here and an awesome feeling to know we are unique. It provides me with a sense of belonging," Pelky said. "We were the first tribe to gain citizen status in the U.S."


Shou Herr from the Hmong community showed visitors some of the story quilts created by the Laotian people. The embroidery tells the story of the Hmong people's journey from Laos, Vietnam and Thailand to America.


"We have about 75 Hmong families living in Fond du Lac. They chose to live here because it's a small, safe community," Herr said.