This weekend I was so delighted to participate in a fabulous event at the Wang Center hosted by Sunita Mukhi the gracious director of Asian/American programs at the center. I am so grateful to Sunita for being welcomed into the beautiful space of the Wang Center as well as being welcomed into the inspiring community of the Wang Center. Here is a lovely place and community that exemplifies to me what my E Pluribus project is about: sharing our celebration of diversity.
On Saturday the treat was called TellebrAsian, it was a uniquely tailored yearly story telling event that this year was inspired by the flags. A talented group of story tellers, some professional and some students, chose a flag and launched into either a personal or a cultural story. The setting was intimate in the Wang Center Interdenominational Chapel with Oriental rugs comfortably welcoming kids and families to lounge as if they were on their own living room floor. The less flexible audience sat in comfort around the edges of the elegant room in chairs.
Nine delightful stories were told beginning with a half dance autobiographical story about the weight of making life decisions regarding career and boyfriend. Following were stories of a magical fish and a greedy wife, an inebriated Irishman mistaking thieves for the devil, a personal recollection of crabbing, why the sun follows the moon, ten ancient Chinese super-powered brothers, a covetous crane from the Mahabharata, the entire epic of Gilgamesh in ten minutes and finally a delightful story of a sparrow which was punctuated and enhanced by a Japanese percussion troop.
The broad range of subjects from Ancient texts to personal recollections was a rich and fascinating field of discovery for the audience. Skilled story tellers led the audience with experience and the inexperienced story tellers held us with their enthusiasm and so the entertainment never dipped in capturing our attention. The audience was entranced and often moved to laughter. Most delightful were two Chinese students, Erica Xie and Stella Yu telling their story of the ten brothers and minimally but very effectively acting out their super powers. Stories were also told by Robin Bady, Lorena Doherty, Shrikant Iyer, Pamela MacFarlane, Eva Nagase, Jorge Portillo, Kadhambari Sridhar and featured guest artist Dr. Donny George Youkhanna who is an Iraqi Assyrian archeologist, anthropologist, author, curator and scholar now visiting professor at SUNY Stony Brook and internationally known as “the man who saved the Iraq National Museum”. It was a thoroughly delightful afternoon wittily MC’d by Francesca Calarco and followed by a delicious meal of Asian cuisine from the Wang Center restaurant; Jasmine.
This kind of event is the growing vision for E Pluribus; that it may promote further conversations about harmony in diversity and further celebrations of our diversity. By sharing these stories of life, love, dreams, hopes, aspirations and terrible mistakes we can really connect with each other in profound ways and recognize each other respectfully. Whether same or different our hearts resonate with similar feelings and to see another is to see deeply within ourself to our core humanity.
I would like to also thank Jennifer Iacona for her over the top support and generous coordination efforts on behalf of E Pluribus and this event. I thank Sophia Dang, Manami Hotta, Luke Diorio and Allison Conley for their very careful and exacting assistance in hanging the artwork. I am also grateful to Graduate Assistants; Dan Woulfin and Sarah Feltham as well as Senior Student Assistant; Sumreen Dar, Student Assistant; Nastareen Khandaker and interns; Francesca Calarco and Madiha Hamdi and the staff of the Wang Center for their part in creating this great event and the exhibit of E Pluribus.