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May 23, 2014

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month celebrated with ethnic dance, food

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Maranda Flynn Staff Writer

A guest captures a photo with her smart phone of the La’u Samoa group as they perform the Tahitian dance during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Observance Tuesday, at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre.

The Fort Huachuca Military Equal Opportunity Office and the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, or USAICoE, hosted an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Observance at Thunder Mountain Activity Centre Tuesday to recognize the contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in American history.

In the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2014 Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama said, “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have helped build, defend, and strengthen our Nation – as farm workers and railroad laborers; as entrepreneurs and scientists; as artists, activists, and leaders of government. They have gone beyond, embodying the soaring aspirations of the American spirit.”

In his opening remarks, Jerry Proctor, deputy to the commanding general, USAICoE and Fort Huachuca, said, “The theme that was picked [this year] is ‘I Am Beyond.’ The phrase captures the aspirations of the American spirit and how Americans, Asians and Pacific Islander descent have always sought to excel beyond the challenges that face them.”

Following the invocation given by Chaplain Shane Smith, and the singing of the National Anthem by the Buena High School Choir, La’u Samoa, an 11-person dance group that represents the islands of the Pacific, performed six traditional dances from their homeland.

Ana O’Sullivan-Estrada, a lead dancer from La’u Samoa, introduced the group and gave a brief description of the dances.

Ana O’Sullivan-Estrada and Vendella Fuimaono, members of the La’u Samoa dance group, perform the Hula dance which symbolizes the importance of their religion, during the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Observance Tuesday, at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre.

“Today we will take you back to the roots of our people where we will share with you the diversity of cultures within the South Pacific,” O’Sullivan-Estrada said. “The La’u Samoa dance group will woo you with their elegant, captivating movements and their gracefulness. We dedicate our short performance to you all who are here today. Be proud of your nationality and your culture.”

The guest speaker for the event was Vendella Fuimaono, AIRES program director, District 6, and the director for the La’u Samoa dance group. She was born on the Island of American Samoa and comes from a long line of royalty in the Kingdom of Tonga.

In her remarks, Fuimaono described the community she grew up in and how it took the entire Family to organize Family affairs and events. She explained how diversity can benefit an organization, stating that she has seen this first-hand throughout her life – in her homeland, in the military, and in her work environment.

“The theme of this gathering is transcendence. I am beyond,” Fuimaono said. “I was asked to speak to you about how I have transcended, exceeded or gone beyond. I have told you my story. So it is up to you to decide. Have I transcended, have I gone beyond, or have I exceeded? I believe that we all transcend each other in every day of our lives simply reaching out and touching the life of someone else.”

Proctor then presented each volunteer with a certificate of appreciation.

The observance was concluded with ethnic food sampling consisting of foods from various Asian American and Pacific Island cultures.

The La’u Samoa dance is performed by the La’u Samoa group at the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Observance Tuesday, at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre, to describe how beautiful their homeland is, and that they will never forget where they were born and raised.




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