This year, the Hoosier State has acknowledged and celebrated an important demographic facet of its diverse culture in an unprecedented way. Governor Eric J. Holcomb has proclaimed July 2023 as its first-ever Burmese American Month. This landmark declaration underscores the growing recognition of the invaluable contributions of Indiana's Burmese American community, numbering over 40,000 individuals, whose establishment in central Indiana marks its 30th anniversary this year.
The first Burmese individuals were resettled in Central Indiana in 1990s. Since then, this 30-year long journey has been characterized by vibrant cultural exchange, strong community bonding, and substantial contributions to the socio-economic fabric of the state. The governor's proclamation underscores these aspects, shedding light on the remarkable role of the Burmese American Community Institute (BACI) in guiding this journey.
In his proclamation, Governor Holcomb highlighted the Burmese population's active and substantial role in Indiana's economy. Their commitment to education and the vibrant cultural diversity they have brought to the state have been equally remarkable. “The Burmese American community has brought a unique richness to our Hoosier communities across the state, proving that Indiana is indeed a place of great cultural diversity and unity,” Governor Holcomb stated.
The Executive Director of BACI, Mr. Elaisa Vahnie, responded to the governor's proclamation with deep appreciation. "We are deeply humbled by this historic recognition and profoundly grateful to Governor Eric J. Holcomb, and the state and city leaders for creating and sustaining a policy environment where everyone is welcome and can dream the American dream," Vahnie stated.
In celebration of this significant milestone and the 30th anniversary of the Burmese community in Central Indiana, a series of events will be carried out throughout 2023. The celebrations kicked off with a Cultural Fair and Entertainment on July 12, featuring a display of ethnic fashions, a pageant competition, and an array of traditional Burmese music performances. The festivities will culminate in an Awards Dinner on September 28, 2023, celebrating the achievements and contributions of the Burmese community.
In addition, the Burmese American community in Indiana has been advocating for the democratic movement in Myanmar (Burma) since the 2021 military coup. They have taken peaceful stands against the military regime, showing solidarity with those fighting for democracy in their home country. Beyond protests, they have also organized fund raising campaigns for affected individuals in Myanmar (Burma) and, in collaboration with the broader Burmese diaspora in the U.S., championed the passage of Burma Act in Congress.
The declaration of July 2023 as Burmese American Community Month marks a significant step in Indiana's multicultural journey. By celebrating the Burmese American community's 30th anniversary and their contributions, Indiana underscores the value of cultural diversity and affirms its commitment to inclusivity for all its residents.
Lian Thawng Hnin is a participant in the Young Professional Program with the East-West Center in Washington. He is a graduate student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, focusing on international security and trade relations with a regional focus on Southeast Asia.