The Myanmar Union Day Ceremony brought traditional Burmese songs, costumes and dancing to Ransburg Auditorium on Feb. 12 as part of a collaboration between the University of Indianapolis and the Burmese community of Indianapolis.
The Union Day ceremony, however, is not the first collaboration between UIndy and its Burmese neighbors, nor will it be the last.
Associate Provost for International Engagement & Shared Governance Jodie Ferise said that the partnership is valuable to UIndy and is one the university hopes to continue.
“They are a really important community partners to us, especially because they’re right there. They’re such an integral part of our community and so we really want to continue to work with them, and even in increasingly deep ways in the years to come,” Ferise said. “Because, to us, it feels like that makes perfect sense. That is our community, they are our neighbors.”
The event handout explained that the Union Day festival commemorates the anniversary of the signing of the Panglong Agreement in Burma/Myanmar on Feb. 12, 1947.
This agreement, signed by leaders of the dominant ethnic groups of Burma — including Kachin, Chin and the Shans — created the first Union of Burma, which was the nation’s first post-colonial government.
Lian Sang currently serves as Programs Director of the Burmese American Community Institute in Indianapolis, which helps Burmese migrants adjust to living in the community.
BACI’s collaboration with UIndy, Sang said, reflects the organization’s goal of reaching out to youth the community.
According to Sang, the festival offers a unique opportunity for Burmese Americans from various ethnic groups to celebrate their culture together.
“This celebration is also to share Burmese culture, what a diverse culture we have. We wanted to share among our ethnic groups within the Burmese community as well as the broader community,” Sang said. “Each ethnic group is celebrating their own national day, but not necessarily coming together and celebrating together, and that [the day to do so] is Union Day. This is a great opportunity, I think, for all the ethnic groups to really come together and share their cultures together.”
The Myanmar Union Day Festival featured traditional Burmese songs such as “Tha Ma,” dances that included the Kayah Dance and a cultural fashion show. In addition to numerous members of the community, the event was attended by Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett and featured video remarks from Indiana Senator Todd Young. The keynote address was delivered by Myanmar Ambassador to the United States U Aung Lynn.
In his address, Lynn congratulated the Burmese population of Indianapolis and stressed the importance of a strong work ethic to the community.
“The United States of America is a federal republic where all of its citizens are living in harmony and working hard for the betterment of their beloved country,” Lynn said. “I am very happy to see all of you working hard in the place where you live. By working hard, you will get good results. Good results will make you happy, and your family will enjoy your happiness. Happiness in your family will spread to towns, cities, your country and eventually to the world that we all belong to.”
Sang said that he hopes the Myanmar Festival will become an annual event shared between BACI, UIndy and the Burmese community of Indianapolis.
“The goal is to celebrate this annually. I think every year we get better,” Sang said. “And we plan to do this annual event; we [would] really like to continue to have it at UIndy, of course, because UIndy is such wonderful partners and very supportive, so I think this collaboration will continue. There are so many exciting projects and collaborations that we have in store.”