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By Sara Schreck, Spring 2013 intern
The Indiaspora Inaugural Ball was a success and a chance to highlight Indian American accomplishments and presence in America under a long-deserved spotlight. Various VIPs glided along the red carpet and spoke into waiting microphones. It was a great debut party for Indian Americans, who—at 3 million strong—are becoming a political force in U.S. politics.
Among the VIP guests were Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate India Caucus; Congressman Joseph Crowley, co-chair at the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans; the Honorable Nirupama Rao, Indian Ambassador to the U.S.; and Congressman Ami Bera, a newly elected member from California. Indian Americans from all fields were represented such as technology, politics, government, academia, and business.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) was asked by the founder of Indiaspora, M.R. Rangaswami, to promote another first for Indian Americans: the Smithsonian Indian American Heritage Project, an initiative about an American story yet to be told—that of Indian immigrants and their descendants. The Project is anchored by a groundbreaking exhibition, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation. This exhibition takes visitors beyond the spectacle of Bollywood cinema, which is globally popular. Exotic and romantic stereotypes of India are broken by a rich history of Indian immigration to the U.S. and numerous ways in which Indian Americans have shaped America. Beyond Bollywood will open at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in late 2013.
The President did not attend the ball, but his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng (wife of Konrad Ng, APAC Director) made a surprise appearance. “It is certainly a reflection of how important India is and how important Indian Americans are to the fabric of this nation. I would just like to celebrate all of the contributions—artistic, political, and so much more of the community,” she remarked. A video clip of her response can be viewed here at 04:25.
APAC staff and interns were available at an information table to answer questions and introduce the exhibition to ball attendees. There was also an opportunity for attendees to enter a sweepstakes to win a private exhibition tour of Beyond Bollywood. A banner featuring an iconic photograph of the first Asian American Congressman, Dalip Singh Saund (with then Senators John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson) was near the table for guests to pose with. To see photographs from the evening, click here.
To learn more about the Smithsonian Indian American Heritage Project and Beyond Bollywood, please visit http://apa.si.edu/indianamerican
While federal funding is a mainstay of the Smithsonian, the Asian Pacific American Center receives no direct funds from Congress and relies on financial donations to fund its initiatives, including the Indian American Heritage Project. If you would like to make a donation to the Project, visit http://indianamerican.si.edu/donation.asp. It is fast, easy, and secure!