NEW YORK/DIMAPUR: The Naga American Foundation (NAF) held its 2016 conference in Syracuse, New York on July 8 and 9. The Syracuse conference, the 15th such gathering organized by the NAF, was hosted by Chris and Khati Prosonic of Solvay, New York. Over 100 individuals from across the United States attended this year’s event, marking the largest NAF conference attendance since the organization’s founding over 25 years ago.
NAF Secretary Justin Aier in a press release said that Dr. Kilangla Yanger, research scientist at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, and Wungram Shishak, policy analyst at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in the US Department of State in Washington, were keynote speakers at the conference.
Dr. Yanger spoke of how her work as a stem cell scientist mirrors the experience of Nagas in America. “Studying organ regeneration I see certain analogies with my work and NAF’s cultural goals,” she said. “Whether the Nagas in the US were born here or in Nagaland, we’re all somewhat cut away from our native homes and hence trying to regrow as a community in this new environment.”
Mr. Shishak talked about his path to working for the US government, and emphasized the “necessity of not giving up in the face of obstacles.” Both speakers recounted their upbringings in Nagaland, and stated the value of being rooted and connected in community, particularly for the Naga population in the US.
Other events held at the conference included a bazaar featuring Naga items, exhibitions of photographs and artwork by Mrs. Kaikho Paphro and Mrs. Sano Ramos, musical performances by Naga groups from the states of Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Illinois, as well as several meals with a wide variety of Naga cuisine.
The NAF board also conducted its business meeting at the conference and announced that its next conference will be held in Felton, California in 2018. The board noted the appointment of Ms. Honili Sema, Director of Women’s Ministry at Cityteam in San Jose, California, as the new president of the NAF, a position held by Mr. Meyi Aier of Plainfield, Illinois, for four years. “I am very happy to see so many Nagas here [in the conference],” Mr. Aier said. “I am hopeful that we will continue to see growth in these gatherings.”
Ms. Sema also stated that, “This just shows how connected we are as Nagas,” she said. “Even in a country like the United States, we can so easily, and without any hesitation, come together as one community.”
Photo Credit: Kaikho Paphro