2023 Keynote Speakers

Unseen Passages: 
Refugees and the Collective Fight for Vitality


Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay (she/her) 

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao poet, playwright, cultural producer, and philanthropist. Her work focuses on amplifying refugee stories from the Laotian and Southeast Asian diasporas. CNN’s “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell called her work “revolutionary.” Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton recognized her and others with a “Lao Artists Heritage Month” Proclamation. She’s a recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual...in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.” She's the author of the children's book WHEN EVERYTHING WAS EVERYTHING and is best known for her award-winning play KUNG FU ZOMBIES VS CANNIBALS. Her plays have been presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (NY), Theater Mu (MN), Lower Depth Theater (LA), Asian Improv Arts (IL), and elsewhere. 

She’s been recognized by her peers and artistic leaders through awards, grants, and fellowships from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Bush Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, MAP Fund, Playwrights' Center, Forecast Public Art, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, Minnesota State Arts Board, and dozens more. Saymoukda is currently a Bush Foundation Bush Leadership Fellow, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence at Theater Mu, a McKnight Foundation Fellow in Community-Engaged Practice Art, and a Jerome Foundation Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in playwriting.


Alicia Vasquez-Crede (Ah-LEE-see-ah VAHS-kes CREH-day) (she/her/ella) 

Alicia Vasquez-Crede currently serves as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s (LIRS) Associate Director for Asylum Services, where she oversees a national network of community-based organizations working with asylum seekers at the border and in the interior of the U.S., as well as leading LIRS’ San Antonio, TX field office. Having worked with vulnerable populations in eight countries across three continents, Alicia believes that refugees and migrants are essential to each nation's prosperity. Before joining LIRS, Alicia worked and volunteered with organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Rescue Committee, HIAS, and Church World Service. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures from Barnard College and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.