Dorjee Tseten, Executive Director, Students for a Free Tibet,
Phone: +1646 753 3889
NEW YORK CITY, NY — Students for a Free Tibet International celebrated 25 years of nonviolent action and grassroots organizing for Tibet with over 1,300 people including community leaders, activists, local business leaders, student leaders, and Tibetan supporters. The event was hosted at the Phuntsok Deshe Tibetan Community Center in Queens, NY on Saturday, August 17, 2019.
Founded in New York City in 1994, SFT now has over 650 Chapters in over 30 countries that work together to raise awareness about the struggle for freedom inside Tibet. The theme of the event, Longsho—which is Tibetan for “Rise Up”—perfectly exemplified the energy and atmosphere of the event, and truly characterizes the past quarter-century of SFT’s commitment to the Tibetan Freedom Movement.
“25 years ago in New York City, a small group of Tibetans and Tibet-supporters came together to bring Students for a Free Tibet to life. Since our founding, SFT has grown into a formidable force against the Goliath of Chinese occupation of Tibet and it’s oppressive rule,” Dorjee Tseten, Executive Director Students for a Free Tibet. “The event is a celebration of our vibrant community; advocacy for human rights; powerful youth leaders from the local and international community that have made an impact on the Tibetan movement; and the recommitment to our vision for a Free Tibet.”
At the event, SFT honored the winners of the Lhakar Awards 2019. The Lhakar Awards were founded in 2010 to recognize individuals who have displayed outstanding courage, innovation, and dedication in their service to the Tibetan cause. The Tibetan word “Lhakar” translates literally as “White Wednesday,” a weekday considered special by Tibetans because it is the soul-day of the Dalai Lama.
The event featured many prominent artists and speakers from India, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States including Tenzin Mariko, TibChick, Tenkun, Sonam Wangdue, Yeshi Khando, Kunsa & T-Pal, Q-Tip Bandits and Namgyal Yeshi. SFT Co-Founder, John Hocevar, shared first-hand anecdotes on how the organization has grown and transformed since the beginning days. SFT supporters and members came together from over a dozen states—including Massachusetts, D.C., Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, Madison, California, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Ontario, Canada, among others—for a night of remembrance and celebration. The amalgamation of guests truly encapsulated the rich culture and diversity that collectively represent Students for a Free Tibet.
Below are the winner of this year’s Lhakar Awards:
LHAKAR AWARD FOR COURAGE 2019: was presented to Tibetan political prisoner Lodoe Gyatso for his fearless spirit and outstanding contribution and sacrifice to the Tibetan Freedom Struggle. On Jan 28, 2018, Lodoe Gyatso staged a nonviolent protest in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet calling for freedom, human rights in Tibet, and world peace. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. His wife, Gakyi, was sentenced to 2 years for her involvement in his political action. During his earlier sentences in Chinese prisons, Lodoe Gyatso was harshly tortured. Including his most recent sentence, Gyatso is currently anticipated to spend a total of over 40 years in prison, making him one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the world. Nyima Lhamo, niece of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche accepted the award on behalf of Lodoe Gyatso.
LHAKAR AWARD FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE 2019: was presented to Losel Keytsel Language and Culture Program of the Tibetan Community of NY & NJ. The Losel Keytsel Language and Culture Program of the Tibetan Community of NY& NJ Incorporated was founded in 1996 by a small group of dedicated Tibetans that believed in the importance of Tibetan language and culture preservation. Today, the Losel Keytsel Language and Culture Program has 389 students. The award was accepted by one of the original founding members of the Losel Keytsel Language and Culture Program, Kusho Pema Dorjee la and Gyaltsen la, current principal of the school.
LHAKAR AWARD FOR INNOVATION 2019: was presented to YindaYin Coaching, for building an effective platform of young Tibetans to provide quality education, mentorship, and networking opportunities. YindaYin Coaching is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in the State of New York. “YindaYin” literally translates to “yes, of course!” in the Tibetan language. Chime Dolma, one of the founding members of YindaYin accepted the award from Sonam Gyaphel, President of the Tibetan community New York & New Jersey.
LHAKAR AWARD FOR ACTIVISM IN EXILE 2019: was presented to Chemi Lhamo, the President of the UTSC Student Union and a member of the SFT Canada Board of Directors, for her outstanding role as a grassroots organizer and youth icon in the Tibetan freedom struggle. The award was presented by Kelly Turley, SFT International Board Chair.
Photos: Jane and GomsVision