Hundreds of people attended the 23rd Annual Tibet Day fair held at Ft. Mason, San Francisco on Saturday, December 6 organized by the Bay Area Friends of Tibet and cosponsored by the Tibetan Association of Northern California. Highlighting the day were cultural performances by Tibetan child-star Tenzin Kunsel and Friends of Tibet speakers, authors Jane Bay and Patrick Mahoney. The authors donated their books, Love and Loss, and Tibet: Lamplight Unto a Darkened World respectively, to the Bay Area Friends of Tibet and spoke eloquently about the preciousness of the Tibetan people and culture.
The event was graced by representatives from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's and Congresswoman Jackie Speier's offices who read statements from these US public officials. Speaker Pelosi statement noted that the "Chinese government has not lived up to its promises to improve human rights." and that the "United States has a special responsibility to promote values of liberty, equality, and human rights that we hold dear. "I look forward to working with President Barack Obama on behalf of human rights and religious freedom of the people of China and Tibet."
Congresswoman Jackie Speier's statement noted that the "deplorable condition and treatment of the Tibetan people shocks our global sensibilities...It is absolutely at the forefront of our U.S. foreign policy on human rights that we continue , with fierce determination, to promote a free Tibet." Their full statements are copied below. San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly also spoke and reiterated his support for right of the Tibetan people to self-determination. Supervisor Daly had been instrumental earlier in the year to sponsor a human rights resolution critical of the Chinese government in the lead up to the Beijing Olympic Torch relay that came to San Francisco on April 9 and was a strong vocal supporter and demonstrator for the Tibetan people during the protests that ensued. The San Francisco city official was warmly welcomed at Tibet Day 2008.
All day there were several entertaining musical and dance performances by members of the Tibetan Association of Northern California and a screening of Rosemary Rawcliffe's A Quiet Revolution. Hundreds of people sampled Tibetan momos and Tibetan and human rights activists tabled information about various facets of the just cause of Tibet. Over 30 local Tibetan business or Tibetan and human rights organizations were represented at the event. The event also included a 30 minute presentation celebrating 25 years of Bay Area Friends of Tibet's service to the just cause of Tibet.
Founding BAFoT member Jigme Yugay Raptentsetsang spoke about the early days in 1983 when BAFoT was formed after the Chinese had committed some atrocities in Tibet. Founder Philip Ladenla spoke about three important conferences that BAFoT had organized in the first decade of the organization including in 1988: Five Point Peace Plan, 1990: Endangered Tibet, and in 1992 and important conference, Tibet: The Road to Independence. Julia Shepardson gave a detailed account on the Tibetan resettlement project of the 1990s in which BAFoT resettled 67 Tibetans and their families to the San Francisco bay area, often with much media coverage. Bonnie McCalla was president of BAFoT during the 1990s and recalled the numerous Tibet Day cultural fairs, Tibetan National Uprising Day commemorations and several other events that BAFoT had organized such as a conference that hosted three Nobel Peace Prize winners including the Dalai Lama and Rigoberto Menchu.
Former BAFoT President Diane Hume explained a lot of her volunteer work for Tibet including providing much digital artwork for Tibetan events. Finally, current BAFoT president Giovanni Vassallo reviewed the successes of 2008 Olympics campaign. But first he recalled BAFoT's 25 Years of Service including organizing 23 Tibet Days, 24 Tibetan National Uprising Day Commemorations, 13 Observances of the Missing Panchen Lama's Birthday, 24 Himalayan Fair tabling and presence at numerous community fairs, co-organizing visits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, other numerous protests and candlelight vigil and letter writing campaigns, continued support for local Tibetans and and local San Francisco Bay Area Government outreach. Then he spoke about his attendance and results of the Special International Tibet Support Group meeting that was convened in India 29 November - 1 December that he attended. Further, he spoke about the way forward for the Bay Area Friends of Tibet in the context of the International Tibet Support Network's post-Olympics strategic plan. The plan calls for the public to
1. Put Tibetans first,
2. Radically increase government pressure on China to provide concrete support for Tibet,
3. Put the spotlight on key Chinese officials responsible for policy in Tibet, and
4. targeted Chinese outreach. The proposals received a warm reception from the crowd of Tibetans and non-Tibetan supporters.
Proceeds from the event were marked to help BAFoT continue its mission to educate the public about Tibet as well as to the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California's capital campaign. Lucasfilm, Ltd., Committee of 100 for Tibet, Third Eye Travel, and the Dalai Lama Foundation were fiscal sponsors of the day-long event. The organizers thanked the sponsors and the many volunteers for their important contributions. More information about Tibet Day and the Bay Area Friends of Tibet's 25 years of service to the just cause of Tibet can be found at www.friends-of-tibet.org.