Uncontained Rants...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

a historic moment...

As I sit thinking of something insightful to share, a news report of Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Van Khai’s visit with Dub-Bush earlier today displays muted images in my living room. The anchorman describes this historic event: The U.S. and “Vi-et-nam”. Two countries…once enemies…the convergence of their leaders...Bush to visit Vietnam next year for economic summit. Looking at the two men seated awkwardly on their diplomatic thrones, amidst the flash of cameras and reporters, I feel strangely torn. My distaste for Bush coupled with my mixed feelings regarding Vietnam’s precarious political ideology and burgeoning economic position leaves my heart heavy and my mind whirling. The news story segues to Vietnamese protesters, faces old and young gathered outside the delegation grounds in D.C. Even though the camera pans the crowd for a mere two seconds, I can already imagine the atmosphere. Emotions ring high and yellow flags emblazoned with the familiar red stripes are waved tirelessly as chants permeate the air through throats hoarse with fury. Will US-VN relations really be normalized by this “historic photo-op”? What does that mean anyways?

I remember walking along the Venice boardwalk talking to Gerard about the issue of human rights and how it would affect US-Vietnam relations. He looked me dead in the eye and reminded me that those issues are of little importance to the guys (power players) making the investments and reaping the financial benefits of the money-making venture that is Vietnam. It was in that moment that I realized how naive my concerns might be, that as passionate as I am about voicing these injustices, when it comes to the politics of both governments, they are of little significance to those in power. Yet, the idealist in me still clings tightly onto the belief that those who proliferate injustice must be held accountable. It’s apparent that the floodgates have already been opened and Vietnam will go under some extreme makeovers in the next 10-15 years, but there is still sense in speaking out and advocating, isn’t there? So, what now? Be supportive or remain defiant? You tell me.

Here's NPR's report on the visit. audio link

In the meantime, here's an informative and pursuasive letter from a Vietnamese dissident urging reform. link.

edit: As well as a letter addressed to Bush from VA's printed in ad space in the Washington Post and Washington Times on June 21st. link.

In other news...

The Bolinao 52 Fundraiser was a great success! Raising a bit over $10K on Saturday, anh Duc is quickly moving towards his intended goal of $30K to finish the film. From what I heard, it was an incredibly moving night of community building and healing for everyone involved. The journey continues this summer with interviews with survivors in Asia (Japan and Philippines). It was a blessing to be part of the B-52 team (a remarkable group of individuals) and I look forward to future projects…B-52 hitting NorCal?

In addition to the live auction, powerful speakers and performances, there was also an exhibit of pieces from the Project Ngoc Collection. The Project Ngoc Collection was created and donated by a UCI student group to advocate for Vietnamese refugees who remained in camps in Hong Kong long after the end of the War. The Project publicized the refugees’ plight, sent student volunteers to work in the camps, and advocated for humanitarian reforms. The students’ also collected and exhibited paintings and drawings created by refugee artists in the camps, several of which appear in the exhibit. Project Ngoc disbanded in 1997 after the camps were closed.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bolinao 52

"Bolinao 52" fund raiser Saturday
Friday, June 17, 2005 By Julie Vo

For many Vietnamese, “boat people” is not just a catchy term but a deeply personal reminder of our history. It is used to define the second wave of Vietnamese refugees after the war — a mass exodus of people out of Việt Nam in the months leading up to and years after 1975.

For second-generation Vietnamese, the boat people experiences are an integral part of our stories, an event which brought our parents and grandparents to the States. For those who experienced the days, and in some cases, weeks and months on the South China Sea firsthand, the memories that the two words “vượt biễn” elicit are all too real. Such images have been laid away deep within the consciousness, not so willing to be drudged up.

Yet, the travels that brought many in our community from the shores of Việt Nam to the coasts of other nations and territories are embedded in our histories. Not often are those stories captured, documented and shared.

On Saturday, there will be a fund raiser and screening to support the completion of “Bolinao 52,” a documentary in progress by Đức Nguyễn. The event will be from 6 to 10 p.m. in the community room of Người Việt, 14771 Moran St., in Westminster, Calif.

The night’s program will include legendary actress Kiều Chinh and a musical performance by guitar prodigy Đạt Nguyễn, along with an art exhibit, panel discussion, live auction and screening of the “Bolinao 52” trailer.

In his film, Nguyễn uses his own story as a refugee boat person in 1980 as well as that of the ill-fated boat Bolinao 52 to not only paint a vivid picture of human survival, but to reconcile and come to terms with the dramatic events that sent thousands of Vietnamese to distant shores. This is one person’s attempt to speak out about an unmentioned chapter in U.S. and Vietnamese history. And Nguyễn hopes to use his voice to represent millions of silent ones.

Bolinao 52 has its tragedies. In June 1988, 110 people left Bến Tre for sea. Encountering torturous storms and engine failures, they were ignored and refused help by more than 20 passing ships, one of which was the USS Dubuque. Adrift at sea for 37 days, they were finally rescued by Filipino fishermen and taken to the island of Bolinao. Only 52 survived.

Filmmaker Duc Nguyen shared candidly about his hopes for the Vietnamese community through his film.

What do you hope to accomplish through the completion of your film, Bolinao 52?
Firstly, I hope that our community will recognize the importance of
projects such as this. Talking about our painful experiences lets
other communities understand our history. And within our core
community, in each individual family, it opens up channels of
communications so that the generation gap can be narrowed.
How so?
This film aims to re-enforce Vietnamese American identity.  
The younger generation needs to know who they are through their
How do you hope the community will respond?
I hope the response will be to support such projects like Bolinao 52
through financial, spiritual or any other means. Each individual does
not need to wait for others in order to act. Talk to your friends,
neighbors and anyone you know about yourself and your story,
regardless of whether you were born here, arrived in ’75 or were
a boat person. Other people need to know who you are.
This project is an act of speaking out for me. So to see like-minded
people joining in on the act is very gratifying. Communication is so
very important on this journey as well as the assistance of others.
Like our boat journey to freedom, it takes luck and kindness from
others to succeed.

Nguoi Viet Community Room is located at 14771 Moran Street, Westminster, CA 92683