Public Testimony of Debbie Nguyen – Vietnamese Student Association of Washington (VSAWA)

In Cộng Đồng, LittleSaigon - Seattle on 2008/09/22 at 10:00

September 21, 2008

Hearing Examiner

700 5th Ave

Suite 4000

PO Box 94729

Seattle, WA 98124-4729

Re:          Public Testimony on the Dearborn Project—Application Number 3001242, a proposal for 1400 South Dearborn Street by Darell Vange, Ravenhurst Development

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Debbie Nguyen.  I would like to make a public statement in response to the proposed Dearborn Project.  I am currently the President for the Vietnamese Student Association of Washington (VSAWA), an umbrella organization that encompasses the many Vietnamese Student College Clubs throughout the state of Washington. The student organization is formed to help the Vietnamese community in terms of educational needs, such as finding tutors for Vietnamese youths, as well as to help the Vietnamese community when they are facing barriers such as lack of awareness for their surroundings and support.

I am also a senior student at Seattle University. Although my major at the university is nowhere near the involvement in studying the community or social aspects of life, my heart far extends out to any concerns regarding the Vietnamese community and its needs.  Being born in the United States as a Vietnamese-American provides me with much hope that I can very well help the Vietnamese people because language is not a barrier.

Upon hearing about the Dearborn Street Project and the concerns raised from the Vietnamese community, Jesse Robbins who, at the time was a part of the Vietnamese American Economic Development Association (VAEDA) asked for VSAWA’s involvement in the collection of signatures to fight against the Dearborn Street Project.  Four other students and I stayed from 4 to 7 hours at the International District Fair in April of 2007 explaining to the Asian community our concerns and the impacts of the Dearborn Street Project on the community.  Attached is one of many photos about the VSAWA engagement with the Vietnamese community in Little Saigon at that critical time for better awareness and action.

My concern is not about what stores would be placed in the present Goodwill area. I don’t care about the big stores in the Goodwill area; I can shop elsewhere to get the same stores. My concern is, however, about this Dearborn Mall size and scale that would affect the livelihood of Little Saigon.  This surrounding neighborhood with small shops would face being displaced in spite of their contribution in the area for more than twenty five years.  Little Saigon is an area of residence with its own unique life for many Vietnamese and Chinese people, especially the small merchants and Vietnamese in general.  It is the area where you can buy authentic Vietnamese food for cheaper prices; this is the area where you can get dental and medical care for a cheaper price or even on a sliding scale for low-income people.  Little Saigon is also an area where you can buy rice, (not minute-rice) that is actually from Asia, not from California, and you can also purchase CDs that aren’t in English.

These items are culturally unique to the Vietnamese culture. These items are rarely found anywhere else in Washington State but in the area we call, “Little Saigon.” That is because this is the designated area of our culture for a couple of decades.

I attended a Vietnamese summer fair (also called Hoi Cho Vui He 2008) organized in the school ground of Bailey Gatzert School in Little Saigon earlier this September.  For those of you who also attended this summer fair, you would see that close to a thousand Vietnamese people from all parts of the state attended this fair. This fair shows that the Vietnamese community does exist. Their life is here. That fair is only one example of how our culture is being alive.

Part of being in the Vietnamese Student Association of Washington (VSAWA) has taught me that when you lose culture, you lose your people.  My fear as a young child was always that one day, I would encounter another Vietnamese individual and would not be able to understand, let alone speak my own language. I hope this letter can provide you with a better understanding of the wishes of many Vietnamese individuals and families.  The businesses that lie along Jackson, that are situated in the Little Saigon-International District area are their life, their culture.  Please do not approve the proposed Dearborn Project until further investigation and thorough solutions on how to prevent the imminent threat of many Vietnamese and Vietnamese-Chinese displacements.  Please do not let the Vietnamese community lose their culture.   Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Debbie Nguyen


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