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Little Saigon takes a Walk with the Mayor (Quang Nguyen)

In Cộng Đồng on 2009/08/15 at 04:09

Note:  For your convenient reference, the article written by Quang Nguyen/ Washington Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce (WaVA) is re-posted below. It was published in the International Examiner–a local newspaper–on page 5 of Volume 36, number 15 (August 5-18, 2009).
http://www.iexaminer.org/archives/2009/3615/3615lsta.html (Inactive link)

This reference is related to our following essays:

A Rebuttal (Bài phản biện tiếng Anh):

Letter to the International Examiner Editor: Little Saigon Asks the Mayor to Walk The Talk — A response to Quang Nguyen’s article

A Rebuttal in Vietnamese (Bài phản biện tiếng Việt):

“Thư gởi chủ bút báo International Examiner”

A letter to the second-generation Vietnamese Americans (Thư ngỏ Anh ngữ cho giới trẻ)

“Critical Reflection with Vietnamese Young Readers”

Little Saigon takes a Walk with the Mayor

BY QUANG NGUYEN
IE Contributor – International Examiner, Volume 36, No. 15, p. 5

Quang H. Nguyen is a community advocate and the executive director of the Washington Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce

On July 27th, something happened in Seattle’s Little Saigon that never happened before. On that hot July day, Little Saigon received its first official visit by the Mayor of Seattle. No doubt, election year politics played a role in this historic visit. Election year aside, the visit by the Mayor will have a significant impact in raising the political awareness and involvement of the Vietnamese American community in the greater Seattle Area.

Mayor Greg Nickels, left, meets with Viet Wah grocery store owner Duc Tran, right. -- International Examiner Photo, August 8 & September 2, 2008

Mayor Greg Nickels, left, meets with Viet Wah grocery store owner Duc Tran, right. -- International Examiner Photo, August 8 & September 2, 2008

In the 30-plus years since Vietnamese refugees first settled in this area, politics and political involvement in this community has been almost exclusively about anti-Communism. When it manifested itself at the local level it was usually about issues related to the South Vietnamese flag or protests against official visitors from Vietnam. However, a shift has been taking place during this decade.

It started in 2000 with small business owners along the Rainier Valley’s MLK Jr Way organizing to voice their concerns about the impacts of the light rail construction on their livelihoods. That effort was key in sparking the creation of the $50 million Rainier Valley Community Development Fund.

The community began to organize once again around the issue of the Goodwill/Dearborn Street development in 2005. This campaign represented a next-level approach to community organizing by extensively involving partners from a broad array of groups and organizations outside the Vietnamese-American community. The combined effort of this coalition succeeded in winning for the community a historic Community Benefits Agreement that included affordable housing guarantees and funding to support Little Saigon’s business district.

The Dearborn Street development eventually wilted on the vine due to the current recession. Regardless, the awareness and capacity this campaign created constitutes a solid platform for more sophisticated campaigns to be launched by the Vietnamese-American community in the future.

Copy of the original image of Quang Nguyen's article

Copy of the original image of Quang Nguyen's article

There is a cultural aversion in the Vietnamese American community to get involved politically because it is often associated with rancor, antagonism, and bitterness due to the emotional nature of the anti-Communism discourse. However, there is also a strong countervailing cultural impulse in this community to organize and fight injustice. This impulse stretches back two thousand years with Viet tribesmen fighting the mighty Han Dynasty of China to retain their sovereignty; and it manifested in the 19th and early 20th century, in the campaigns against the French Colonialists.

As the political discourse within the Vietnamese-American community move beyond anti-Communism, this impulse will play an important part in getting people involved in the political process. Issues that will likely get traction in this community are: land-use and development, economic development (small business support), and social services (elderly and youth programs).

There is little doubt that the Vietnamese American community will become more involved in local, state, and national politics in the near future. The biggest challenge however is whether, as a group, they can develop a common vision and platform. Vietnamese are notoriously consensus-averse. Look at the Vietnamese community and you’ll find a dizzying array of groups and organizations. These groups and organizations were started because many of their founders had disagreements and could not reach a compromise with their previous associations. Whatever happens, Mayor Nickels’ visit is like drinking a political double tall espresso…it will kick-start the political awareness of many in this community.

Vietnamese translated version (Bản dịch tiếng Việt)

OUR ESSAYS in related to this newspaper essay:

A Rebuttal (Bài phản biện tiếng Anh):

Letter to the International Examiner Editor: Little Saigon Asks the Mayor to Walk The Talk — A response to Quang Nguyen’s article

A Rebuttal in Vietnamese (Bài phản biện tiếng Việt):

“Thư gởi chủ bút báo International Examiner”

A letter to the second-generation Vietnamese Americans (Thư ngỏ Anh ngữ cho giới trẻ)

“Critical Reflection with Vietnamese Young Readers”

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