On April 13, the Tufts Vietnamese Students Club (VSC) commemorated the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnamese American War with an event in the Alumnae Lounge at 7:00 p.m. featuring speakers who highlighted both past and present issues.
The event, which was co-sponsored by the Asian American Alliance, United for Immigrant Justice, the Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora, the Department of Sociology, the Department of Anthropology, the Asian American Center and the Diversity Fund, was the VSC’s final event in a series of events commemorating the struggles and strength of Vietnamese-Americans, both past and present.
VSC Freshman Representative Leanna Pham and VSC Culture Chair Steven Tran, both first-year students, noted that VSC wanted to diverge from typically explored perspectives in order to share contemporary issues surrounding the resiliency of Vietnamese-Americans.
According to Pham and Tran, VSC wanted to open the event to the Tufts community in order to promote awareness about the Vietnamese American diaspora and enhance VSC’s campus social presence.
The group also wanted to allow anyone identifying as Vietnamese-American an outlet to discuss past history and present concerns.
“In the Vietnamese culture, struggles and hardships are not talked about; our families do not really talk about their experiences after the war, and with this event, we hope to have a discussion on the past experiences that many try to conceal,” Pham and Tran explained in an email to the Daily.
VSC invited Loan Dao, assistant professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Chrys Tran, a current student at Brown University as keynote speakers.
Dao spoke both of present concerns facing the Vietnamese-American community at the local and national level and about the immigrant experience in the United States.
“[She] recounted her initial resettlement in the United States and discussed the immigration of Southeast Asians since 1975 … and focused on how immigrants have tried to find an identity and role within American society,” Pham and Tran said.
Dao’s areas of expertise include immigrant and refugee youth, Vietnamese and Southeast Asian refugee migration and community development, community-based participatory research and social movements. In her keynote, she explored common struggles these groups face, issues with which many in the audience were able to identify, according to Pham and Tran.
“The most striking aspect of her talk was the way in which she used her refugee story as the backbone of her keynote, where she explored the struggles of the Vietnamese people and the common experiences that many refugee and immigrant families had,” Pham and Tran said.
In addition to Dao’s talk, Tran shared their experiences through spoken word poetry.
“[Tran’s work] focuses on trauma, memory and how the historical influences the contemporary,” Pham and Tran said.
“[Tran’s] performance was very relevant to many Vietnamese-Americans and the Asian American experience,” they added. “Their spoken word focused on the Vietnamese American war and the lasting effects it had on their life and family.”
Overall, the event was successful in commemorating Vietnamese-American experiences, according to Pham and Tran.
“We enjoyed learning about our people and our beautiful history,” they said. “At this event, our experiences felt more shared and we were able to connect our seemingly personal stories to those of a greater experience.”