Friday, July 25, 2008

Duc Nguyen Interview with Seattle's KBCS

During our trip to Seattle for a fundraiser to benefit Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Irene Noguchi of KBCS's One World Report interviewed me about Bolinao 52.  Here is the link to the audio of the interview broadcast on July 24, 2008.  

Click to listen or download full story (by right-click, save target as)

The Bolinao 52
In 1988, a boat of Vietnamese refugees found themselves stranded on the ocean. A U.S. naval ship refused to pick them up, and without food and water, the refugees began turning to more desperate means to survive. When Duc Nguyen heard the story, he decided to turn this intense journey into a movie. The director screened his documentary of the boat people, called Bolinao 52, in Seattle last week to help raise money for a new building for the International District-based organization Asian Counseling and Referral Service. Irene Noguchi spoke with Nguyen at his hotel on Sunday, and found out why this story is so personal to him. 
Producer: Irene Noguchi 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger

As bill AB2064 moves to the governor's desk, the campaign to get this bill passed is focused on the governor himself. Following is letter from me. Using the template circulating by Southeast Asia Resource Action Center and Assemblyman Juan Arambula's office, I inserted some of my personal input. I recommend you to add your personal stories. Here are the addresses you can send the letter to:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capital Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
916-445-2841 Phone
916-558-3160 FAX

District Offices:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Fresno Office
2550 Mariposa Mall #3013
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: 559-445-5295
Fax: 559-445-5328

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Los Angeles Office
300 South Spring Street
Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-897-0322
Fax: 213-897-0319

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Riverside Office
3737 Main Street #201
Riverside, CA 92501
Phone: 951-680-6860
Fax: 951-680-6863

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
San Diego Office
1350 Front Street
Suite 6054
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-525-4641
Fax: 619-525-4640

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
San Francisco Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue
Suite 14000
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-703-2218
Fax: 415-703-2803

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Washington D.C. Office
134 Hall of the States
444 North Capitol Street NW
Washington D.C. 20001
Phone: 202-624-5270
Fax: 202-624-5280


The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capital Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I am writing in strong support of Assembly Bill 2064, which would require the State Board of Education to ensure that the history-social science framework and instructional materials include instruction on the Vietnam War, including the “Secret War” in Laos, the role of Southeast Asians in that war, and the refugee/immigrant/new American experience as a result of the war.

Throughout the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, many courageous Southeast Asians including many Hmong, Lao, and Mien people were actively recruited and trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to take up arms against the communist regime in support of U.S. national security objectives—this was known as the “Secret War” in Laos. In 1975, after the U.S. pulled out of Southeast Asia, groups who allied with the U.S. faced life-threatening hardships and persecution, forcing them to flee their homes as refugees. Many of these Southeast Asian communities are now residing in countries around the world, and throughout the U.S. where California is home to the largest Southeast Asian American population numbering well over 700,000 (2000 Census). Southeast Asian Americans continue to be integral contributors to the cultural, civic and economic well-being of California and the U.S.

As a Vietnamese American and former refugee from Vietnam, I strongly feel that it is essential to have our voices and stories told in educational setting to allow more understanding of Southeast Asian history. Therefore, I have dedicated several years of my life to make a documentary to preserve the history of the Vietnamese boat people. The documentary, “BOLINAO 52,” has been broadcast on the San Francisco Bay Area PBS stations and international film festivals. We are slating to be broadcast the film on national PBS stations this coming May. We received many praises and gratitude for the significance of this film. It allowed children to understand their parents’ struggle. And parents could relate their stories to children. Here is a comment from a young viewer: “It's very touching even though it's hard to listen to this kind of story. My parents were boat people, and my mom used to tell us stories of how "life" was on the boat, but I think I was too young to really grasp the gravity of the situation.” As a person who worked in the entertainment industry for so many years, I’m sure you realize how important stories are to people’s lives. I’m including the DVD of the film along several news clips and written materials about the documentary. I hope you get a chance to see what it took for some of us to be here. So I urge you to sign this bill into law. It is a right thing to do.

Given that Southeast Asians are one of the fastest growing populations in California, we must craft our schools' curriculum to convey their history, including the events that ultimately forced them to flee their countries as refugees. California students, including American-born Southeast Asians, need to be taught about the sacrifices these groups have made to ensure the security and prosperity of the U.S. Furthermore, research shows that embracing native language, traditions and histories—also known as culturally-based teaching—increases student success and aids in reducing the achievement gap between students of color, including Southeast Asian Americans, and their peers.

The next framework update will begin in 2009, so it is extremely important that you sign this bill when it reaches your desk. Your signature this year will ensure no real costs to California for including this vital part of our history in the 2009 curriculum framework update.

I strongly urge you to sign AB 2064 this year.


Duc Nguyen

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bolinao 52 in Seattle

The first appearance in the Pacific Northwest for Bolinao 52 brought warm reception and strong bonding with the Asian local community.  We were invited by Chris Tran, an event coordinator, to Seattle for a fundraiser to benefit Asian Counseling and Referral Service,  ACRS, in its 35th year, was set up to provide services for Asian Pacific community in and around the Seattle area. They provide programs that assist primary low-income, immigrant, refugee, American born Asians and Pacific Islanders.  ACRS helps their clients in various programs to attain the highest level of self-sufficiency in western society, while maintaining their cultural identity.
The screening took place at the Seattle Town Hall, an old converted church in downtown Seattle.  Guests speakers such as Salman Rushdie, Robert Sheer and Cindy Sheehan passed though here.  Without flashy, modern decor and
 stylized architecture, the Town Hall held a mystic feel to it. A VIP reception started the evening with light appetizers and wine.  This event was also to commemorate the new home of ACRS, a 82,000 square feet facility in  the Rainier Valley area. I spotted the small bottles of water and wine bottles with the Bolinao 52 image on them.  Chris Tran, the detail maven, made labels from the poster of the event.  And he had the items imprinted with these labels.  I felt flattered for the details but a bit uneasy about the commercial implication.  
We had approximately 175 attended the screening.  What more significantly was the discussion portion following the film.  Almost everyone stayed and asked in depth, good questions.  The film made an impression on many people in audience which was diverse.  Some were Vietnamese Americans.  A man stood up and said he was a boat person himself and now working on a book about his own experience.  Another woman gave me a book about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome suffered by Vietnam War veterans and explained that the film does draw a correlation.  I felt that this film has something for everyone in the audience.
Me and Elisa Del Rosario, Capital Campaign Director of ACRS 
Pike Place Public Market