Monday, January 26, 2009

The Vietnamese-Americans in San Jose & Their Politics (Part I of III)

Part I - How many events and shows can one attend?

From the outside looking in, it must have been very confusing to the white folks of San Jose for there are so many events and organizations in community that is still considered to be on the fringe by the white media and white politicians.

Every weekend, there are last 2 - 3 community events to attend. Every association has its own special events at least 2-3 times a year. And there are alot of the associations. There are the Overseas Vietnamese Women's Association, the Northern California Vietnamese-American Association, the Former Political Prisoners' Association, the Association of Vietnamese Policeman, the Association of Vietnamese Veteran, the Association of Vietnamese Officers and Generals and so on so forth. LSI, by just scanning the dozen or so weekly newspapers/magazines in the community, can pull out at least 4 dozens major associations in San Jose ranging from high school alumni to college alumni (Vietnamese high schools and colleges of course), home province associations to professional associations (Mostly doctors, dentists and pharmacists) and the more interesting one is the Youth Association for the Promotion and Protection of the Freedom Flag.

There are hardcore political parties with the goal of overthrowing the Vietnamese government to bring freedom and democracy. Some of the well known ones are headed by Hoang the Dan and Dr. Ngai Nguyen. The one directed by Hoang the Dan is simply known as "The Liberation Front". The People's Party of Vietnam has Dr. Ngai Nguyen as its Vice Chairman. Both these people are strong supporters of the besieged Councilwoman Madison Nguyen.

The younger folks also have their associations from VABA (Vietnamese-American Bar Associations), VACET (Computer and engineer) to VSVN (mostly for hi-tech entrepeneurs). Among them are the more civic minded with their nonprofit foundations like VN-HELP, ICAN, Viet Ecology Foundation and Friends of Hue which focus most of their work in improving the quality of life inVietnam.

The two people in city council who know these associations well of course are Mayor Chuck Reed and former Vice-Mayor Dave Cortese. They have spent so much time at these events in the last 8 years that it is expected by the community to see them show up with their traditional Vietamese dress (ao dai) and pay homage at the ancestral altars along with city commendation certificates. Matter of fact, Reed's scheduler when he was still representing District 4 lamented:" He spent an exorbant amount time with the Vietnamese community! His schedules were always booked with Vietnamese events on weekends."

Unless you are a Vietnamese-American, it would be impossible to understand how a community this relatively small can have so many events every weekend. Just to show how vibrant the community is, LSI went back and counted how many major musical shows in San Jose in 2006. These were professional shows with ticket price ranging from $35 to $100. A total of 78 shows were advertised in newspapers in 2006. This is an astounding number since most shows only performed on weekends.

When it comes to Tet, the bigger associations would have their own celebrations with music, arts and crafts, food and fire crackers. But the two main attractions are at the "Fair Ground" on Tully and the "Tet Festival Parade" in downtown. The "Fair Ground" decided to fold its event after 27 years. Even though they tried to revive it this year on a smaller scale but the cost was too prohibitive to continue for next year. The "Tet Festival Parade" is the biggest one with at least 50,000 people attending with every elected official in the city (including some from the county) showing off their New Year's wave and smile. However, it is also in financial difficulty. With limited sponsorship this year, it would be very challenging for the organizer since they have always providing free entertainment and subsidize the booth costs.

Part II - The Political Connection

Part III - The Savvy, the Manipulator and the Fringe Benefitor

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