A Heart Song for the Grand Opening of the First Vietnamese-American Community Center in the US.
Sunny California as it is more commonly known, but today of all days, the rain poured in above the City San Jose.
Despite it all, the celebratory spirit filled the air through the sounds of raindrops on the pavement in the courtyard of Shirakawa Community Center. I see rain on my people’s wrinkled, tanned skin, grey hair and perfectly pressed clothing. My elders, who fought and waited so long to have a center they could call their own beam with pride as they shake hands to welcome the American community. It feels similar to the “Tet” I grew up with in Vietnam when we all wore our best to welcome the new year and our friends into my childhood home in Saigon.
Women and young girls are decked in colorful custom made ao dai’s, men are in dark suits, everyone was wearing a smile, except for the children who are in traditional dance costumes and look serious as they awaited their turn to put on a musical and dance performance on this important day.
City, County and State leaders from everywhere gathered here today to commemorate October, 16, 2016. Janet Nguyen, the first-Vietnamese State Senator in the United States, came from Orange County and wore white pants and a light green tweed jacket. We are honored and happy she is present along with Senator Jim Beall, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, City Councilmembers; Ash Kalra, Charles Jones, Johnny Khamis, Magdalena Carasco, Manh Nguyen and Tam Nguyen, and even Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves are here to help us celebrate.
I am seated next to Councilmember Khamis and San Jose Parks and Recreation Director, Angel Rios, in my red ao dai, a celebratory color I chose for today. I am lucky and blessed to be assigned an honored seat up front facing the audience. Looking out into a room full of Vietnamese faces, I recognize Bac Loc Vu, a well-respected member of the Vietnamese Community, among others looking at us with generous pride. This historical moment is the result of all the hard work Tam Nguyen put in to push the City to give the Vietnamese Community of over 125,000 people a place we can gather, host events, classes, and meetings on topics that matter to us. How did I get to sit there? Lucky timing. I currently serve as San Jose’s Parks and Recreation Commissioner and perhaps it is because I am wearing a red ao dai sitting amongst a sea of dark suits.
Councilmember Tam Nguyen is wearing a special jacket of a color I cannot describe. It is black yet had a sheen of green and deep blue and a stripe tie. On the first day I met him over a year ago, I remember his enthusiasm as he expressed his dream of having a Vietnamese-American Community Center and a Night Market for District 7. Today, almost 2 years since he became San Jose's councilmember, one of his dream became a reality.
Despite being swamped with producing and directing today’s events, I stopped him and asked him a single question.
Trami: “How do you feel?”
Tam: “This is absolutely historic! The Vietnamese Community, after 41 years and 2 years of hard work, we finally have a home. We can build friendships, family and community. This is a good beginning and there is still more coming in the next few years.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, he shakes my hand and quickly released it to run back to the main hall to direct the next item on the agenda. I fumbled with my iPhone to save the recording and suddenly hear the beginning of a happy Vietnamese song fill my ears, resonating through the glass windows, pouring through the halls, spilling out onto the courtyard, and filling up the rainy sky.
Have I lost my roots? Should I know this song? These questions, I hope will be better answered by our future generation who will continue to use this center to learn about our culture, to feel grounded, and to be proud of who we are. One day, they will answer, “No, I have not lost my roots, I know this song by heart, and will carry it with me for my children.”
“Tên tôi là trái tim…” (Song by Tam Nguyen)
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Trami Nguyen Cron
Founder, Chief Editor
Trami is the founder of Chopsticks Alley and author of VietnamEazy, a novel about Mothers, Daughters and Food. She is passionate about the emergence of the VietNow culture in America. As a Vietnamese-American, she created Chopsticks Alley as a platform for the younger Vietnamese generation to have a space to express their point of views about news, business, art, food, and culture. She hopes this platform will also help to unite the Vietnamese Community all over the world.