Archive for January, 2016

The year 2015 will be remembered in the history books for being epic in so many ways: from politics with the GOP circus clowns like Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio who proved that the American thirst for “blood sport” of reality TV is infinite; to the #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) and the deep racial divides in this country as police authorities go unchecked and the lives of POC (People of Color) remain less than equal of protection under our laws.

Across the globe women leaders made history as Aung San Suu Kyi won her election in Myanmar, 20 years after she was under house arrest; Saudi Arabian women got their chance to vote and the stalwart German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was voted Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” for her unwavering leadership in graciously receiving 800,000 Syrian refugees fleeing man-made carnage in their homeland.

Showbiz had many firsts with Viola Davis winning her Emmy and making some hard statements in her acceptance speech about gender and racial inequity in Hollywood.  Little by little, we watched as more POCs faces appeared on prime-time television: Fresh Off the Boat gave us fresh stories and Asian faces telling Asian-American family recent-immigrant stories that began to scratch the surface of racism in America.  The latest Netflix series, Master of None, is applauded as “brilliant” wherein writer/director/comedic actor Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang are bringing immigrant-American stories and struggles into mainstream dialogue and social consciousness.

Here in our Diasporic VietnAmerica (both USA and Canada), we saw a great deal of ‘firsts’ and incredibly gifted, talented and dedicated young, recent immigrant Americans push the envelope to make a difference.  So, on this NYE-2015, I thought I’d make #Mai own list of Top 30 of the 2015 Vietnamese-American Hero(in)es who inspired me and who set the stage for boundless possibilities in 2016.

Disclaimer: “Top Lists” are innately problematic because they require people/items to be ranked by a subjective judge(s).   This entails human ‘subjectivity’ which are always fraught with emotion and biases. As this is my blog at La OCVietAmMD.com, I am forthright and unabashed to admit, I *heart* ALL these peeps who made this list and I voted for them, with a committee of ‘one!’  But after reading about them, you’d agree they are all deserving of this and much more accolades!

That said, here we go:

#30:  Julie Thu Võ:  

In 2015, Julie quit her ‘stable’ job at MOMS-OC (a non-profit that serves under-served mothers and helps them identify resources, opportunities to gain skills and become better moms and caregivers for their newborns and families).  After years at MOMS, Julie wanted to stretch her many skills and capacities and took a new position as Development Manager for Environmental Charter Schools (ECS) in Los Angeles that focuses on innovation, creativity and earth-friendly “green” sustainability.  ECS delivers vibrant, innovative, interdisciplinary learning opportunities using the environment to engage students and connect them to the wider world.

Why is this such a big deal? Well if you knew our Julie “emJuJu” you’d know she is at times a quiet heroine taking care of her young-at-heart-mom who is thriving after having a stroke at a relatively young age (< 50 years old).  She is also a long-time mentor for Project Motivate, a non-profit that mentors at-risk Asian Pacific Islander youth in Orange County. She was also an important mentor in creating Common Ground (photo above) which translates in Việt as “Sân Chơi Chung”… literally, “a common ground/space to play.”  Common Ground meets monthly (usually on a Thursday) and is a ‘safe open space’ for young artists looking to find their voices in their chosen arts media: spoken-word, music, theater arts, film or whatever!

She also dedicates herself to an incredibly prolific and dedicated non-profit Vietnamese-American Arts and Letters Association Board (VAALA) which now hosts an annual Viet Film Fest (VFF).  In her new job at the Environmental Charter School, Julie enriches the creative curriculum and shapes young minds.  You, GO, emJuJu!

#29:  Ngọc H. Nguyễn, J.D., Esquire: 


My fellow lunatic sol-sista  in August 2015 won her pitch as part of the MIT Entrepreneur Bootcamp.  This intensive 5-day MIT Bootcamp was like an incubator-conference to refine and advance her disruptive innovative idea to start a business.  She was among an elite group of brilliant change-makers who collaborated to refine a business idea.  Thereafter, in usual Ngọc-esque style, she went on to travel the globe, spreading her special rays of sunshine and touching lives, meanwhile trying to advance Restorative Justice.  Ngọc (and hubby Seth) ơi, you both inspire me to dream big, care bigger and believe that I CAN make those caring, big dreams come true.  2016 is truly going to be a big year for all of us!

#28 Tanya Hoàng Bội Ngọc: Tanya TU y Yo. 10.18.15

In 2015, Tanya Bội Ngọc Hoàng came out of her self-imposed semi-retirement and got back into the workforce consulting with a company to help them improve their HR and revenue stream.  That’s not what makes her my 2015 Heroine of note.  She is the consummate friend to all who are lucky to be in her universe–always ready, willing and able to churn home-made, full fat ice-cream to help a dear friend battling metastatic cancer ‘fatten up.’  Or come to the rescue of a girlfriend having a major recurrent mental health crisis, at a drop of a dime to organize her home office, house and life.  On the community level, she has volunteered her grace, time and beauty to help co-emcee SAP-VN (Social Assistance Program to Việt Nam)’s Gift of Hope Gala Fundraiser for many years.  Tanya, the universe is a brighter place because you are a brilliant star in it!  I love you, gal!

#27 Tam Nguyen, MD, MBA and his family’s Advanced Beauty College, opened their much-anticipated second beauty college in Laguna Hills in September 2015.

Most everyone in Orange County knows Dr. Tâm Nguyễn. His family’s iconic “American Dream” story has been featured widely in mainstream newspapers, television and mass media.  Upon fulfilling his parents’ dream of graduating medical school to become a “medical doctor,” Tâm bequeathed them his MD degree.  He then asked to take over the family’s small business: to expand and run their successful beauty school. (Pictured above is the matriarch behind the Advanced Beauty College’s success: Mrs. Kiên-Tâm Nguyễn, who was also profiled in last summer’s vIetnAMese fOCus (IAMOC) exhibit that runs until March 2016 at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana).

Since taking it over, Tâm, MBA, together with his sister, Linh Nguyễn have revolutionized the beauty school industry.  They teach their hundreds of students ‘best practices,’ empower them to protect themselves against health hazards of nail products, as well as teach their students entrepreneurial skills to succeed after graduation.

Aside from masterminding business expansion, Tâm is meticulously involved in the business and development of his hometown, Fountain Valley.  Serving on the Parent Teacher Association of the FV School District, he also lobbies in Sacramento for our children’s education.  He is also a champ of a father, helping to coach his son’s sports teams and always makes time to be a dutiful husband and son to his aging parents.  Tâm, my dear dharma brother, you ARE da man!

# 26 Dr. Sĩ Văn Nguyễn, MD: pathologist and long time women’s health champion.

As the College of Pathologists (CAP) Foundation’s “Physician of the Year” in 2014, Dr. Sĩ used his prize money to purchase this Mercedes-Benz van and converted it into a mobile pathology lab.  Inside, he has everything he needs to perform important histologic testing to diagnose anything from cervical to breast cancer.  Dr. Sĩ is passionate about women’s health and for years has partnered with CAP Foundation to develop community health programs to help outreach hard-to-reach women patients.

This year, I was honored to work with Dr. Sĩ Văn Nguyễn in the capacity of then Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Viet Namese of Orange County’s Southland Health Center (VNCOC-SHC).  Together, we garnered a CAP Foundation grant and hosted an awesome  See Test & Treat Women’s Health Fair on 11/14/22.  STTx offered free PAP smears, with a full-service pathology team on site, processing the Pap smears wtihin a 2 hour turn-around.  Additionally, we recruited 3 gynecologists on site to perform colposcopy for the women who had abnormal Paps and offered follow-up care.  While they waited for the 2 hours for their Pap results, these 50 women and their families had option to get free digital mammograms, dexa bone scans to rule out breast cancer and osteoporosis.  Given it’s strong success of this year’s STTx, there is no doubt that Dr Sĩ’s pathology mobile van will be busy and running into 2016 and beyond!

#25 Thành Ngọc Nguyễn: 

Fearless co-founder and president of Social Assistance Program to Việt Nam (SAP-VN) for over 20 years.  This year, anh Thành’s many decades dedication to the very unfortunate of Vietnam (those born with orthopedic birth defects in the most impoverished and hardest hit areas of our quê hương) as fearless leader of SAP-VN as well as has over 25 years of dedication as a culturally competent math teacher at La Quinta High School was recognized at this year’s Viet fOCus Art Exhibit hosted by UCI’s Fab 5: Professor Linda Võ, Trâm Lê, Dr. Thúy Võ-Đặng and artistes extraordinaires, Trinh Mai Thạch and James Định (to be expanded later).

I have known anh Thành since 1988, when he served as one of the earliest humanitarian aid volunteers with Project Ngọc-UCI, a 10 year student refugee advocacy organization, back in the day.  He has a servant’s heart but more so, he is eloquent, gracious and nimble in leading others to step up and do more, to help those in need.  I am looking forward to joining “Forces” with TeamSAP-VN in August 2016, to assist with your Mobil Health Clinic in our beloved quê-hương, anh Thành!

#24 Dr. Bích Liên Nguyễn, MD: 

Founder of Vietnamese American Cancer Foundation (VACF), the esteemed Dr. Bích Liên Nguyễn, was also honored in a larger-than-life sized tapestry poster at same vIệtnAM fOCus (#IamOC) Art Exhibit.  Dr. Bích Liên has been a champion for women’s breast and cervical cancer along with early liver cancer detection with Hepatitis B and C screening in our Vietnamese American community for decades.  This year, she got some due respect and acknowledgement in Viet fOCus but she has been serving patients and community health for decades.

# 23 Jenny Do, Esq.: lawyer, humanitarian, artist.  In 2015, a San Jose City Council candidate and recurrent, metastatic breast cancer survivor 

There are not enough words to express the public love and support for this sister-soldier.  For decades, as the founder of Friends of Huế Foundation (FHF), a non-profit serving women and children of Huế, the former imperial ancient city in Central Việt Nam and of the famous Áo Dài Festival in Northern California (to raise funds for her FHF), Jenny has been beloved by thousands of fans and supporters throughout the globe.  In fall of 2015, she went very public with her diagnosis of recurrent, late-stage breast cancer–a devastating diagnosis that led to her withdrawing from her competitive bid for San Jose City Council public service.

Since that announcement, it seems like all of VietnAmerica has been galvanized to lend public prayers, love and support to help  Jenny fight for her life–a life so fully lived in the creation of art, beauty and always, mindful to serve others in need. We love you, Jenny!  In 2016, we will walk with you, as you live your life full of #Hope #Dreams and #Mindfulness, reminding each of us how very precious and ethereal everyday truly is.

For more info regarding Jenny’s non-profit: http://www.FriendsofHue.org

#22 Quinn (Hoa) Trần, CEO of American Red Cross of Santa Clara County.


Chị Quinn is the “quin”tessential (pun fully intended) ViệtnAmerican womyn-warrior: beautiful, smart, compassionate on the outside, tough as nails on the inside.  There were many, many unfortunate disasters in 2015.  In the wake of the fires in Lake County (north of our former hometown of Napa), she helped to coordinate relief efforts.  When tragedy struck internationally for millions of refugees in Europe, Myanmar and Syria, etc… chị Quinn was there leading relief efforts.  Always acting locally while thinking globally, chị Quinn constantly inspires me to do more.

On the personal note, chị Quinn is my go-to-gal when I have a community health project idea.  She is the best of the best chị-2 (older sisters) whom many of us close-knit do-gooder gal-pals call upon to ask for ‘straight talk’ and sisterly advice.  Plus, she has the Rolodex and resources to help a girl make her dreams come true.  She is also made semi-famous by Bay Area photographer, Hải Hồ, who always manages to capture her best in one of her haute coutured áo dàis (above she is in a sheer black áo dài at a fundraiser hosted by gal-pal do-gooder, Jenny Đỗ).  Thank you, for all you do, Chị Quinn!

#21 Associate Professor Tú-Uyên Ngọc Nguyen, PhD, MPH teaches Asian-American Studies at CSU-Fullerton and conducts Asian-Am public health research, focusing on women’s and minority health.


Anyone who is touched by Dr. Tú-Uyên knows she is grace under fire and a cannon of energy and brilliance in a petite package.  Like her fellow womyn-warrior academic Dr. Kiều-Linh, in January 2016, Dr. Tú-Uyên will lead a delegation from her Cal-State University-Fullerton to forge an exchange student program in Việt Nam.  Dr. Tú-Uyên not only teaches Asian-American studies at CSUF, she is also the primary investigator for a $1.5M federal grant to creatively impact obesity and improve student performance for at-risk, disadvantaged Asian Pacific Islander students at Magnolia High School in the Anaheim School District.

She also serves with passion and compassion on 2 non-profit boards:  OCAPICA (Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance) and the VAALA.  At VAALA, Tú-Uyên dedicates many many hours to their prolific art, film, literary programs throughout the year.  For me personally, she has been a beacon of light and sisterhood since the 1980s.  I could not imagine a world without this wonderful heroine!  It would be like having no sun in our universe.

#20  Professor Caroline Kiều Linh Valverde, PhD teaches Asian American Studies at UC-Davis.

Professor Kiều Linh next to Grammy winner Jay King of Club Nouveau and HCMC official, Mr. Cảnh during her November 2015 UC-Davis delegation to HCMC and Hà Nội.

Professor Kiều Linh next to Grammy winner Jay King of Club Nouveau and HCMC official, Mr. Cảnh during her November 2015 UC-Davis delegation to HCMC and Hà Nội.

In 2015, she lead of delegation of academics from UCD to both Hà Nội and Hồ Chi Minh City (HCMC), Việt Nam to build a sister-program in our beloved quê-hương for future generations of students interested in learning about Việt nam.  This will become an ‘exchange student’ experience–in a country that just 20 years ago, normalized “hot” and Cold War relations with the U.S.A.  Programs such as these are possible in this 21st Century between two former 20th century adversaries because way before 1995 US-Vietnam’s normalizations, Dr. Kiều-Linh was doing her graduate student work in the homeland, documenting and writing about life under the communist regime. For almost a decade, I have known this fearless intellectual who is always pushing her undergraduate students to question authority and paradigms.  In this year of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we are all so very lucky that Dr. Kiều Linh is there in the community asking the hard questions of authority and living an example of why (mixed) race relations are important, relevant and urgent in the post-Obama era.

#19 Professor Việt Thanh Nguyễn, PhD, USC English professor and author of his debut novel, The Sympathizer, that in 2015, won many awards, accolades and year-end Book Review “Top 20 Bests.”

Viet_Sympathizer w VAALAmily_4.10.15

Seen here at the Loft Literary Center (Minneapolis, MN) with def-jam spoken word(smith) artist, Bảo Phi, May 2015

Seen here at the Loft Literary Center (Minneapolis, MN) with def-jam spoken word(smith) artist, Bảo Phi, May 2015

In the 40th year of Vietnamese in the Diaspora, Dr. Việt gave eloquent voice to our collective refugee experiences, sharing intimate details of his and his brother’s (now a physician at UCSF Medical Center) refugee experience outta ‘Nam in April 1975.  How cool to discover that both the Drs. Việt and Tùng Nguyễn were processed at the same refugee camp in Indian Town Gap, PA as my family (and that of Dr. Bích Liên Nguyễn) in the summer of 1975.  Thus proving that our stories are ever so interwoven and interconnected–then, as now!

#18 Cần Trương, subject of the documentary film, Can, by NY-based filmmaker, Pearl Ji-Hyon Park, which won the Việt Film Fest 2015’s Audience Choice Award.

VFF_Can Screening.4.18.15

Q&A Session with community and mental health advocates along with “Can” filmmakers, Pearl Ji-Hyon Park and Xuân Vũ

Can is a landmark film that follows over 3  years, the struggles of Cần who suffered crippling bipolar depression.  The film is so powerful because Cần so courageously allowed filmmaker Pearl Park intimate access to his family’s prevalent refugee immigrant experiences and candid interviews.  He also boldly speaks out against the culturally-incompetent U.S.mental healthcare system played a major part in his ‘failure to recover and thrive’ in the US, despite being a highly intelligent, ‘model minority’ Asian-American scholar.

Cần at Paramount Studios in August 2012, attending the SAMHSA conference (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) VOICE conference.

Cần at Paramount Studios in August 2012, attending the “Voice Conference” hosted by SAMHSA  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

Cần’s survival (and now his thriving) life is an inspiration to all of those in Asian-America who struggle to find hope, strength and sustainable health (and healthcare) in this second homeland for their complicated mental health conditions–“complicated” by the context of a violent war and difficult refugee assimilation processes wrought with racism, bullying, and culturally-incompetent educational and healthcare systems.  For me as a primary and mental health provider, this film was transformative.  Thank you, Cần Trương, for your light, your deep love for those suffering mental health conditions and your compassion to so bravely share your story.  Congratulations on your sustained wellness, off medications for over a decade and now, on your important spiritual journey, dedicated to helping so many others heal!  I salute you, sư-phụ!

#17 Sol-sistas Huỳnh Thanh Thảo (the subject) of the award-winning documentary, Thảo’s Library, by NYC-based actor, filmmaker, writer, director, producer and humanitarian, Elizabeth Van Meter of the Purpose Project. 


Read the above succinct review in the Seattle Times and go see the film. (Available for purchase after January 2016 at your local Walmart, compliments of winning the grand prize at the Bentonville Film Festival–a festival founded by Gina Davis, highlighting women stories or films made by female filmmakers: that’s right, gals!)

Forty years after the “end of the Việt Nam” war, both Thảo and Elizabeth poignantly remind us that the wounds of war last long, long after the troops  have withdrawn out of ‘Nam.

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Thảo suffers (on an epigenetic, physiologic-level) crippling deformities caused by the millions of tons of Agent Orange sprayed on our countryside.  Elizabeth, suffered crippling Major Depression, after her famous younger sister, aka “the youngest aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean” committed suicide. Elizabeth’s transformative, healing story in search of Thảo (a crippled girl in a wheelchair in a photo) sent her on a Quixotic quest that would change both their lives–and ours. Congratulations, Elizabeth for winning the coveted Bentonville Film Festival Grand Prize! This award took your film around the nation, and brought you to us.  We look forward to seeing this film soar at 2016’s Việt Film Fest.  Your sister must be so proud, up in heaven.  🙂

#16 Quí Nguyễn, award-winning NYC-based playwriter for his stunning opus magnum, VietGone: an eloquent, brilliant yet hipster screenplay that jumbled the best and worst of being ViệtnAmericanese post-April, 1975.

Kudos to the genius that is Quí Nguyễn!  We are waiting with bated breath for sequels #2 and #3, derived from the rich and fertile materials brought to you by the audacious Vietnamese Oral History Project (VAOHP) housed in the newly inaugurated Orange County South East Asian Archives at our alma mater, University of California-Irvine.  Can I have a shout out and a Zot! Zot! for both playwriter Quí and UCI’s VAOHP!?

#15 Sophie Bảo Trân Trần: Little Saigon TV (LSTV) reporter, business owner, runway model, and essentially, the face of VietnAmerica’s Generation-Nexters in Little Saigon-OC.

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Quite frankly, there are few community events where one will NOT find our beautiful and talented Sophie Bảo-Trân, usually donning an haute coutured áo dài, high fashion outfit or looking hipster in a Vogue ‘casual outfit.’  Seriously, she can even make a #Walk4Refugees fundraiser look glam with her “S” pose she taught me in October (see photo above).

But 2015 was when Little Saigon benefited from Sophie’s creativity as she produced and launched her innovative, new TV show on LSTV, “What’s UP? with Sophie.”  On this TV platform, Sophie is able to invite all kinds of community celebrities, change-makers, businesswomen and men to come on her show to give them a platform to tell their stories, educate, entertain and most importantly, empower our Viet-Am Community with grace, style, eloquence and youthful beauty and creativity!

I appreciate you, emgáiđẹpvàgiỏi Sophie!  Rain or shine, you are OUT there/here doing your level best to represent the younger generation and giving back to your beloved VietnAmerica.  May 2016 bring you great joy and success as you become a “Mrs.” and continue to soar!

#14 MyMy Phạm of VNTV and SBTN Việt-language news reporter, full-time social worker getting her Master’s degree in Social Work meanwhile, a dedicated, budding filmmaker and Fulbright-National Geographic Digital-Storytelling Fellowship candidate (and my mentee 🙂 !).

MyMy Pham_LDVN USS Midway_5.11.15

In the year when everyone was telling our Vietnamese American stories, the most notable one was by female filmmaker, Rory Kennedy.  The acclaimed and Oscar-nominated Last Days in Việt Nam was a valiant attempt by a non-Việtnamese filmmaker.  However, to many Asian American studies academics and critics, this film was far too simplistic and way too ‘appropriated’ a narrative about our collective 150,000 Vietnamese escape out of Vietnam, in the final days of the War in April 1975.  However, thanks to the courageous and rogue efforts of many soldiers (both the Việt and American military men/women), my family and that of about 150,000 super ‘lucky’ elite Vietnamese escaped as part of the U.S. Operation Frequent Wind.  We were spared living under Communist Reign of Terror for decades that followed.

I was honored to be “found” by this firecracker of a budding news and international field reporter named MyMy Phạm.  She was asked by the local public television station in San Diego, KPBS, to help identify a ‘Vietnamese American (preferably female) hometown hero(ine)’.

As karma would have it, MyMy ‘found’ me in the heart of Little Saigon through a mutual friend, Garden Grove Councilman, Chris Phan.  MyMy then invited me to represent the Vietnamese community for a very special screening of Kennedy’s “Last Days in Viet Nam” aboard the U.S.S. Midway, the ship that rescued my family on April 29, 1975.  What an incredibly memorable event that was, MyMy!  Thank you for finding me and for giving my family a lasting memory to pass down to posterity.

Since that May 2015, screening, MyMy’s career continues to take flight. She then had the audacity to REACH higher than she ever thought possible and applied for the coveted Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.  Together–2 sisters, hand-in-hand, MyMy and I gave it the best we got to garner this honor.  I have yet to hear if she got this 1 year fellowship that would take her around the world to capture and document little-known stories of quiet and unsuspecting heroes in her 3 Asian countries of choice: Cambodia, South Korea and Việt Nam.

Take a look at this YouTube digital portfolio and tell me you didn’t just fall in love with MyMy?!

In 2016, whether you are a Fulbright-Nat Geo fellow or not, I have no doubt you will speed into orbit, my lovely sister.  Much love and all the best, emgáiđẹpvàgiỏicủachịMP!

#13 Nancy Bùi of the Texas-based Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation and Executive Producer of VietnAmerica, a much more nuanced and culturally-competent documentary that premiered  at the Saigon Performing Arts Center on May 17, 2015 in Little Saigon-Orange County.

VietnAmerica screening_Nancy Bui_5.30.15

Like yours truly, cô Nancy has as she so admitted “zero” experience as an Executive Producer of a formidable documentary telling the stories of several Vietnamese Americans and the struggles we all face with War, Love, Loss, Forgiveness and mental health trauma as a result of our collective refugee experiences.  As an important counterpoint to Rory Kennedy’s film, VietnAmerica is a must-see for those who are interested in a more culturally-competent and accurate, first-person narrative of our collective Vietnamese-American experience.

Cô Nancy Bui is also credited with self-funding-raising and compiling (out of her own passion to document and archive) over 500 video oral histories of Vietnamese Americans around the country.  This is her mission and this is her cause at the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to “the preservation, promotion and celebration of Vietnamese American history and heritage for present and future generations of ViệtAmericans.

For more info, visit: www. VietnameseAmerican.org or http://www.Facebook.com/VietAmerica.

#12 Thanh Tân, staff writer for Seattle Times, multi-media journalist and consultant for many different outlets, who comes from a long lineage of community activists.  She has garnered 2 Emmy Awards for her multi-media journalistic works at Idaho Public Television, as well as reported and reported for multi-media projects at the Texas Tribune, in Austin. In short, she can do it ALL, in journalism!

In 2015 for our 40th Anniversary of the “end” of The Vietnam War, The Seattle Times featured a powerful retrospective penned by the word-smithing and ever-truthful Thanh Tân unearthing the little spoken about ‘war amongst each other’ that Vietnamese are acculturated to do so ‘naturally.’  Check these links below out and read for yourselves:


and then there’s this one:


and this final one:  http://www.seattletimes.com/2015/04/refugees-face-greater-challenges-today/

Can you tell I am a HUGE fan of this lady’s writing?  Giving voice to the voiceless with a personal ‘soft spot’ for past and present refugee-immigrant experiences, in this historic year for global refugee exoduses.  It’s hard to find anyone else in VietnAmerica who does it better.

To your writing and multi-media journalistic success(es) in 2016 and beyond, #QueenThanhTân!  xoxo 🙂

#11 Định, James Định (NOT to be confused with #007)?!  Architect extraordinaire but lesser known as the quiet and unassuming VAALA ‘secret weapon.’  James has served as a prolific VAALA Board Member for several years.   In 2015, James won a competitive bid to design an architectural statue to ‘represent’ our Vietnamese American contributions to Little Saigon.  When this statue is done, it will be live in the *heart* of Little Saigon-OC, at Phước Lộc Thọ aka Asian Gardens Mall.

James Dinh VietFocus_8.4.15

James is also the “Jack of All (creative, design) trades” and in this case, “the master of ALL of them!”  James is the genius behind the VAALA and Việt Film Fest logos, web and poster designs.  He orchestrates and engineers all of VAALA’s incredible year-long programs from the well-attended Việt Film Fest in April; to their awe-inspiring vIetnAMese fOCus (IamOC) Exhibit running from summer 2015 until March 2016.  From VAALA’s annual favorite tradition, the Children’s Moon Festival in September to their many art exhibits throughout the year, James makes ‘magic’ happen such that VAALA can realize it’s motto and mission: “Make Art. Build Community.”

VAALA ended 2015 with their breath-taking 40 Hues between Black and White Art Exhibit at the Orange County Contemporary Art Museum in Santa Ana, at the end of December 2015.  40 Hues commemorated and reflected on the diverse mixed media art works of Vietnamese Americans in the last 40 years in the Diaspora.

#10 Trâm Lê, Associate Director of UC-Irvine’s important, timely and progressive Vietnamese America Oral History Project (VAOHP).


My countdown to #1 ViệtnAmerican of 2015 continues…  Coming up next: the “Top 10 of 2015!”  Stay tuned, friends!


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