By Amanda Bang, AsAmNews Intern
Anthony Nguyen, 33, was conflicted between his career in engineering and his life-long passion for the arts in the spring of 2021. In the midst of his transition and decisions, he found Vietnamese Boat People and its annual story slam event, which helped him take a big step towards his exploration in watercolors.
“I was still working on my engineering job and I was kind of already thinking about segue into chasing after my passion, being arts,” Nguyen said. “So I just created a video and kind of found all my motivations.”
Vietnamese Boat People, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and share Vietnamese stories, began holding the Mỹ Việt Story Slam annually from May 2020. This year, the event will be held on May 4, 2022, to kick off AAPI Heritage Month.
This year’s story theme is “lost and found,” and is open to submissions until April 4, 2022.
Tracey Nguyen Mang, 44, launched Vietnamese Boat People as a way to share the heritage of her community, hoping to pass on these stories to the next generation.
“We started out as a podcast with the mission to preserve the stories of the Vietnamese diaspora, specifically the generations of people that came over as refugees and traveled here,” Mang said. “Our mission is to not only inspire the Vietnamese community but also to empower them to then start telling their own stories.”
Since its start, the organization has grown and held bigger events such as the Mỹ Việt Story Slam. Mang said she wanted to organize events that involved heavy community interaction as she wanted to encourage others to share their stories as well.
“Our nonprofit has always been about community,” Mang said. “So when we decided to do a story slam, we wanted something that was centered around getting the community to participate.”
Megan Do, 32, the Story Slam Lead for the Vietnamese Boat People, agreed.
“The main goal really is to give the Vietnamese American community a platform to share their stories around their life experiences,” she said. “It’s to celebrate the uniqueness of our community and what makes being Vietnamese American really special.”
Nguyen participated in the second Mỹ Việt Story Slam in 2021.
Nguyen first found the organization because he wanted to learn more about his father’s story as a Vietnamese boat person because it was a topic he wanted to incorporate into his art. When he shared his story and connected with people at the organization, Nguyen realized what he was missing and yearning.
“I was seeking a community,” Nguyen said. “The thing that was missing from this whole push onto the arts is that I didn’t have much of a community support.”
Although he shared a vulnerable part of himself, Nguyen was happy to find a supportive and relatable community from the Mỹ Việt Story Slam.
“I always thought that my story was unique, but in actuality not, a lot of people go through the very same things,” Nguyen said. “It’s a bit of a relief, knowing that I’m not the only one going through this train ride or roller coaster ride.”
Mang said she’s always surprised to find such a supportive audience in the story slam event, as most of the audience members don’t know and haven’t met each other.
“It’s such a safe space, even though it’s like a bunch of strangers coming together,” she said. “It’s so supportive and it feels safe and comforting.”
Mang and Do said gaining a more global presence is one of their main goals for this year’s storytelling event.
“One of our goals is to get more of an international presence, you know participation wise it traditionally has remained within the Vietnamese American Community,” Mang said. “But storyteller participation aside, I would love to see more international attendees tune into the event.”
You can find information about how to submit your story here.
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