SEARAC staffer Thuy Do (fourth from right) with state Sen. Lena A. Gonzalez, staff members from Sen. Gonzalez and Asm. Lowenthal’s offices, and honorees and guests representing the Cambodian community from Long Beach, CA, in attendance for April 17 Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Day in Sacramento, CA (Photo courtesy of Thuy Do)
By Thuy Do
April has been a dynamic month, shifting between stillness and action, reflection and connection. I have taken some time to navigate more into my family’s history and to learn new insights that can improve the next steps toward a brighter future. When I was about 7 years old, I attended the commemoration of the Fall of Saigon with my dad at the State Capitol in Sacramento. We waved the South Vietnam flags with American flags, watched a parade and went on a capitol tour, and shared silent moments with my father when we visited the Vietnam War Memorial. Even as a young child, I remembered acknowledging the darkness; but now I see that shining light upon these dark spots can encourage growth to become a better person and community so that tragedies like this do not happen again.
That was the memory that came back to me when I visited the Capitol in Sacramento on April 17. I was invited on SEARAC’s behalf to walk in solidarity with partners from the offices of CA Sen. Lena A. Gonzalez (D-33) and CA Asm. Josh Lowenthal (D-69) to commemorate Cambodian Genocide Remembrance Week. I was fortunate to connect with empowering community members who – themselves or their families – have risen above the hardships and escaped atrocities of the Cambodian genocide 44 years ago. I was truly inspired and felt emotionally
connected to their stories and their current activities to uplift Cambodian traditions and history in their communities. Not only was there resilience, but also grace and compassion shone through.
After touring the Capitol and lunch, we met with Sen. Gonzalez and Asm. Lowenthal before they went onto their respective senate and assembly floors to introduce SR-23, which honors the survivors and their descendants for their bravery and contributions to California and the United States. On both floors, their colleagues unanimously voted to adopt the resolution. I also had the privilege to sit and listen to SCR-8 authored and introduced by CA Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-34). This measure proclaims the month of April as Black April Memorial Month.
As I reflect on the journeys that our communities from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam embarked on more than four decades ago, I now understand that remembering the bitterness and beauty of a dark era can coexist.
Her reading brought me back to my childhood: to recognize and remember the Fall of Saigon and the lives lost during the Vietnam War, and to hope for a more humane and just life for Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans, as well as for all our Southeast Asian American communities.
As I reflect on the journeys that our communities from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam embarked on more than four decades ago, I now understand that remembering the bitterness and beauty of a dark era can coexist. To celebrate and talk about where we are today and our accomplishments for equity are powerful principles of freedom and peace. I believe that my father would be very proud of me to have the liberty to walk, act, and speak in honor of these historical days with partners and supporters. During my morning walk in the State Capitol Park World Peace Rose Garden with the local partners, I came across a powerful engraving amongst the roses that gave me hope for the future:
“All my life I lived through fights and war.
Now it’s up to me to stop them,
Or else life wouldn’t be worth living.
I may die trying.
But peace will begin.”
Phi Tran, Grade 6
Clayton B. Wire Elementary School