About the poet:
My name is Jay Khanh Nguyen. I was born in San Diego but grew up and raised in Austin, TX. I am a second-generation Vietnamese-American and am currently attending the University of California, Los Angeles. I remember my mom never being home, working countless hours to meet ends for my older brother and I. She nor my grandma (who took care of my brother and I) never spoke about their home country, Vietnam. I never knew about my history, I grew up American. In high school, I joined THIẾU NHI THÁNH THỂ (TNTT) and started to learn more about my roots and became more interested in history. I remember watching a documentary: Last Days in Vietnam; and the last scene of that movie hit me. It was a scene of an escaping boat having to lower the South Vietnamese flag in order to enter the Philippines.
My motivation to succeed is driven by my mom who actually did not escape the country because she was one of the less fortunate to do so. She was young, a girl, and had little money. This is the story some do not recognize because of so many Vietnamese escaping to America–they forget about those who could not. She later could come to America with my grandma years after the communist regime. As my mom’s son, her struggle in Vietnam and America motivate me to write and have her live a comfortable life.
“Này Công Dân ơi! Đứng lên đáp lời sông núi.
Đồng lòng cùng đi hy sinh tiếc gì thân sống…”
Words that echo through corridors of my body like wildfire.
Burning a passion of an enigma… foreign to an unbeknownst, innocent Vietnamese-American kid.
Just what did it mean to be called Vietnamese, to be called South-Vietnamese?
Words that pulsed through every heartbeat of my mother, whose beautiful Saigon, ripped from every root of the ground before it even knew the light of the world.
Gone in an instant, like ashes blown away into an abysmal black hole.
Just what did it mean to be part of South Vietnam?
Words… that kept phantom roots in place and hope alive. Words that offered light in the dark creating shadows of a nation that would see their dreams.
Words that kept a culture strong and alive.
Words… that fell at the feet of my grandparents as war burned 3 stripes to the ground.
Every flag being stripped down from boats that sailed across the vast ocean whose salty waters held hopes of a “better life in America.”
No. They never wanted to leave.
No. They never asked for any of this.
No. Everyday a dream.
No. It is their reality.
No. It is part of MY reality.
I am part of a great nation–that fell to the ground when its flag was leveled down to the dirt, reduced to nothing. Words that are intertwined into the DNA of South-Vietnamese everywhere. To those who lost their homes, families, and country… remember these words. Remember our Flag bannered high above our heads.
-Jay Nguyen, UCLA