My name “Quyen” was named after the story of a bird in Viet Nam, who missed its country so much that it would call out for home. My mom brought me into this world two days after she turned 20. She gifted me with this name because she missed her Viet Nam — heart aching to see the faces of her parents whom she had left when she fled as a refugee at the age of 16. Her family’s hope was for her freedom.
To have a place to call home for this daughter of refugees has been a lifelong journey. From a child of refugees who were displaced in their own countries in Viet Nam, who continued to fight for freedom by fleeing the homes they only knew, and to our own migration throughout the United States — home to me was always fleeting. I was born in New Orleans, La, grew up in Orange County, Calif, before moving to Houston, Texas, and Kahalu’, Hawaii, and then finally to San Jose, Calif.
And yet today, I am preparing to go home to San Jose to complete SEARAC’s year-long commemoration of the 40th year anniversary of the Southeast Asian American experience.
Today, I have the privilege and honor of coming home to the place where I graduated high school; the place where I returned nearly every weekend for four years as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, where my Dad and I shared a 45-minute car ride back to campus that revealed to each other who we were after 20 years of not being able to connect; the place where I received the biggest education of my life — learning about myself and my community through service by building strong families with the International Children Assistance Network and being mentored by SEARAC’s training and technical assistance provider, Pat Hughes; the place where I experienced the transformative power of love in my community — through Vietnamese American families who came together to build a foundation for their children to thrive and soar as Vietnamese Americans, rather than repeat the same cycle of pain experienced by not understanding the challenges that their Vietnamese American children would face: feeling like American kids in their Vietnamese bodies, alone and unaccepted wherever they went.
Today, I get to come home to honor my family, as well as a community that has empowered me to become SEARAC’s first second-generation executive director.
When just 40 years ago, my parents didn’t know if they would live or die in war-torn Viet Nam.
Throughout our country, Southeast Asian Americans today commemorate the journeys we’ve been on to make places across this country our home, and to have places that we can now call home.
As a child of refugees who fled the only home they knew, to risk their lives so that I could live, to be coming home to a place of peace and strength, is a gift and a blessing.
During this 40th year commemoration, I honor my parent’s legacy in risking their lives so that today I have a home to which to return. During this 40th year anniversary, I commit to continuing their legacy by fighting for communities to have their voices heard, as we continue to make this country our home.