Jessi is a queer Hmong American artist creating Southeast Asian representation through animation. She has served as a co-leader for MassArt's Artists of Color Union, creating a safe space for artists of color to educate each other, connect, and collaborate on projects. Over the years she has progressed from rejecting her Hmong heritage, to treasuring it. Her favorite aspects about creating art are bringing characters and places to life, as well as leading her audience on an emotional journey.
*Note: Although it has been used more positively in recent times, the word "queer" originated as a slur, so only those who are a part of the LGBT community should reclaim it, and some people in the LGBT community do not reclaim it. Jessi uses the term for herself and would like it to be included in her description.
First Generation showcases the Vietnamese American experience of growing up in the 90's through My-Linh, a young, mislead girl who must decide how she will fit into the two worlds that she inhabits.
A Film By
Jeannie Nguyen & Andrew Yuyi Truong
Director: Jeannie Nguyen
Producer: Loan Hoang, MOSSS
Cinematography: Andrew Yuyi Truong
Original Music: Mike Gao, Regina Biondo, Avila Santo
Sound Design: David H. Price
Editor: Jeannie Nguyen, Andrew Yuyi Truong
AD: Andy Ma
1st AC/Gaffer: Ralph Hsiao
Sound Mixer: Sam Mutch
Color: Luis Silva
VFX Artist: John Robson
MUA: Crystal Tran, Napoleon Jinnies
Hair: Mary Tran
Stylist: Kristina Truong
PA: Catherine Luu, Eddy Ngo
Special thanks to: UNIF, Greycard Studio, Late Light Laggers, Tony Chou, Joey James, Fern Lee, Vicky Nguyen, Mark Faicol, Jeff Tang, Howard Tran
I hate to admit that I don’t speak Vietnamese. I used to speak it-- In fact, I didn't even speak English until I was six years old. My classmates and friends regularly bullied me or alienated me for the way I spoke, the food I ate or quirks I had from my foreign parents. In a desperate attempt to assimilate into the southern suburb that I lived in, I just one day stopped speaking Vietnamese. I refused to speak as little as one syllable of Vietnamese in order to prove to the other kids that I was "normal” and capable of fitting in.
Now that I’m an adult, I lament my decision to erase this connection with my Vietnamese background. While I am very close to my parents, there will always be a barrier where I cannot fully connect with them through language. Vocabulary is like a color palette: the more colors we have, the more detail we can paint. We can get an image across with just a few colors but more colors allow us to show depth, value, shape, and mood. I can get an image across to my parents but I will never be able to show depth, value, shape, or mood to its fullest with a limited selection of words. I can have a lengthy discussion with my parents in English but they don't always understand the nuances I try to communicate, and I wonder what they are unable to convey to me. Just as oil and water can meld when you shake them together, the two substances will always separate from each other when you give them time to settle.
The disconnect between my Vietnamese background and the language barrier that I imposed on myself were the inspiration for this piece. I wanted to capture this idea of being "stuck between" both worlds. The black "oil" represents the Vietnamese language, and the water represents English. The soldiers reflect the sacrifices my parents made for my siblings and me. The fish not only indicates that this is water, but it also represents the freedom I feel with the English language. The subject is a mermaid, reflecting my cultural identification with America but also my anchor to the Vietnamese language as she is suspended in the black oil, shrouded from the details of her history and language.
It makes me a bit sad that there will always be this barrier between us, and I am sure one day I will be able to pick up Vietnamese again. Until then, I'll paint with the few colors I've got and keep telling them, "Con thương mẹ" and "Con thương bà."
Many thanks to Nora Arnette for reviewing and editing.
Artist: Lam Thuy Vo
Lam Thuy Vo is a multi-platform storyteller and interdisciplinary journalist currently working as a senior reporter at BuzzFeed. Previously, she's worked for The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera America and NPR's Planet Money. A multi-hyphenate by choice, Vo works as a designer-coder-videographer-photographer-writer and tells stories about technology and society, economics, and social issues. In her spare time, you can find her making data visualizations with emotional data or producing 'artsy' videos. Follow her on Twitter at @lamthuyvo
Submitter: Chung T.
Submitter: Julia H.
My mom showed me this picture today, a polaroid that was taken 36 years ago in 1980. In this photo, my mom, three of her siblings, and a nephew stand in the Lam Sing Refugee Camp in Thailand. They had fled Vietnam on May 1, 1980, and after an arduous journey, made it safely to Thailand on May 28, 1980. After a week in a village, they were moved to Lam Sing, where they stayed until they were able to leave for the United States on September 15, 1980. The photo was taken for registration purposes, and the plaque number, LS04240, represents my mom's group.
Artist: Rebecca Hang
Rebecca Hang was born and raised in Virginia. She is currently attending Virginia Commonwealth University as a freshman. She is majoring in health, physical education and exercise science with a focus on health science.
Video Description: This video is a comparison between the memoir "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson and Rebecca's dad's immigration story. The story from "Just Mercy" is a true story about a 14 year old boy who murdered his mother's abusive boyfriend. Rebecca compares her dad's journey to America to the emotional journey the main character in "Just Mercy" takes, arguing that both experiences connect through the theme of loss of innocence.
Artist: Julia Huynh
Julia Huynh is a Toronto based interdisciplinary artist working primarily in photography. She is a graduate from the joint Art and Art History program between the University of Toronto and Sheridan College. Huynh recently completed a self-directed residency in the rural south of Viet Nam, researching her family history to explore her own cultural identity and its diaspora.
Her past works have explored a loss that can occur from migration. In a video, Me & Ba, her parents retell their story of fleeing Viet Nam in the 1980’s in their native tongue, Vietnamese. It is then translated into Huynh’s first language, English. There is a loss from this literal translation of language as well as a loss between geography having grown up in Canada and between her own and her parents’ generation.
Artist: Tammy T.
Medium: Water color and Ink on a 11in x 15in paper
I created this painting when J.H and I were working on a flyer to start our Children Book Project (for the Vietnamese Boat Refugees). It is an honor to be able to work on a project with J.H that hits very close to home. I dedicate this painting to my family and the people who also had to endure this journey.
Artist: Julia H.
I created this art project for a grad school class where the assignment was to discuss our personal identity. I wanted to show the complex trajectories that form the Vietnamese/Southeast Asian diaspora, and I used personal photos to share my own family's experience within this larger framework.
Submitter: Julia H.
This is a letter addressed to my aunt, who was one of the first people on my mom's side to escape Vietnam, from her brother (my uncle), who had written to let the family already in America know that he had safely made it to Songkhla Refugee Camp in Thailand. Note that he also included the boat number and date of arrival on the front of the envelope.