By Jackie Tang
The documentary, A Village Called Versailles, discussed a very interesting topic in which it gave light to the underrepresented communities in the United States. I was surprised to see how connected the Vietnamese community was even after being separated. The trauma of the hurricane made the community more resilient and strong. They were able to get help from other Vietnamese communities from around the country. Some of the elders in the community had had to move three times; first from North to South Vietnam, second when they moved to New Orleans due to the Communist government, and third from the hurricane. Despite having to move three times, many families were very attached to their homes in New Orleans. Even if the houses were flooded and unlivable, the community still wanted to move back into New Orleans East because they had spent 30 years building up their houses, families, and communities.
Another surprising aspect of the movie was that the Vietnamese community had fought to return and rebuild their community. When City Council had new rebuilding plans for the city it did not include New Orleans East. The Vietnamese community were enraged when they heard of the news and fought to get recognized. Not only were they trying to defend a community of just 300 Vietnamese families, but also other communities that were living in New Orleans East. They were representing all underrepresented communities in that area of New Orleans. Even when the issue of rebuilding was solved, the community was presented with another issue – the landfill that was created a few miles away from their community. Despite all these problems, the community fought strongly to mobilize their people, both the older and younger generation. These issues actually brought the two generations closer by bridging the gap.
I had never heard of the Vietnamese community in New Orleans striving to regain and rebuild their community. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the media had portrayed affected areas that were already getting aid from the city council and federal government – there was no talk about the Vietnamese Community and their struggle. After watching this documentary, it has changed my view on American history because it seems like the government portrays itself as the savior who tries to rebuild areas that were affected by a natural disaster. But they fail to portray the underrepresented communities that were also affected. They were only helping the greater majority of New Orleans and not the more severely affected areas, like New Orleans East. Hurricane Katrina has be made the quiet Vietnamese community more vocal and more American. For over 30 years, the community had isolated themselves from the rest of the American community. After the hurricane, the community had a stronger sense of American identity and was willing to fight for their rights.
This documentary has taught me that no matter how small a community may be – like the Vietnamese community in New Orleans – the resilience and strength of the Asian American community is important. For the first time, the Vietnamese community found their voice in the community – many elders had protested against the landfill even though they could not speak English. They were determined to rebuild what was theirs. Likewise, the documentary has also showed me that the unification of communities is very important. The unification of all generations – young and old – had helped pull the Vietnamese community closer together. If there was an issue that had affected the Asian American Community – resilience and unification are the two key components that are needed.