angry reader of the week: trinh le

Aww yeah. Another week, another Angry Reader, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's reader is community organizer Trinh Le, coming at you from Biloxi, Mississippi. Meet Trinh!

Who are you?
Trinh Hoang Nu Le, but you can call me Trinh. Who is Trinh Le? Well, I'm still trying to figure that out myself.

What are you?
2nd generation Vietnamese American. I am a daughter of political refugees... "boat people'" as you'd call them. I grew up in a working class family, got a college degree in Sociology and Asian American Studies, and now I am living in the South!

Where are you?
Biloxi, Mississippi... right along the Gulf Coast. Right after college, I applied for the NAVASA Dan Than fellowship so that I could work with the Vietnamese community and join the movement of rebuilding the Gulf Coast post-Katrina. Being a Cali girl and all, it took me awhile to adjust to life in the South. But there's definitely some perks, such as Mississippi blues, crawfish boils, and sweet tea! Not to mention the history of the Civil Rights movement is RIGHT here. You won't find a more jam-packed fun-filled MLK weekend celebration anywhere else.

Where are you from?
That's a hard one, because I've lived in nine different cities all my life (and I'm only in my mid-twenties). But if I had to choose, it'd be San Diego because that's where I spent my high school years.

What do you do?
Now as a New Voices fellow, I am the community empowerment coordinator at Hope CDA, a local community development agency that does housing recovery and community development. Basically, that's code for community organizer. My job is to empower residents in East Biloxi to organize and advocate for themselves. Almost anything and everything fits under community empowerment, and the activities range from knocking on peoples' doors get them to come out to a Block Captain meeting to talking to local small business owners about the challenges that they face rebuilding post-Katrina. From facilitating a voter registration & education campaign to researching local casino development. East Biloxi is very diverse, mostly low-income communities of color. 20% of the population was Vietnamese before the storm. Although there's been progress, there's still a lot of work to be done.

What are you all about?
As Chris Iijima once said, we need to begin to think about values, and about how people without voice get voice, and how as Asian Americans we can do that or help people do that... that's what it means to be progressive. And that's what I'm all about: uplifting and being an advocate for disenfranchised communities' voices when they have often gone unheard. And this happens everywhere, but I'm honored to have the opportunity to fight for social justice here in Biloxi, Mississippi. I think it's a beautiful thing to be a witness of what's going on in the Gulf Coast. There is this resilience here that amazes me everyday, and that is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

What makes you angry?
There's many things that make me angry, but here are a few that popped into my head:

When people think Katrina only hit New Orleans.
When people think that we've already recovered from Katrina, and if not, it's our fault.
When people think that Katrina only affected African Americans. There is a sizeable Vietnamese community on the Gulf Coast (New Orleans, Biloxi, Bayou La Batre)... many of which were affected by the storm. Lots of low-income white folks were affected in Mississippi as well.
When people ask why folks are rebuilding, they should just "move," even though folks have lived here for generations.
When people don't think language access is an issue for immigrants, and that they should just "learn English," even though the language is a big reason why Vietnamese folks are having a much more difficult time rebuilding.
When people understand and "get" racism, but not necessarily sexism, gender politics, and homophobia... and the intersections that exist.

Okay... I think that's a good list for now.

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