Ngọc-Trân Vũ: bringing a healing narrative in the Vietnamese-American community

by | Mar 26, 2021 | Changemaker Of The Week

My mind is Pondering
My heart is Vietnamese
My soul is an Artist
My conscience is a Healer

– Ngọc-Trân Vũ

Born in Vietnam, Ngọc-Trân Vũ came to the United States with her family as a political refugee and grew up in Dorchester and South Boston’s working-class neighborhoods. She is an artist, storyteller, connector and an interpreter; her work comes alive through themes of diaspora, family, memories, identity, and intersectionality. 

Trân received seed funding for her project VietFamStories, which brings together Vietnamese-American elders and young artists to share stories, dialogue, and art. 

Featured artists have included Ah Moonz, who was at the forefront of the “waacking” street dancing scene in Vietnam before moving to the US four years ago; Anny Thach, a poet whose work reflects her experience of being a young Vietnamese and Cambodian woman; Candace Nguyen, a trans artist with a goal of boosting queer and trans visibility in the Vietnamese community; and a pair of older artists who have created a skit about coming to understanding on political issues and the responsibility of the older demographic.

These events are intentionally bilingual and intergenerational, aiming to make connections between and among the Vietnamese community as well as those who do not share this identity. The goal is connection, healing, and the space to talk about hard things through art. 

“It is no surprise that the consistent, widespread, direct and indirect exposure to violence, colonization, loss, burn-out, stress, microaggressions, imperialism, disease and traumatic social conditions permeates and impacts our personal and interpersonal, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being,” says Trân. “Healing is an essential part of liberation within our communities that has to be embedded in the process of addressing racial justice in order to be truly sustainable. It’s about ensuring communities and individuals can sustain ourselves for the long run, particularly those who survive the brunt of the racial consequences to heal and continue in the journey forward.”

Her work is expanding the informal network of Vietnamese elders, bringing in the younger generation, and providing a structure for new intergenerational dialogue and creative collaboration. Also, the project introduces the young Vietnamese Americans living in Boston to the stories of those who lived through a terrible war in their shared cultural homeland. 

The road to constructive change, which leads to true belonging, passes through the awareness of who we are, honor for our cultural identity, and respect for that of others. Projects like Tran’s help communities ensure that they are able to meet “others” not as strangers, but in the fullness of their rich individuality and our shared humanity. 

Written by Carolyn Ashworth