Viet World Kitchen is a food place but I sometimes digress to discuss political issues. Last month, we started a conversation about the "Little Saigon" naming controversy in San Jose, California. It all started when disgruntled Viet-Americans called Madison Nguyen a
communist because they didn’t like her support of "Saigon Business
District" over their preferred "Little Saigon." People took sides, there were generational splits, talk of recalls, and more.
In a nutshell, much has gone awry and the latest developments include the following:
(3/13/08) City of San Jose comes up with a temporary solution and Ly Tong ends his hunger strike. He’d stopped drinking water a little while ago. For more, read the thread below and also the postings at Solving San Jose’s Little Saigon Controversy.
(3/4/08) The San Jose Mercury News released some numbers (finally!) saying that last August 2007 the City of San Jose’s Redevelopment Agency sent out 1,136 surveys to people living near the stretch of Story Road, asking them what it should be called. Of the surveys sent out, there were 117 responses. Of those responses, 44 surveys were for "Little Saigon." The mayor, who’s now being criticized for mishandling this situation, says they should have paused to outreach to people. The newspaper’s editorial board calls for the city to end the "ridiculous" situation and name the area "Little Saigon" — just so everyone can move on. It’s a 1-mile strip of road.
(3/2/08) A protest of 7,500 Viet-Americans gathered in front of City Hall to support "Little Saigon."
In light of all the turmoil that this once small issue has created, Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilwoman Madison Nguyen are going to rescind (pull back) the name "Saigon Business District" on March 4. The City of San Jose will not have a costly city-wide vote on the name, and some kind of process will be devised for coming up with a name. This past week, commentary in the San Jose Mercury News has stated things like the situation has become "surreal" with the hunger strike, that the city has become a "laughing-stock" and that it needs to move on.
Perennial showman Ly Tong decided last Friday to eat his last bowl of noodles and go on a hunger strike until the city agrees to name the business-shopping district "Little Saigon" instead of "Saigon Business District," which was what was decided on by the city council. "I’ll continue until I die," he says according to a 2/20/08 article in the San Jose Mercury News.
The City of San Jose is going to put the naming issue up to a city-wide vote (the name affects a couple of blocks in District 7, represented by Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, the first Vietnamese American woman to be elected to office)
The controversy has made national headlines in a 2/16/08 piece in the New York Times.
The wh0le thing has escalated into a mess that will unfortunately damage the San Jose Vietnamese American community for a long time, unless a diplomatic solution can be finessed. For 2008 Tet, San Francisco-based journalist and commentator Andrew Lam penned a terrific and insightful piece on the many unresolved issues in the Vietnamese American community. He carefully aired a little dirty laundry but got people thinking about the realities of Vietnam today, the tight relationship between overseas Vietnamese and the Motherland, and how people may come to grips with their anger and sense of loss:
New Year, Old Unresolved Passion: Vietnam and its Diaspora (New American Media, 2/7/08)