This week we commemorated the 45th anniversary of April 30th. For some, April 30th is remembered as Black April, marking the Fall of Saigon and the loss of their home and country, South Vietnam. For others, it is a day of reunification and liberation, the long fought for end to a colonial war. Regardless, April 30th, 1975 marks a turning point in the history of Vietnam and the beginning of the largest Vietnamese diaspora.
Following the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, my family became part of the 1.6 million individuals who left Vietnam in what is known as the Indochina Refugee Crisis. 700,000 of these individuals were “boat people,” including my mother.
In 1978, my grandfather was arrested by the new Vietnamese government and held in a re-education camp for forty-six months. That same year, my mother’s older and younger brothers, gambled at a chance for freedom and departed on a boat that would take them through the refugee camps of Malaysia and the Philippines, before being resettled in the United States. One by one, my mother’s friends and their families bid their goodbyes, exchanging gold for a chance at life. Those who could afford to buy a spot on a boat were smuggled out of the country and sailed through the islands of Southeast Asia, until by good fortune, landing again on the solid grounds of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United States. Departing nine years after her brothers, in 1987, my mother escaped through the forests of Cambodia and Thailand, from where she sailed to Malaysia and the Philippines, before rejoining them in Dallas, Texas. Three years later, my grandparents made the journey by airplane, to a country where, as my grandfather writes, there is not a large Asian population, and he does not know the language. But life is still good because his children have the opportunity to find new successes.
Whatever name we choose to call it, April 30th is interwoven into the memories of Vietnamese throughout the world and passed down from parent to child. On this day, we recognize the cruelty of war, the lives lost, the families separated, and the consequences that continue today. And 45 years later, let us not forget how far we've come. Uprooted by war, we continue to persist with strength and courage, with the determination to live and build a better future. Together, we sow the seeds of a global community rooted in resilience.
Leading up to the 45th anniversary, we asked you to share with us what April 30th means to you. Here is what some of you had to say. Thank you for sharing your stories with us! Stay resilient.
"They told me a life of starvation, displacement, and deprivation. My parents told these stories to me like it was just something that happens to everyone. They told it matter-of-factly because to them, this wasn't considered trauma, but a way of life.
One day, I stumbled upon a set of photos from Vietnam during the ’60s-’70s and was inspired by the mundane and simple capturings of life and how normal it was in contrast to the war filled images of Vietnam I was used to. This inspired a series that takes a different perspective and view of life in Vietnam, one where it's not much different than anywhere else. Youthfulness and a simple life, devoid of the mention of war. This is not to disrespect the people and soldiers who lost their lives but to honor how life had to go on, the generational trauma that is passed and the viet nam that I know even if I wasn't alive during that era." @ph.amm