From the Westbank to New Orleans East, there is a vibrant community of over 20,000 Vietnamese New Orleanians. Once a week host Kim Vu invites a guest to chat about Vietnamese etiquette, ancient proverbs, Vietnamese events in New Orleans, and Vietnamese food. A Vietnamese-American recently arrived from California, Kim combines her own discovery of the local Vietnamese community with her deep familiarity and love of Vietnamese life and customs. Kim and guests weave a tapestry of fun and pho, Hanoi and poboy, as VietNola explores the world of Vietnamese New Orleanians, here and in Vietnam.
Think back if you can, to a time when you were a kid and your parents were called to school to talk about your progress in the classroom, or about disciplinary problems on the playground. And try and imagine what it would have been like if your parents didn’t speak English and the school admin couldn’t properly communicate with them due to the language barrier, and so they had to call in one of your bilingual classmates to act as an interpreter. And imagine the things discussed in the meeting were sensitive and deeply personal – it would be profoundly embarrassing, wouldn’t it?
It’s no secret that since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has seen a boom in the population of immigrants from Latin America – many of whom came to New Orleans and played a big role in the recovery of the City. It’s not that the Parish schools ever did a particularly good job of dedicating the scarce resources it had to better facilitate communication with the Vietnamese and other immigrant populations that were already here – but with the influx of "New" New Orleanians since Katrina, these challenges have only grown.
VAYLA is one organization in New Orleans that is working to fix this problem – they’ve filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice to address language barriers in the schools. They'll be our guests this week to talk about it on VietNOLA.