- Posted May 15, 2010 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your Vietnamese journey
Soul sisters in saigon
( Video clip: Me doing interview with Kieu and my other Soul sister.
Soul sisters,Yes they could be soul sisters !!! . Had they been living in USA, they might have been the female answers of Obama, in terms of their heritage.
But this is NOT USA,its Tan Binh District in what used to be Saigon,now Ho Chi Minh Minh city,Vietnam.
And my 2 friends are Soul sisters,they are black Amerasians !!! Children of African American, military servicemen and Vietnamese women, born during the war in Vietnam, and left behind after.
In an country like Vietnam,being black means being some bad,something low, both social and etnical.
During the history of Vietnam,the poor people had always been those that had to work in the rice fields,they spend their time in the sun,and by that turned black.
For Vietnamese,if you had white skin, it means that you had the monye to stay away from the hard work and the sun. So socially black skin means poverty and hard work, while white skin means money and ability to enjoy the life, away from the ricefields and sun.
Etnical. Vietnam had many minorities like Chams, Hmongs and mountain tribals. For many they very darkskins,unducated and in the eyes of Vietnamese, very primitive. They were the underclass, only value for hard work and didn't really had any place and power in Vietnam.
During the French Indochina war, France brought many African soldiers from their colonies in Africa, to fight the Viet Minh.
Those black soldiers frightend the local people,and for some they did bad things, that made them hatred.
When the USA military machine turned its power on Vietnam, it brought in a lot of soldiers, from all races, social classes and educations.
About 30 % of those military men, were African Americans. For many the uncle Sam were the only way for getting an job and an education, an way out of misery that many used to live in.
The Vietnam war, the killing of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Many things happend during that time in the 60'ties, and for the African American Gi's in Vietnam, it made him to do an act in an way he might not image.
Many didn't want to fight the Vietnamese,while their own people got beated up in USA. Other simply went AWOL, and left their unit,to hide out with the Vietnamese.
In Saigon an small area named "Soul Alley" housed only African American Gi's,that had left their units.
They had their own "Soul food " restaurants and hair shops,with the latest "Afro Cut".
Mostly married or lived with dark skinned Cambodian women,and the area were full of kids with afro hair and asian features.
Even when the MP ( Military Police ) try to clear up the area, it was in vain,for those Gi's it was better than the world.
April 1975, it was all over and time to go home,back to the land of honey in the streets.
The last chopper took of from the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon,and silence took over.
For those children in " Soul Alley " and other spots all over the old South Vietnam,the end of one nightmare started an other.
Revenge !!! That was the word,from the victories army of North Vietnam. The women that worked with Americans, for Americans, lived with Americans and in cases had children with Americans, they were the scapegoats off all what happend during 3o years of war.
Speciel those that had kids with black skin, were hunted down,locked in to camps,jails or New Economic Zones ( NEZ ) where they had to make an new life from nothing.
Many of those mother gave the kid away,or simply kicked it out in the street. The pain and shame,of having an black kid in postwar Vietnam, was simply to big. They couldn't hide the color of the skin, from an hostile postwar Vietnam.
African Amerasians were label " My Den" and degrading word that means " Black American ",and for many school,friends and family were just remote dreams. They were those no one wanted to play with.
In the 80'ties, started for many amerasians an new change in their life. They were able in an legal way to move to their fatherland. No more dangerous boat trip,no more pirate attacks. They should now just enter the airplane in Vietnam and leave it on the " Big Apple".
Oderly Departure Program (ODP), was the solution. An US/UN/ Vietnamese join venture program to assist those people, that Vietnam didn't have the heart and mind to live with.
Suddendly Amerasians were the "Golden Children". Mothers recive offers from rich Vietnamese familys, that wanted to buy their "Children of dust".
Amerasians value in gold, Dollars and dimonds. The industri of fake families,papers and immigrations bribes, were hitting the sky. Everyone made their part of the cake.
In 1997, the program started to dry up. Money were few,and most Amerasians had left. Media attention had vanished and other wars around the world took the space.
Now the remaining Amerasians didn't value a dime,they were again wasted people. And now really forgotten. They lost their chance in the life's lottery !!!
African Amerasians that left for USA, found the country of their fathers, very different of what they belived and dreamed of.
The only thing they had in common with their African American brother and sisters, was the etnical and physical appereance. Besides that nothing.
Coming from Vietnam, they knew about Vietnamese culture,life and way to live there. But they didn't knew about slavery, Martin Luther King or Soul Food.
When they met their African American cousins in USA, they felt apart, shocked by the very loud rap culture that are speciel among young African males.
Today Amerasians are still in Vietnam. Noone knows how many,but they are there. But they are not waiting for help anymore.
Vietnam and its people got used to see people of different colors of skin. MTV and other international Tv channels, shows music videos from USA.
Young people looks up to Michael jackson, Ice Cube and other singers of African heritage. Hopefull future will erase the past prejudices.
My Soulsisters. I met them in an one room shop, were they where living and making their business. They had an small foodstall, barely enough for make the day.
Life is not easy, when you belong to the bottom.
One of my Soul sister name was Son Thi Kieu, she could be any sister in USA. In Vietnam she's an minority.
Kieu gave me her tired smile, she had been working hard, to make food for selling. The kids of her, 3rd generation Americans, were running around. The olderst kid, and young man tall with an Afro hair, was stirring at me curius, wonder who I am.
After some few words about life in general, I asked about her father.
She got an sad face, I knew what it mean !!! She was stucked in Vietnam becauce of her father or lack off.
Wanted to her so much, she remind me why I am in Vietnam, why I love amerasians. Happiness and Pain goes hand in hand, when it comes to amerasians.
Since looking for the fathers of the Amerasians are my hobby and life,then I had to ask. What she remember wasn't much,but I took those notes:
Name: James ( Only firstname )
Rank: Private firstclass
Branch of duty: Army
Unit pathes: Sword
Place of duty: Phan Rang
Time of duty: 1969-71
Occupation: GMC Truck driver
With those info, the future for Kieu are as bleak as the past and only an miracle can help her an her soul sister.
Would you like to help Kieu in finding her father,meeting her and her soul sister,or just curius.Then contact: