Food and Flow II by Aspire

June 1, 2018

To close Asian Pacific Heritage Month celebration, ASPIRE held its their final club event on May 17 with a “Food and Flow II’ program to encourage students to learn about poetry and history that comes from Asian-Pacific countries and perspective.

“It is an amazing way to listen to history and perspective that often times get left out of heritage celebration,” said Kiena Fuega, an outreach specialist from ASPIRE. She invited two artists from Vietnam and Guam.

Speaker Thy Nguyen is from Saigon, Vietnam, and a first-generation Vietnamese immigrant. She shared how challenging it is for her with the differences between American and Vietnamese cultures. The first problem is was the language Nguyen used at home.

“When I was younger, my parents judged me on why I refused to speak my mother tongue,” Nguyen said.

She has lived in America for a long time, but she still miss her home country. “Before I came here, my mom stayed as refugee in Thailand for a couple weeks,” said Nguyen.

She t used poetry and song to talk about being a woman and a refugee and the struggle it was to get to freedom.  “Being free is being home. If I don’t get freedom, I am not at home”, she said.

She also shared why her parents decided to name her Cathy, an American name. “The reason behind that is to make people recognize me easier and some people have hard time to spell ‘Thy,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen legally changed her name last year from ‘Cathy’ to ‘Thy’ because she did not want to forget where her roots come from. Thy means ‘poetry’ and it is a common name in Vietnam, she said.  “Thinking about name, I think about how we choose them and how we carry them,” she said.

Nguyen is a co-organizer of People’s Assembly Organization in Tacoma that focuses on bringing awareness on the anti-racism movement. More information about Nguyen and her organization, can be found at

The second speaker Meta Sarmiento is an educator, rapper and poet who originally comes from Guam, a small island in the Pacific Ocean. An engaging speaker, he entertained the audience with his poetry delivered in a rapping style.

He said he started writing poems when he was in high school. The first poem he read, “Where are you from?” described how hard it was to become refugee as a homeless child. He still remembers the faces of the immigrants in the camp and their dreams of being able to return to the Philippines one day as natives and not tourists. “I am from north side of Guam, a village full of immigrants,” he said.

He also shared some of his experiences while teaching in Guam. “Before I decided to become a full-time poet, I was a full-time educator,” he said.

Teachers are often asked to teach multiple topics in Guam unlike n the United States where teachers get certified for specific subjects. “Everyone can teach every subjects with a temporary teacher certification,” Sarmiento said.

Between the two speakers, generations of Asian Pacific American students and their families were able to to reconnect with their roots. For a moment, they were able to remember their heritage and share with those around them

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