The Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (VietAID) seeks $15,000 from the Browne Fund to support the efforts of the Vietnamese American community and other community groups in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Boston to build an inspirational monument. This monument, which will be named “Freedom”, is to pay tribute to the Vietnamese and Americans who served and sacrificed for their countries during the Vietnam War. The Freedom Monument is also a tribute to the neighborhood’s aspiration of freedom from poverty and crime. We want to build more than just monument – We want to build a legacy of gratitude, healing, contribution, sharing and teaching. The Freedom Monument would be located either at the Vietnamese American Community Center or Town Fields Park.
It has been three decades since the Vietnam War ended; physical wounds suffered by those who experienced the war might have healed. However, the emotional and psychological damages have still haunted the survivors. Every year, the Vietnamese American community in Massachusetts gathers to share their memories of their friends or loved ones who died in action during the Vietnam War, or who were killed in concentration camps after the war, or who perished during the escape from Vietnam to America. These gatherings give supports to the survivors who continued to suffer the illnesses related to their service during war time, such as post traumatic stress disorder and other kinds of mental health illnesses. Many US Vietnam veterans have also continued suffered these pain. Many both of US and Vietnamese veteran feel that they are forgotten and their sacrifice were in vain. We share one common vision – we need to have a monument of Freedom in Massachusetts to honor the Vietnamese and Americans who served and sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War. It will help ease the pain for the survivors and their families. This monument will express Vietnamese American’s appreciation to the American people for their generosity, hospitality, and support for refugees after the war. The Freedom Monument will be a conversation ice breaker for intergenerational dialogues between veteran grandfathers and innocent grandchildren. It will be a tourist attraction bringing customers to local business.
The goals of the Freedom Monument project is to pay tribute to the Vietnamese and Americans who served and sacrificed for their countries during the Vietnam War and to bring together the Vietnamese American community and other community groups in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Boston to address community issues such as crime and youth violence in the neighborhood.
Vietnamese American residents in Massachusetts have been planning for the monument project for years, but the trigger for community action on the monument project has just happened recently, as the crime and youth violence in Fields Corner/Dorchester has gotten out of control. Our community members were stunned by the crimes and called for a more aggressive focused strategy to stop violence in our neighborhoods. But Fields Corner/Dorchester actually consists of many diverse communities, each with their own and shared concerns: language barriers, misperceptions and limited interaction among the different ethnic groups, which contribute to fears and distrust, preventing people from working together to address their common concerns of neighborhood safety and a sense of peace.
There is no one organization that successfully brings Fields Corner’s diverse residents together to address common issues. And yet, at the Vietnamese American Community Center, people have begun to come together through their children, our programs, or at cultural or community events. Thus, VietAID has successfully organized several community meetings to find the solutions to address the crime and youth violence issues in our neighborhood.
Our community agreed that public art work is the best way to send the message through the border of languages and to bring the diverse communities in Fields Corner/Dorchester together. We wanted to build a monument right on the grounds of the Vietnamese American Community Center to honor the Vietnamese and Americans who served and sacrificed their lives for peace during the Vietnam War. Our hope is that this monument will promote a peaceful loving spirit in our diverse communities and teach our youth the lessons of the past.
For the Vietnamese community in Fields Corner/Dorchester, this monument will have special significance. It will help to solve some of the issues related to youth violence in the neighborhood, such as low self esteem, identity crisis, and generation gaps. Vietnamese communities really hope that the monument will be a place where Vietnamese families visit and use as a means to tell their stories, promoting mutual understanding and communication among the generations of Vietnamese family members. Thus, it will contribute to shape the identity of the next generation of Vietnamese Americans, teaching them the pride felt in service to their country and the pride of the first generation.
Phase 1: Planning and artist selection (for 6 months)
1- Community engagement: VietAID will engage the Vietnamese American community, other community groups in Fields Corner, and a wide range of stakeholders and leaders from diverse sectors of academia, arts, religion and recreation in efforts to frame the concept of the monument, to establish the advisory committee for the project, and to provide feedback regarding selection of an artist.
2- Advisory Committee: VietAID will establish an Advisory Committee with the experience and expertise in public art to advise VietAID on issues concerning the proposed site, the selection of professional artists, and commission of public art work.
3- Artist selection: VietAID will organize an artist contest and select one artist to prepare for the detailed proposal.
There is no better organization to lead this Public Art Project than VietAID due to its reputation in the Fields Corner community and its experiences in managing big projects. Founded in 1994, VietAID is the first and only community development corporation operated by Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. VietAID’s mission is to build a strong Vietnamese American community in Boston and a vibrant Fields Corner / Dorchester neighborhood.
VietAID achieves these goals by developing affordable housing and commercial space; providing high quality childcare services; facilitating job and business development; sponsoring cultural events; and actively promoting civic engagement. VietAID milestone accomplishments include creating the first Vietnamese women run Family Childcare Program – the Vietnamese bilingual and bi-cultural Au Co Preschool; starting the Win-Win cleaning cooperative; and building a number of affordable housing projects.
The most noticeable achievement is the Vietnamese American Community Center – the first Vietnamese American Community Center in the country, built and opened in 2002. Since then, the Center has become home to the Au Co Preschool; Vietnamese Traditional Martial Art program; Van Lang Vietnamese language school; Huong Dao Bach Dang Vietnamese Boys and Girls Scouts; Youth Leadership Program; and other programs and services that serve Vietnamese as well as other residents of our neighborhood.
Over the past 15 years, VietAID has successfully brought the Vietnamese Americans and the diverse communities in Fields Corner/Dorchester together to address common issues. VietAID will continue to succeed in getting the Vietnamese American community and the other ethnic communities in Fields Corner involved in building the Fields Corner Public Art Project.
VietAID strongly believes that with the grant from the Browne Fund, a monument of the Vietnam War will be unveiled in Fields Corner in the near future. We envision that this public art work will help local residents become more productive citizens, bring diverse people together to solve community issues, and make Dorchester a better and more beautiful neighborhood. It will help to make Boston a better place to live and more attractive to our residents and tourists. We are very excited about this project and hope that we will receive the support of the Browne Fund for project design.
Vietnamese American Initiative for Development, Inc.
42 Charles Street, Suite E
Dorchester, MA 02122
Cell phone: 857-919-7153