An art piece originally published on Project Yellow Dress and republished on Project Ava with permission of the contributor.
A few years ago, my family was cleaning out the garage and we stumbled upon a bag of faded letters and photos that my mom’s family had exchanged while and after they fled Vietnam as Vietnamese Boat People. The picture you see here is of a letter addressed to my aunt, who was one of the first people on my mom’s side to escape Vietnam, from her brother (my uncle), who had written to let the family already in America know that he had safely made it to Songkhla Refugee Camp in Thailand. It is interesting to note that he also included the boat number and date of arrival on the front of the envelope.
The world is currently experiencing several major refugee crises, the most prominent being the exodus from Syria. There are major parallels between my family’s journey and the ones happening in 2016, from the need to flee because of persecution and the decision to brave the open sea to have even just a chance of a better life, to the images of men, women, and children huddled in small spaces like a rickety fishing boat or a flimsy life boat and the mixed global response to the crisis. What has definitely changed however is the technology involved – instead of waiting for weeks or more in agony to know whether a loved one has safely arrived at a refugee camp, now refugees can almost instantaneously share news.
I chose to share this picture because this letter represents so much more than meets the eye. It holds all the promise and fear that enveloped my uncle and in turn my entire family at the time, the prayers that crisscrossed the sea, the worry that filled each day the letter was en route, the dream that one day they would all be reunited. This letter is not just blue ink scrawled across paper, but a symbol of the determination and resilience my family embodies.
Project Yellow Dress (PYD) is a website focusing on sharing and highlighting the histories, experiences, and voices of Vietnamese Boat People and the wider Southeast Asian community. We currently have several campaigns taking place, including a Call for Submissions for art pieces (photos, creative art, poetry, reflections, etc.,), a Vietnamese Boat People Interview Project, and a Southeast Asian American Survey Project. For more information, please check us out at projectyellowdress.squarespace.com.