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Established in 2018, VietRISE is a community organization based in the heart of Orange County (OC)’s Little Saigon, home of the largest Vietnamese community in the world outside of Viet Nam. VietRISE emerged from the collective efforts of Vietnamese activists, artists, and educators whose mission was to cultivate a civically engaged and progressive Vietnamese community in the county. VietRISE has since evolved into a movement-building organization, serving as a vital pillar in the development and endurance of a robust Vietnamese social justice and multiracial solidarity movement among migrant communities in OC. Recognizing the pressing challenges faced by working-class Vietnamese Americans due to years of political exploitation and neglect, VietRISE strives to address these issues while advocating for social and economic justice. Our organizational mission is to advance social justice and build power with working-class Vietnamese and immigrant communities in Orange County. We build leadership and create systemic change through organizing, narrative change, cultural empowerment, and civic engagement. We envision an Orange County that is home to a thriving movement of Vietnamese people who are culturally empowered and work in solidarity with others for social and economic justice, ensuring that every individual is free from systemic injustice and the threat of displacement, and can lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.
About the Organization:
$500,000 - $1 MILLION
Despite stereotypes and dominant narratives about the Vietnamese American community as monolithic, conservative, and wealthy, the community’s needs are complex and varied, requiring cultural and systemic change to adequately address. Through our programming and research with the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley, we've discovered that, contrary to prevailing narratives, the majority of the community seeks an active government that promotes public welfare, improves living standards, tackles economic disparities, and values genuine connections with other communities. Following the end of the War in Viet Nam, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees resettled in the US from the 1970s to the 1990s. In response, conservative groups in the US passed legislation and invested heavily to disperse Vietnamese refugees across the country to facilitate assimilation, create an expectation of gratefulness to enforce the good/bad refugee narrative, and cultivate the political elites to represent the entire community. Conservative groups in OC weaponized the narrative of Vietnamese economic mobility to undermine the challenges and needs of our community, hindering potential gains through solidarity with other marginalized communities. Orange County, CA is home to over 200,000 Vietnamese resident, the largest Vietnamese community in the world outside of Viet Nam, and is the latest battleground for Vietnamese self-determination. Little Saigon, OC is one of the largest, most well-known Vietnamese enclaves in the world and is often called the “capital of the Vietnamese diaspora” due to its size and the large number of refugees who resettled there, particularly in the cities of Westminster, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana. The Vietnamese community has since grown to be a major political and economic force, with Vietnamese Americans holding prominent positions in government, business, and the arts. However, the community’s political power has not resulted in public policies that improve the living conditions of most community members. Challenges that the community face include increasing economic challenges, housing concerns, limited educational access, incarceration and immigration enforcement, inadequate health care, and inadequate political representation. There is a desire within the community to change these conditions, and we believe a robust organizing infrastructure is needed to make this vision a reality.
By organizing and empowering the Vietnamese community in Orange County, CA and building collective political and economic power alongside other communities, we can build a lasting progressive social justice movement to ensure our community’s right to self-determination, fulfillment, and dignity. All of VietRISE’s work connects to and supports our vision for a thriving social justice movement. Our programmatic departments are: Community Organizing, which develops community organizing power through leadership programs, youth organizing, civic engagement, coalition building, and advocacy efforts; Political and Cultural Education, which hosts educational events on Vietnamese and Little Saigon history and culture; Community Wellness and Resilience, which provides resources and referrals to enhance the well-being and resilience of the community, with a focus on those impacted by the immigration and criminal justice systems and the COVID-19 pandemic; and Campaigns, which focuses on advancing economic, immigrant, and housing justice through policy and advocacy campaigns. Additionally, we are launching our inaugural Membership Program this summer, which is a community organizing initiative that aims to build a community and formal network of individuals dedicated to advancing social justice and community empowerment in Little Saigon. The first of its kind, our Membership Program will bring together individuals from across Little Saigon’s racial, generational, and geographic boundaries to engage in immigrant, housing, and economic justice efforts that impact the community and develop key leadership skills, political analysis and education, connection to Vietnamese culture, and lasting relationships and a community with one another. By equipping members who are youth, systems-impacted individuals, adults, and seniors with these skills and resources, we aim to build a community that collectively effects change at the local and county government level, to ensure that our city and county budgets are funding programs that build the health, resilience, and agency of working class communities. Long-term positive social change requires a long-term movement of active and empowered individuals, and this membership program aims to build that space in Orange County.