Culture

How Vietnamese lawmakers struck back after a California county declared Jane Fonda Day


BY RYAN SABALOW| CalMatters

As Saigon was falling, Janet Nguyen’s uncle – an officer in the South Vietnamese Army – was taken before his village and executed. After the city fell on April 30, 1975, the communists put Nguyen’s father and mother in jail. Their “crime?” They got caught trying to escape the country.

After Saigon fell, Tri Ta’s father spent years in a re-education camp prison. His “crime?” He wrote books critical of communism.

Both Nguyen and Ta eventually made it to California with their families. She became a California state senator and he became a member of the Assembly. The Republicans represent Orange County districts home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam.

Forty-nine years after the Fall of Saigon, April 30 remains a solemn day for Nguyen and Ta as it is for many of 2.3 million Vietnamese-Americans in the U.S. They call it Black April.

“It’s a day that we mourn,” Nguyen said.

Which is why Ta and Nguyen were outraged when leaders of neighboring Los Angeles County declared April 30 “Jane Fonda Day” to honor the celebrity for her environmental activism. The lawmakers immediately began pressuring officials to rescind the recognition.

Jane Fonda listens as Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath proclaims that April 30th is “Jane Fonda Day” in Los Angeles County at a Board of Supervisors meeting on April 30, 2024 in Los Angeles. Photo by David Crane/SCNG

To many Vietnam veterans and refugees, Fonda more than earned her pejorative nickname “Hanoi Jane” when she traveled to North Vietnam during the war, was interviewed for communist radio broadcasts and had photos taken with North Vietnamese Army soldiers and their anti-aircraft guns.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Supervisors announced they would change the date to another in April during Earth Month “out of respect for the community voices who have spoken up.”

The decision to honor Fonda on such a solemn day for Vietnamese Americans wasn’t intentional, said Constance Farrell, a spokesperson for Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, who chairs the Los Angeles County board. Rather, Farrell said that date was chosen because it fell on a scheduled meeting where board members routinely issue proclamations honoring people and organizations.

Why Vietnamese-American lawmakers were upset

Ta and his Democratic colleague, Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen of Elk Grove, wrote a letter last week signed by nearly every Republican Assemblymember urging the L.A. County supervisors to rescind the proclamation.

“This honor for Ms. Fonda is an affront to the service and sacrifice of American and South Vietnamese soldiers who gave everything in the cause of freedom,” their letter said.

Assemblymember Tri Ta was one of several California lawmakers of Vietnamese descent who protested Los Angeles County’s designation of Jane Fonda Day. (Rahul Lal for CalMatters) 

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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