1. What drew you to RVC?
I’ve been in nonprofits for most of my professional career and when I was in undergrad I studied how nonprofits replicate capitalistic systems, the nonprofit industrial complex, and systemic inequities. I definitely struggled with the idea of how I can work within a system that perpetuates inequities. When I found RVC I was just reading blog posts and learning about how RVC was trying to provide resources to organizations for them to use themselves. I applied to the Fellowship Program because RVC was dedicating intentional time into trying to reconcile with being within the system while also trying to support communities and not be complicit in the system as much as possible.
When I was a part of the Fellowship we were able to dive deeper into what it means to be in this sector and it created a good foundation for why I am doing this work. For me, a lot of it requires building at the same time as breaking down systemic barriers. It felt really aligned with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to commit my time.
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
I really like my role because I get to work with an org and team that’s invested in building community as much as we are invested in each other. That feels really special. I feel like I’m a bit of a nerd about HR things, and traditionally HR has been super rigid and not built to support communities and folks of color. Being in a position to support internal staff and communities we’re working with, practicing anti-racist HR systems in ways that we’re implementing our operations, and diving into what it means to be pro-Black in the work that we’re doing – that’s really exciting for me and being able to be in a team that does that together is even more so.
3. What does being “rooted in community” mean to you?
It looks like learning from the community, leaders, indigenous teachers, social movements and understanding our organization’s positionality and the influence that we hold. It means taking lessons learned from the community, from folks who are most impacted, and folks we‘re trying to serve and putting that into action. What I think when I hear ‘rooted’ is this idea that we’re learning from the ground up. Ultimately the future that we hope to build looks like interconnectedness, and in order to do that we have to be proactive in our listening and apply that.
4. What is your vision for the future?
That we have our basic needs met, we have ways of supporting each other, and we just have a strong sense of community. We have time to rest and heal and build together without scarcity in any way. That’s ultimately the big goal – being able to exist in our wholeness and do the things that we enjoy doing!
5. What is your favorite lunch?
I eat a lot of soup so I feel like a lot of my lunches involve soup. My favorite would probably be homemade ramen (non-packaged!) where I make stock and have all the ingredients ready to be put into a pot and heat it up every day. It nourishes me and that’s the important part.
6. What is the theme song of your life? And why?
I really like Mitski and I listen to this song “Because Dreaming Costs Money My Dear” a lot.
I just love sad music sometimes. But this song specifically feels like she’s talking to her inner child and it’s about doing what feeds your soul. I think a lot about growing up and not having a lot of money, so going for what you want can be hard. This song gives permission to my inner self to do what fuels me and the rest will fall into place. It lets me move in the world in a way that helps me follow my heart’s passion.
7. Who inspires you?
My grandma. She was the person that raised me other than my parents. I grew up in Vietnam so my grandma raised me. I learned a lot about how to support one another through community from her. She was also Buddhist so I absorbed a lot of Buddhist teachings around what it means to live communally with each other and how to support those who are around me. She would donate her time to supporting unhoused folks in Vietnam in whatever ways she could, like with meals or having conversations or spending time and engaging folks in ways that helped them feel less lonely in the world. I take a lot from observing her. She was an elementary teacher and seeing how she interacted with people in very nurturing and kind ways, supporting young minds, that was really great for me to see. She really invested in each of us, whether we were related to her or not.
8. What is your favorite local business to support?
I definitely recommend Pho Ba on 7th Ave. It’s a smaller shop in the International District and it’s where I go when I’m feeling homesick and missing my mom’s food.
I’d also like to shout out Trichome. They’re just really cool folks and have a lot of cool gifts and knick knacks. It feels very welcoming and chill when you walk in and it’s great for if you’re looking for cool gifts or unique items.
9. Any closing remarks?
I draw inspiration from Grace Lee Boggs so one of my favorite quotes is, “We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”
I feel like it encompasses why I want to do community-oriented work and what that looks like for me.
You can find me at: @colorsoftheuyen