Interviewee: Tuan Nguyen

Role: Deputy Director, Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation

Date of Interview: 6/2/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Tuan Nguyen, born and raised in New Orleans, and the son of Vietnamese refugees from Phu Quoc, Vietnam, is deputy director of Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation in New Orleans' Versailles community. Tuan reflects on his participation on Vietnamese Congressman Joseph Cao's oil disaster Rapid Response Team and the diverse groups with whom they worked while advocating for fisherfolk.


Congressman Cao created this Rapid Response Team. He invited myself to be on it. Minh [Nguyen] is with a local youth group [VAYLA]; he's executive director. He joined the group, and one of his staffers, Jennifer Vu. And so the next thing you know we were traveling nonstop for like a month. We visited fifteen cities all across the Gulf Coast, different states. I think he first did it to help the Vietnamese community, but it kind of like – everyone kind of came to him, "Well, how can" – and so we actually visited the Native Americans, the Cajun Americans. We started working with the African–American oyster fishermen, and between all of this we're working with the Feds, you know, like EPA. We're working with Department of Labor. They were really great. Next thing you know, all these secretaries are coming out and visiting and trying to find us. So, Secretary Solis from the Department of Labor must have did like three community forums; she did a lot. And we organized fishermen for her, and she sat down at a roundtable. It was so cool, like at a table like you and I are sitting, and she would just talk to the fishermen, and we would interpret. And so a lot of this happened, and next thing you know, while we're doing all of this, I'm working for the staff to organize like the immediate response needs that the community members requested for, and that was utility assistance. We partnered with Catholic Charities to provide utilities assistance, food vouchers, food boxes with Second Harvesters. They brought the food boxes down; we were passing that out. Getting them money to pay for their electricity bills, some with some rental assistance. We asked for the state's Department of Health and Human Services [DHS]; they brought in three wonderful women to help with food stamps assistance. They were great. I mean, we still keep in touch with them, they were so wonderful.

I mean, the beautiful thing was not only were we able to help the people that were affected by the spill, we even helped just community members who had issues with food stamp applications. They came in, and they helped them. They were just helping anybody and everybody who was coming through this door. They came here every day, and they were great. They stayed way until like months out, until we didn't even need them anymore, and they were still here. I mean, we still needed them for the community, but in terms of the immediate oil spill response, we attended to it. And so we were able to do that. We invited the state's Medicaid, Medicare folks. They came and took applications. We actually demanded that BP put in some of the claims processors. They came in. So it was sort of like a one-stop shop that we had going on here. Crazy, it was hectic. It was hot. We had hundreds of people out here at a time, lining up. I mean, it was pretty bad, like – We actually had people coming from Lafayette, people coming from Mississippi, coming here, and to be honest with you, some of them came just for information. I remember some Lafayette folks leaving at three, four in the morning to try to get food vouchers, at the same time, trying to get information, and it was that kind of thing we were dealing with.

To listen to Tuan's interview, click here.