Community Vietnamese

Navigating Two Worlds: Di Tran’s Dragon Year Reflections

In the intricate tapestry of the Lunar Zodiac, the Year of the Dragon shines brightly, symbolizing might and fortune. For Di Tran, straddling the realms of Vietnamese heritage and American dreams, the dragon year resonates deeply, reflecting his journey of cultural synthesis and personal discovery. Di Tran, who coins himself as “Vietnamese Born but American Made,” lives a story of resilience and adaptation, embodying the dragon’s spirit in his pursuit of a bicultural identity.

Rooted in the ancient traditions of Vietnam, Di Tran’s early years were steeped in a rich cultural heritage, laying the foundation for his values and worldviews. Yet, his migration to America marked the beginning of a new chapter, one filled with the challenges of assimilation and the opportunities to forge a new identity. The dragon’s attributes—courage, ambition, and innovation—mirror Di Tran’s experiences as he navigates the complexities of living between two distinct cultures.

The balance between maintaining Vietnamese traditions and embracing American ideals is a delicate dance for Di Tran. He faces the dual task of overcoming language barriers and dispelling stereotypes, all while striving to preserve his cultural roots. His journey highlights the critical role of education and reflection in bridging the gap between his past and present, enabling him to share the richness of Vietnamese history and culture with a broader audience.

As the Dragon Year 2024 looms, Di Tran sees it as an opportunity for introspection and growth, a time to set new goals and reaffirm his commitment to cultural exchange. His story is a testament to the dynamic interplay of heritage and identity, offering a blueprint for navigating the complexities of a multicultural existence.

Di Tran’s narrative transcends personal accomplishment, serving as a broader commentary on the challenges and rewards of living between two worlds. It sheds light on the importance of embracing one’s heritage while adapting to new environments, illustrating the enriching experience of cultivating a multifaceted identity.

In charting his course between the historical dragons of Vietnam and the soaring eagles of America, Di Tran not only bridges geographical divides but also fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity. His journey is a beacon for those navigating their own path through the rich landscape of identity and belonging, highlighting the enduring power of heritage and the transformative potential of the American dream.

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The Heartwarming Tradition of Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét at Saint John Vianney in Louisville, Kentucky

In the heart of Louisville, Kentucky, amidst the chilly embrace of winter, a warm and vibrant tradition flourishes, echoing the rich cultural heritage of Vietnam. This tradition centers around “Bánh Trưng” and “Bánh Tét,” two quintessential Vietnamese dishes that symbolize the essence of Tết, the Lunar New Year celebration. Far from their tropical homeland, the Vietnamese community at Saint John Vianney, a Catholic Church with a significant Vietnamese congregation led by Father Anthony Chinh Ngo, keeps this tradition alive with love, dedication, and a deep sense of community.

The Tradition of Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét

Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét are more than just food; they are embodiments of Vietnamese culture and history. Bánh Trưng, a square-shaped glutinous rice cake, symbolizes the Earth, while Bánh Tét, its cylindrical counterpart, represents the moon. Both are meticulously wrapped in banana leaves and filled with mung beans and pork, requiring hours of preparation and cooking. These culinary delights date back thousands of years, linked to the legend of Lang Liêu, a prince who offered them to his father, the King, as a symbol of his respect and filial piety.

A Bridge Between Cultures

In Louisville, Kentucky, the making of Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét has become more than a culinary endeavor; it’s a bridge connecting generations and cultures. At Saint John Vianney, this tradition is not only preserved but celebrated with enthusiasm and love. The elders in the community, often grandparents, gather together to share their knowledge and skills with younger generations, ensuring that this precious cultural heritage is not lost in the snows of Kentucky but thrives in the hearts of the Vietnamese diaspora.

A Labor of Love and Community Spirit

The preparation of Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét for Tết at Saint John Vianney is a labor of love and a testament to the community’s solidarity. Hundreds of volunteers, from seasoned cooks to eager novices, come together in the church’s kitchen to prepare thousands of these cakes. This massive undertaking is not just for celebration but also for a noble cause: fundraising to build a new church. The process, from sourcing ingredients to the communal cooking that often lasts through the night, embodies the community’s dedication to their faith and cultural heritage.

Caring, Sharing, and Teaching

The tradition of making Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét is imbued with the values of caring, sharing, and teaching. It offers a moment for the community to come together, share stories, and pass on traditions. It’s a time when love is not just felt but actively expressed through the careful preparation of food, symbolizing hope, renewal, and gratitude. Children learn the importance of cultural identity and the joy of giving, as the sales from these cakes go towards a communal goal that benefits all.


In the snowy state of Kentucky, far from the lush landscapes of Vietnam, the tradition of Bánh Trưng and Bánh Tét during Tết is a vivid reminder of the enduring spirit of Vietnamese culture. At Saint John Vianney, this tradition is a beacon of love, community, and cultural pride. It demonstrates how traditions can transcend borders, bringing people together in celebration, service, and unity. As the Lunar New Year of the Dragon dawns in 2024, the community’s efforts embody a profound expression of love: for tradition, for culture, and, most importantly, for each other. Through these endeavors, they are not just building a church; they are fortifying the bonds that connect them, ensuring their heritage continues to flourish for generations to come.

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Empowering Voices: How AAPI Artists and Activists are Redefining Community Caregiving

Artists and activists within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities are playing a pivotal role in amplifying the voices and concerns of their communities. These efforts redefine the concept of caregiving beyond the traditional scope of providing for individual daily needs, embracing a broader approach that includes cultural, narrative, and community empowerment.

Key Initiatives and Projects

  1. Pasifika Enriching Arts of Utah (PEAU): Directed by Kalani Tonga-Tukuafu, PEAU focuses on Pacific Islander artists and culture. Their project includes a survey of caregivers, revealing that many caregivers lack formal training and support. PEAU is planning an art exhibit titled “Telling Our Own Stories,” which aims to humanize Pacific Islanders and offer a deeper understanding of their experiences in the diaspora​​.
  2. Asian Americans United: Led by Interim Executive Director Neeta Patel, this Philadelphia-based organization focuses on protecting and preserving Chinatown, a cultural treasure and home for many AAPIs. Their work involves battling against commodification and displacement caused by real estate developments, emphasizing the importance of community over commercial interests​​.
  3. Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW): Managed by Dianara Rivera, AARW in Boston focuses on issues like housing and immigration. They launched a project titled “A Love Letter to the QC API Community,” which aims to provide healing and power-building narrative spaces, particularly in response to political attacks on queer and trans communities. The project involves local artists and workshops that explore collective care and political activism​​.
  4. Southeast Asian Diaspora Project: Jessica Eckerstorfer’s project, based in the Twin Cities, is focused on collecting and preserving stories of joy from elders within the Southeast Asian diaspora. This initiative aims to showcase the humanity of their people, transcending the trauma of war and displacement. The project involves intergenerational collaboration, where younger family members help collect stories from elders, bridging language and experiential gaps. The resulting collection, “Planting Seeds: Knowing Our Joy,” will be available at a book launch event, featuring stories in both English and heritage languages, complemented by illustrations from emerging artists​​.

Impact and Importance

These initiatives demonstrate a significant shift in the definition and practice of caregiving within the AAPI communities. By focusing on cultural preservation, narrative change, and community empowerment, these organizations are ensuring that the diverse and rich stories of AAPI individuals are heard, understood, and valued. Their efforts contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society, where the voices of marginalized groups are amplified and their cultural identities are celebrated.

Community Drop the FEAR and Focus on the FAITH Drop the ME and focus on the OTHERS Early Childhood Education Immigration Leadership Development Self-Improve

A Family Tradition: A Colorful Connection to Vietnamese Culture and Love

For Di Tran, author of “Drop the ME and Focus on the OTHERS,” and his wife, Vy Truong, their journey of cultural preservation and familial bonding begins in a vibrant and fragrant venue – their kitchen. It is here that they engage in a tradition that is as colorful as the culture from which it stems – preparing Vietnamese sticky rice.

Di Tran, a passionate writer who encourages shifting the focus from self to others, uses this culinary tradition as a platform to weave lessons of selflessness and consideration into his family’s routine. As Tran and Truong mold their family life, the sticky rice serves as a canvas, vividly illustrating their shared cultural heritage and values.

The process commences with their sons focusing on their homework, embodying Tran’s belief in the significance of diligence and commitment. The moment their work is complete, the air seems to fill with anticipation. The boys approach their mother with earnest faces, their request for the beloved sticky rice sweetened with three to five gentle kisses, underlining the importance of expressing love and affection.

The act of cooking Vietnamese sticky rice, or “xoi ngot,” is a cultural performance. A delicacy known for its radiant hues, sticky rice is a metaphorical feast of Vietnamese history and tradition. As the Tran-Truong family gathers to create this dish, they are immersed in a spectrum of colors that tell the vibrant story of their heritage.

In Vietnamese culture, each shade of the sticky rice holds a symbolic meaning. The green rice, tinted by the juice of pandan leaves, represents a fresh start and growth. Yellow, achieved through the use of turmeric, signifies wealth and success. Red, a color infused by gac fruit, is a symbol of love and passion. Through these colors, Di and Vy not only cook a dish but also depict a narrative of their roots.

In the Tran-Truong kitchen, the sticky rice’s preparation is an immersive family affair. Vy, a seasoned home cook, instructs her sons on the nuances of this traditional dish. She guides them through selecting the rice, soaking, and finally, steaming it. She then shares the unique process of naturally coloring the rice, revealing the botanical secrets behind the green, yellow, and red hues.

In these shared moments, the children do not merely learn to prepare a dish; they connect with their culture on a deeper level. The lesson surpasses culinary skills; it’s a vivid illustration of their heritage, an education in patience and precision, and a reminder of the value of hard work and love.

Once prepared, the multicolored sticky rice is not just a meal—it’s a cultural tapestry woven with ingredients that narrate tales of Vietnamese history and traditions. Every mouthful serves as a flavorful reminder of their ancestry, a testament to the richness of their heritage.

In their quest to sustain their culture, Di Tran and Vy Truong are nurturing their children’s understanding of their roots, integrating it with lessons in hard work, family love, and respect for one’s heritage. The sticky rice tradition in their household is a tangible, tasteful, colorful connection to Vietnam.

This practice is more than cooking; it is a heartfelt act of cultural preservation, an effort to instill their cherished values in their children. It is a generational gift from the heart of Vietnam, shared over dinner, passed from one generation to the next, ensuring the richness of their heritage remains a vibrant part of their family’s narrative.