MIAMI, FLORIDA: Nearly 4,000 An Bang people attended the An Bang Villagers Abroad Conference which took place for the first time after more than 40 years living abroad.
On Sunday, July 14, 2019, nearly 4,000 people attended the An Bang Villagers Abroad Conference at the Miami-Dade Fair & Exposition Center in Miami, Florida. People came from various countries and several states to be with old friends or relatives who shared the same origin of a small fishing village in Central Vietnam, called An Bang. This event also marked over 40 years since the An Bang people arrived and settled in America and many other countries. The Fair was filled with tears and laughter before the main event even started.
The opening ceremony was impressive and touching; one could see tearful eyes throughout the audience. The Fair has a capacity of 7,000 people, but it appeared to be full during this flower offering performance. The organizers expected two thousand attendees; however, the actual turnout was doubled. If this number is any indication of success, the organizers exceeded their goal. An Bang people are always united, so they could not ignore this important event which had been organized for more than a year. The song “Hoi Ngo Than Thuong” (Dearly Reunion) which was written for this event by musician Le Minh Hien, was then performed by the An Bang singers. The lyrics in the An Bang tongue were so close to each An-Banger, which brought tears and joy to many. “My fellow An-Bangers, why are you so beautiful? We haven’t met for a long time, how are you doing?” People started to sing along with the performers, creating a harmonized atmosphere.
Dr. Long Le, the head of the organizing committee, delivered his welcoming remarks. In that, he expressed how difficult it was for the organizing committee during the past year and a half. There were many tasks to complete. The financial situation was a challenge. There were differences in ideologies among the An Bang people. But the organizers overcame these obstacles because of two words they dearly love: “An Bang”. They made every effort to finally bring this event to life for all of the An Bang Villagers. He also acknowledged the efforts to beautify An Bang’s homeland and maintain the culture in the countries where An Bang people reside and encouraged this cultural movement in future generations. On behalf of the organizing committee and all of the An Bang Villagers, he thanked America and other countries who embraced and welcomed the An-Bangers with hospitality and opportunities.
The organizers then honored those people who evacuated after the fall of Saigon and the seven pioneers who first successfully escaped Vietnam from the An Bang beach in 1978. In the interview with the pioneers on the stage, they revealed the hardships and despair that they had to go through during their escape by a small fishing boat in finding a new freedom path, but somehow they overcame them. Their successful escape paved the way for many more An Bang boats to follow. Now, the prosperous An Bang Village treasures this story as if it’s a part of their history and identity. It can be said that An Bang village has the highest number of escape by boat compared to their neighboring fishing villages. The attendees had a chance to enjoy a short film resembling this first escape, moving from pitying to loving their fate as exiles, and then proudly recognizing the successes of their younger generations.
Suddenly, the song “Chung Mot Loi Ca” (One Harmony) was played, followed by music composed by An Bang musicians for this reunion, according to the program agenda. The stage brightened with the achievements of An Bang people. Singers were native An Bang people, Hue Thy, and Don Ho. There were raffle ticket drawings, speeches, and a presentation of the An Bang’s history and census in both languages intermixed between each song.
Earlier in the day, sports tournaments took place at the Miramar Regional Park with over 500 An Bang youths participating in soccer and volleyball. These sports teams were awarded in the preshow section of the conference. Sport is the indication of the power of youth, so the atmosphere of the Fair was more turbulent with chants. Also in the preshow section, the organizers awarded the writing contest prizes for 14 contestants. People suddenly realized that one of the banners hanging in the Fair was even more meaningful, that was, “taking care of the youth is to preserve the culture of the ancestors.”
The program continued to showcase the achievements of the An Bang People. With the instilled nature of solidarity , wherever they go, the An Bang people build communities to preserve the Vietnamese culture through annual or lunar new year celebrations. The truth is, this conference was organized in connection with the An Bang Communities abroad.
According to the information presented by the Culture Department, An Bang people are now scattered in various countries and states with over 10,000 people. The conference was broadcast live on Facebook by Anbangnews so that many people who could not attend could follow. Regarding the media, besides Anbangnews, SBTN was also present.
The conference was successful based on two criteria: the number of attendees and the finances. As the number of participants doubled, the organizers faced difficulties with seating, food, and refreshment shortages. Because of the year-long organizing effort, the program was intended to be longer than normal, scheduled from 3 pm to 12 am. However, due to the shortage in food and seating, attendees started to go home earlier than expected. Perhaps, the turnout was the most unexpected, yet exciting feeling for the organizers. Financially, despite an indication of deficit earlier, there were many sponsors who supported during the conference, and it was no longer a burden for the organizers.
After the conference was over, people started to ask to one another, “will there ever be a second conference?” Returning home with a bittersweet feeling, it appears that the post conference effect is carried in every An Bang person who attended. When will be the second conference for them to meet and continue crying and laughing together? This question, according to some, awaits the young generation to answer.
Photo: Anbangnews Team and the Media Group of the An Bang Villagers Abroad Conference
Written by: Van Dinh Lang Quan