Community Resilience: Cultivating Solutions Together

By Peter Nguyen

Water continuously flows, never stopping while taking the shape of where it journeys. In understanding resilience, there is this similar notion of adapting, adjusting, overcoming, persevering and bouncing back in different environments and situations. Particularly for many immigrant families, migration to a new country and culture creates a new sense of adaptation and navigating how to establish one’s own identity and life in a new place. Much like the fluidity of water, Vietnamese Americans have continually experienced migration since the end of the Vietnam War. Forced displacement has dispersed the Vietnamese community in many places throughout the world. Still, there is always a strong sense of resilience and the ability to adapt wherever they migrate. Specifically, in the Gulf Coast of the U.S., a large community of Vietnamese Americans have a distinct relationship to the land and water.

In exploring resilience, my passions stem from growing up in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood around different community organizations in Chicago, which instilled in me the power of bringing people together across different social identities. These values inspire my research to understand the relationships of resilience in the aftermath of war and refugee resettlement. I am dedicated to understanding these relationships by uplifting communities of color in the fight for environmental and climate justice, especially during the pandemic where many of these communities face exacerbated impacts, such as the rising cases of Anti-Asian violence.

Public and community-engaged scholarship represents bridging the gap with community knowledge and interdisciplinary research advocating for social, racial, and environmental justice. It is about co-creation and local empowerment, where the most impacted folks are involved in knowledge creation and decision-making. There is a lot of rich knowledge from community residents, and it is critical to uplift and center their stories and experiences. Amidst the pandemic, public scholarship is more important than ever as the same communities most impacted by climate change are also affected by Covid-19 the hardest. Public scholarship incorporates a need to bridge across disciplines connecting climate justice with mutual aid, access to healthcare, access to social services, and access to information. I am committed to democratizing essential tools and resources by making sure they are affordable and accessible. Integral to this work is uplifting local communities to cultivate sustainable solutions.

My research further explores climate resilience in New Orleans, Louisiana, home to a large population of Vietnamese refugees who have endured strenuous hardships such as Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and illegal landfill issues. The Vietnamese community has exhibited strong resilience in returning and rebuilding their homes in New Orleans throughout these hardships. By working directly with community organizations that have been instrumental in their rebuild and interviewing community members of their experiences, I aim to shed more light on the underrepresented Vietnamese American and Asian American communities in environmental and climate justice. Furthermore, by understanding the connection between the refugee and migration experiences, post-disaster resilience, and climate adaptation, I hope to help develop ways to best support locally-led resilience and adaptation.

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