Linda VanZandt began working for the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage in 2003, shortly after graduating from USM with a degree in International Studies. During a trip to Vietnam, she recounts being deeply affected by the generous spirit of the Vietnamese people and their culture. In this episode, VanZandt explains her decision to reach out to the East Biloxi Vietnamese fishing community after Hurricane Katrina.
While assisting with relief efforts on the Gulf Coast, VanZandt befriended many of the Vietnamese-Americans living in Biloxi. She recalls being led to conduct an oral history project to preserve their stories for future generations. VanZandt developed a traveling exhibit documenting the stories of the Gulf Coast Vietnamese fishing community. She remembers the impact it had on second and third generation Vietnamese-Americans.
Developers of the Two Mississippi Museums made extensive use of the oral history collection at USM. VanZandt discusses assisting the exhibit designers and how the Center’s Vietnamese-Americans of the Gulf Coast Oral History Project impacts how this community is represented there.
After the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, the Communists seized private property and issued new currency. In this episode Thao "Kim" Pham of Ocean Springs recalls how her mother traded all of their old money for gold so her husband and of nine of their twelve children could escape from Vietnam and start a new life.
Pham recounts how they used the occasion of her grandmother’s funeral to slip out of the country and escape by boat to Indonesia. She describes the standing-room-only conditions on the boat and how her father bribed their way into an Indonesian refugee camp where she spent the next year and a half missing her mother and wondering what would become of them.
It was almost two years before Pham was able to get word to her mother that their family was alive and well. Now the owner of several successful businesses in Ocean Springs, Pham discusses the mutual respect and admiration she and her mother share in a PODCAST EXTRA clip.