NW Vietnamese News

Tatsuo Nakata Youth Award: Mary Nguyen A lion for justice and equality

May 31
02:31 2011

LTS.- Cô Mary Nguyễn được giải Tatsuo Nakata của Tiếng Nói Cộng đồng của tuần báo International Examiner, tổ chức vào ngày 18 tháng 5 tại nhà hàng Tea Palace. Giải này dành cho những thanh niên có nhiều đóng góp cho “công lý và sự công bằng”. Cô Mary cũng là nhà tổ chức cộng đồng cho nghiệp đoàn lao động United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.  Bài này tái bản từ báo International Examiner. (NVTB)

I first met Mary Le Nguyen in 2007 when she applied for an internship with the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. During that interview, she exuded passion, curiosity, humility, and a dedication to social justice. From that moment, I knew that she would be doing something amazing for the community.

Mary will be awarded with the Tatsuo Nakata Youth Award at the International Examiner’s annual Community Voice Awards on May 18. Mary is a perfect fit for this award, named after a young man who demonstrated leadership in the API community before his untimely death in 2006.
Mary’s family came to the United States as Vietnamese refugees. She was the first person in her family born in the country and would often tell her siblings, “I’m the only one that can be president.”
The Nguyens were the last Vietnamese refugees to arrive in Washington in 1976. In fact, the Emmanuel Lutheran Church of Longview, WA petitioned U.S. Senators Henry Martin Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson and Governor Daniel J. Evans to allow one more refugee family to come to Washington. Thankfully, the lawmakers granted their entrance into the country. It was as if destiny knew that Mary would do amazing things for the community if the Nguyens were permitted to come to Washington.
Mary’s upbringing in the small logger town of Longview, Wash. created her foundation for justice and equality for communities of color. She was one of the few people of color in her cohort, but that did not prevent her from becoming engaged in school activities. Mary was on the volleyball and basketball teams, in student government, honor society, and voted “Best All Around” her senior year. Amidst all of this, she still longed to be part of a community that understood her and her desire for justice.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Washington-Bothell, Mary saw that there was not a lot of support for LGBTQ students. Instead of just complaining or wishing things were different, Mary stepped into action. She co-founded the university’s first Gay Straight Alliance.
Stepping into action is something that Mary does well. In 2010, the Board of Pharmacy threatened to limit patients’ access to medication by modifying a rule that requires pharmacies to give medications to people without discrimination or delay. Mary recognized the API community had to be heard, so she represented the NAPAWF-Seattle Chapter in a coalition of reproductive rights advocates and testified before the Board. The result? Mary’s action made a difference and patients’ access to medicine is protected.
At 30 years old, Mary has a number of milestones to be proud of. Completing her Masters of Policy Studies at the University of Washington-Bothell, fiercely leading the NAPAWF-Seattle Chapter, and working with Wal-Mart workers as a community organizer at the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 in their efforts to advocate for their rights are to name a few.
However, campaign successes cannot fill Mary’s heart like her family does. In the past year, Mary brought together her family in a very special way. Last fall, she purchased a home in Renton, where her parents, brother, and partner have created a home together. Her sisters are minutes away and the Le and Nguyen home is often filled with the laughter of children and conversations about peace and justice.
There is something about Mary that inspires all those who meet her. And it’s really easy to pinpoint. It could be her wit, her smile, her intelligence, or her commitment to her family and community. It is a combination of all her special qualities that make her an incredible daughter, sister, partner, friend, and leader.
Liezl Rebugio
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