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K-State Today

February 8, 2012



'Lessons After Katrina: Youth Leadership and Community Activism' lecture and workshop with Minh Nguyen

By Michele Janette

Minh Nguyen is a first generation Vietnamese-American, and a member of the Vietnamese refugee community that formed on the outskirts of New Orleans after the Vietnam War. Not only was this community devastated by Katrina, but in the aftermath of the hurricane, New Orleans officials approved a fast track set‐up of a landfill to dump all the ruined household goods and building materials in his neighborhood – despite the fact that the landfill would be immediately next to a wetlands reserve and to canals that the community farmed as a major food source.

The community organized, fought back and won in a story that united generations, races and classes. Nguyen was one of the youth leaders of the campaign to stop the landfill, and has since founded a permanent Youth Leadership Association to address the needs of his community. His lecture and workshop address both how to mobilize in response to an emergency, and also how to sustain local activism and grassroots commitment.

Nguyen's lecture, "Lessons After Katrina Youth Leadership and Community Activism," is at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, in Town Hall of the Leadership Studies Building.

He will also offer a workshop and brownbag lunch on community mobilization in emergencies from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, in the conference room of the Leadership Studies Building. Seating is limited at the workshop, please contact mjanette@k-state.edu for more details. 

Nguyen's talk will be of particular interest to readers of this year's First Year Experience book: "Zeitoun," since his experiences also deal with a community that was left off the political map as New Orleans dealt with the devastation of Katrina. Environmental justice advocates and those invested in building youth leadership and community alliances across differences in race, age, religion and nation of origin will also find Nguyen's lecture useful. Plus, he is an extremely entertaining, inspirational speaker!

If you'd like more detailed background on the campaign to stop the landfill, I encourage you to watch the documentary film "A Village Called Versailles," which is owned by Hale Library, and also has a good accompanying website. 

This event is sponsored by the women’s studies department, the

leadership program, the honors program and the DOW Multicultural Resource Center of Hale Library.