Azen Jaffe: My name is Azen Jaffe, it is October 16, 2019. I am speaking with Pam Phan at the Community Alliance of Tenants here in Portland. Thank you for being with us. Could you please start just by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your background?
Pamela Phan: Yeah, sure. My name is Pam Phan and I was born here in Portland in 1976. That seems like a long time ago. In terms of my family’s background—my family arrived here very early in April or sometime in April of 1975. So they were one of the first families to arrive in Oregon. They flew from Guam. Their story is that they were able to steal away. My uncle, who still is alive and lives here in the Portland area—He, at the time, was a naval officer—or just someone who was in the navy—and he was able to somehow commandeer a boat. In the middle of the night they packed together whatever they could carry with them—with my grandfather, who was kind of the family patriarch—and got everyone on the boat—dozens and dozens of people [laughing]. That included my parents and my older brothers and sisters and my aunts and uncles and all my cousins and we made a trip to Guam that same night. So that is the story. And actually, my uncles and my father spent some time together pulling together a family history recently so I actually have quite a little bit of it in print. Happy to share that with you too...
AJ: Oh that is great.
PP: But there are a lot of newspaper clippings actually, of when my family arrived here in Portland. So what happened was they went to Guam, stayed there for a little while, in the camps there, then made an air journey straight to Portland. So that was the trip. Those clippings are Oregonian clippings of "Vietnamese refugees coming to Oregon” or “Coming to Portland" and what that meant and it was a little bit different. Actually, this picture right here is of the day that my mom and my grandmother came. That is my father's mother and that is my mother and that is the airport [chuckles].
AJ: Here in Portland?
PP: Yup! That is the Portland airport.
AJ: Cool. Do you know why they flew to Portland in particular?
PP: That is where immigration sent them, so from what I am aware of and from what folks have shared with me is that there was very little choice. Immigration has the need to—and it is true today—it is part of their process to manage numbers of people. An "accumulation" is what they call it. As I have worked with immigration officials in the past, they call it accumulation and they want to make sure that there is a value of dispersal across the country. So that is from my understanding why you have pockets of communities around the country. When you are wondering, "Why are there so many Hmong people in Minnesota? Or Somali people?"—that is what it is. It is that immigration put them there. So why are there so many Vietnamese people in Portland? It is because immigration put us here.
AJ: How does your family speak about the first couple of years here in Portland?
PP: In general, it is remembered really fondly... on so many levels because we would not have been able to come to Portland if it were not for the graciousness as well as the generosity of... essentially the churches in the area. Individual churches and individuals within those churches gave their time, their homes—they opened up their homes to us to stay until we found housing, things like that. That is hugely—those personal relationships that I remember the most because I was born just a little bit after my family arrived. Then I was raised in this environment where we were going, we did not have a lot of stability, right? Just kind of trying to figure things out and trying to establish ourselves in a new country where everything is foreign and different. I grew up in that environment where we did not have very much, we only had what you could see. I remember distinctly growing up in an environment where the people were the most important—whatever relationships we had with people that essentially were our sponsors, who sponsored my family to be in the United States. A lot of them were connected to Kenilworth, Presbyterian church in Southeast Portland. Let’s see, I am trying to remember some of the other churches, but that is the one that sticks out in my mind because one of our sponsors became my piano teacher for many years, Ms. Waymoth. For instance one of the families, the Rice family—I am not sure which congregation, I will have to check back with my parents about which congregation they came from, but essentially when I was born, they became my godparents. Even though we are not Christian it was something like, "Oh yeah!" My parents were like, "Hey! Thank you so much for saving our family [laughing] and giving us an option to live, would you like to name our daughter?" That is actually why I have the name that I have. That is where Pam comes from, or Pamela, it is because they named me, they gave me that name.
AJ: What neighborhoods did they move to and did you live in while you were growing up?
PP: Let's see, I am trying to remember... So we were first settled into—and this was back in the seventies—and again, my older siblings would probably have a better sense of it because I was not quite conscious yet, I was still a baby. From what I am aware of, we were settled into what would be considered the Crest Division, I do not know, the sixties of Division? And the house was on 61st and Tibbetts. We have pictures, old pictures of the house. There is that house, that again—Portland was really not a hip and happening place back then in the seventies. It was really working class and really gritty, and that is the Portland I grew up in. Housing costs were different, they were not the same as they are now. We lived there for a while, bopped around to different houses. We had a very large family and a very large extended family so it was hard to house all of us.
AJ: And you were all together?
PP: We all tried to stay together as much as we could. Sharing rooms, that sort of thing. I have very fond memories of going into my room as a kid and really it was just a room full of mattresses. That is where me and all of my brothers and sisters and my parents slept. That is kind of how we shared homes. We shared a house. We moved around in Southeast [Portland] mainly, what people used to mainly think was the outer Southeast which was the 60’s to the 80’s. At one point—so one of the cool things that my family did was, the first paycheck that we got, that anybody got in the United States—my father and my mother, all my aunts and uncles—they would always take a picture of you with your first American paycheck. We have this photo album full of these. With that, there was just this sense of "we are really lucky to be here, alive and active and moving on with our lives." Saving for the future was really critical because there were so many young kids. I became the tenth grandchild that was [laughing] traveling with all these adults, and a lot of young adults as well. My grandmother also—her youngest son was just a few years older than the oldest grandchild. There were just a lot of young people and children. But the message that we always got sent, in this tradition of taking a picture of your first paycheck was to save, was to save for the future, was to make choices that got you to the next step or to the next phase. So over time, everyone in my family, all the working adults saved enough cash to buy a house on 21st and Madison. That would be considered the Hosford-Abernethy area or something like that. Just right off of Hawthorne, just a block off Hawthorne on Madison.
AJ: What were your parents doing when they moved here for work?
PP: Before they moved? Like back home?
AJ: Sure, yes.
PP: My grandfather opened a Pho restaurant in Saigon. It was like—I am trying to remember the name of it, but when I say it people recognize it. There are like, "Oh yeah! I remember that place." It was just you know, your regular restaurant that people go to. Nothing, you know… and my aunt who still makes the best Pho ever, she was the cook! And my mom helped out in the restaurant. So that is what my mom did and she also took care of all of us, all of my four brothers and sisters prior to that. My father was actually in the Southern Vietnamese army. He was a captain. He was for a long time, for many many years, as my parents were starting their family and going back and forth because that was a really long... long... long war. Pretty much from when my sister was born all the way to… He decided, "Yeah, it makes sense. I need to—again thinking ahead and thinking to the future, I need —” You would think becoming an officer in the middle of a war would not be job security [laughing] for yourself or life security, but it was something that he made a choice to do so that he could have a regular salary for his family. So that is what my dad was doing before he came. And with that, my dad was actually just telling me a story about it just yesterday. When he came—again people had some training, a little bit of English in school, right? So if you can imagine how much Spanish or German you know from taking it in high school? That is how my parents were. They took English in school and so they had a little bit but they did not have enough working English. My mom had quite a bit of working English because she interacted with a lot of people. There were just so many English speakers or Americans in the country at the time before they left the country that she had good working English. My dad not so much, or less, and he needed more practice, but when they first came to the U.S he was a security guard. They were like, "Oh you are military trained and you can handle a gun." So he was a security guard in different public spaces around Portland. He worked the waterfront, he worked all sorts of places.
AJ: Did you go to Portland Public Schools?
PP: Mhm, yes. So I went to—and actually all of my siblings and cousins, we all went to Portland Public Schools. We ended up in that house over on 21st and Madison which put us in the Hosford-Abernethy area, so we all went to Abernethy. Then most of us went to Hosford.
AJ: How was that experience, of what you remember?
PP: Ahh, it was different from any other typical upbringing. I feel like, you know, I am a pretty American kid, right? I got to grow up and speak English and do all of the things, but strangely enough, even though I speak—and did at the time because my older cousins would come home and teach me English, right? Even though Vietnamese was what I spoke at home—I had a pretty good handle on English when I got to kindergarten, but I was still put in ESL. And I was put in ESL all the way through, until third or fourth grade. Even though I was like... "Sure, this is whatever the school wants to do." [laughs] So that was an interesting experience to just know what you are capable of, but no one believes you. At some point, the teachers found out that also I had severe nearsightedness, but they just thought it was because I was dumb and could not speak English. I mean literally that is what teachers would say to me. Today, you would be appalled and someone would get sued if a teacher told a student that, but when I work with refugee students now, they get the same type of treatment. If you cannot understand or speak English or you do not respond well to assignments that you are just considered not super bright and actually not fluent enough in English to cut it in a regular class. So yeah, I mean definitely that was my experience in school. But I had a lot of friends and there were quite a few other Southeast Asians—Lao, Mien, Hmong, kids in school with me. Cambodian as well. We just grew up kind of… I remember pretty diverse classes. When I look back into my—you know those class pictures and stuff? There were Black students, there were Latino students, there were lots of Southeast Asian refugees and then other Asian groups, you know people, in my class. And I remember them fondly and I still have relationships with some of them now that I have grown up and I am an adult—if they stayed in Portland. So it is interesting—when people talk about how "white" Oregon is, it has only become that way in mind because Oregon or at least Portland—the Portland I grew up in was working class. It was all people who needed jobs to survive, who did not have a ton of expendable income. Portland was totally affordable and whoever that was, was here. And that happened to be quite a few immigrants and Black folks as well. I think the change in Portland has everything to do with the migration of people coming to Portland.
AJ: As a kid, was being Vietnamese something you thought about?
PP: Oh yes, constantly. I was Vietnamese the whole time. I was never not Vietnamese. It was something that I could not put away and also, like with the story of how teachers treated me, they reminded me in shameful ways. But other teachers were very different, other teachers loved and appreciated who I was as a kid and encouraged it. We were fully bilingual going back and forth all the time. So we live on 21st and Madison and the school that I went to was on 12th and Division. We used to basically—if you know where that 7-Eleven is, on Hawthorne in that little turn, there is a little—Hawthorne kind of makes a jut out. It was great, my grandfather used to walk us to school every day. And take us through Ladd's Addition. This is the time of year I love in Ladd's Addition. I have really really fond memories of walking through Ladd's Addition because of all of those huge trees and then in the fall and around Halloween all of those leaves drop and you just get to… and if it stops raining you get to jump in them. So that is what I deeply remember [laughing], and being able—like goofy games we used to play walking to school because at some point, my grandfather suffered a really severe stroke that debilitated him. He could not walk for himself anymore, so then my older cousins were the ones who would lead us through to walk to school every day. We would have games where we would see how far we could get just walking through alleys—if you have ever been in Ladd's Addition before. Or the different ways to walk across Hawthorne, because Hawthorne was the big street and I had to get across [laughing] as a kid. So I have memories like that of the neighborhood. There were clear rules that we had as a family. Like do not go too far by yourself, and hugely that had to do with Hawthorne. At the time in the seventies and eighties, Hawthorne was not the place that it is now. It was actually a really gritty place, meaning when people thought of drugs and crime, they thought of Hawthrone. So we were asked to stay close and always have someone with us if we were going to walk up to Fred Meyers on thirty-ninth, now Cesar Chavez right? Yeah, it was a really different place, to think that that happened within a really short period of time.
AJ: A lot of the folks we have talked to that have grown up around similar times talked about remembering a skinhead presence, is that something that you were aware of?
PP: Absolutely. Doing different things to protect yourself… Personally as a kid growing up, I went to school at Abernethy and then I moved on to Hosford and then from there I went to Lincoln across the river. But through that time, especially the eighties and nineties, definitely there was a street skinhead presence. So I learned how to read at Holgate Library over on eighty-second and Holgate. I have really distinct memories of going there on the weekends or going there whenever I had time to pick up books or whatever and I had very careful instructions not to be alone and to always be seen by the librarian. Because you know, I wanted to be there a lot and so my mom would go shopping and drop me off and that sort of thing. The instruction was because of the skinhead presence in the neighborhood. Especially along 82nd. So at some point, as I got older I remember I started spending time and making friends. I remember my friend Phong—who was also a Vietnamese kid—he got connected to the SHARPs: Skinheads against racial prejudice. So it was another subset, they were a skate crew and it was really well documented that the SHARPs were actively kind of headbusting to carve out territory that was safer for folks. I spent a lot of time with my friend Phong as a kid just to try to stay safe on the playground. We would all kind of come together. That is just one memory. A lot of us as Vietnamese kids, we would gravitate to each other, but also we understood that we were definitely under fire. Later, when I was about four, my parents decided to move to their own space, to their own house. Because you know, seven people [laughing] in one bedroom as kids are starting to become tweeners or whatever? It was not the best. So my parents decided to move, and we bought—this is a funny story—we bought a house over on 58th and Rome, which is two blocks off Powell, near Powell and Foster. The house that they bought, the reason why it was so cheap and they could afford it was because it was on auction, a police auction. My parents went to a police auction and they were like, this is a perfect house for us. It turned out, the reason why it was so cheap in the auction was because there was a double homicide there. So my parents were like "Great! It is cheap!" So that was the house we moved into, it is still there, it is really cute. I have a lot of fond memories of living there. In that neighborhood, in that Foster-Powell neighborhood, we spent a lot of time on eight-second, where the community had a lot of shops and stuff. We would go back and forth a lot on Foster, but as kids that we loved so much was the pool. On 59th or 60th and Foster, there is the YMCA pool, so that is where I learned how to swim. We would always walk there, and one of the things that really was something that made it very clear to me was that it did not even need to be skinheads that were harassing us or skinheads that posed a threat. It was the neighborhood kids. We would get stoned on a regular basis—literally stoned, like people throwing rocks at our faces, screaming "Gook" at us. I remember there were different times, when you know my sister, she is seven years older than me so she could not have been more than twelve or thirteen with a bunch of little kids and she is trying to decide "what do I do, do I walk home or what?" In her mind, her thinking was, "If I walk home, they will know where we live." This was a regular occurrence, this is what we prepared for when we left the house, most of the time. But my parents worked really really hard to maintain high levels of care and safety. They always made sure that we understood our surroundings, and knew how to navigate and knew how to get home.
AJ: ...That was something that they were aware of too?
PP: Yeah, they would always double-check. Do you have a quarter to call home? Do you have your ID? Anything—your school ID—anything that helps you get home [starting to cry]. Do you know how to talk to a police officer or talk to an adult... to figure out how to get home? Because home was where it was safe [crying].
AJ: That is scary... Can you take me through high school at all?
PP: ...High school was similar in different ways but I think it was similar in terms of not just the discrimination but the otherness because you are always—I think grade school, it is their neighborhood, right? So it is really a small area that you are connected to. You kind of know where everyone is coming from, like the same twenty blocks and everyone is really familiar. But highschool got bigger, and then I decided to go to a high school across town which made it—literally I was taking Tri-Met bus every day and that was a very different feel, and then also I went to a high school that was fed from really affluent neighborhoods that I had never experienced before, or I had never been in before. So that was a huge shift for me because all my siblings and cousins actually went to Benson. They all went to Benson [laughs]. Which was, you know, because that was where you would pick up technical skills and also, that was where Vietnamese kids went. So I kind of made a choice—because I have always been much more interested in social issues and social sciences and so for me, Lincoln was the thing. So I figured it out, figured out how to get in and then yeah, I would say high school there for the first time actually, I felt like a minority. That word was just so ever-present in my life. Prior to that, living in Southeast Portland, going to school where I went and doing the things I did, I never felt like a minority because there were actually a lot of other immigrants around. There were a lot of other people of color in general. But, for the first time in my life—I mean I was keenly aware I was not white, do not get me wrong, I understood the differences, but for the first time I was ever told that I was less than because I was one of few, it was such a small number. There were literally no Vietnamese students in a school of 1200, or very few. People make the immediate assumption [that] if you have the same last name then you're related and there were students who had come through three or four years ago and they thought that I was related. I was like, "No no no, no relation." It was not until—it was really funny—on graduation day, I wore a áo dài just because I thought this is the time to wear my traditional dress and help my parents feel really good and proud about me graduating from high school [starting to cry]. It was really funny because another student that I had never seen before was like, "Wait, you are Vietnamese, I am Vietnamese too!" It was just this really strange "Woah, how come we have never talked to each other?" and hugely it had to do with the fact that they had tracked her into ESL classes and I was not. So we would never see each other. There was no connection. I think we were the only two Vietnamese students in that class. There are aspects of that and just you know, insensitivities—all of the things that you might imagine in a majority-white space. For me, it was jarring but it also prepared me for the realities of living in Portland, of navigating the professional world… So that was high school.
AJ: And what did you do after high school?
PP: I did a bunch of things, but I was able to get into the University of Oregon and go to school there. In my family, all my siblings had gone to school. My older sister had gone to the University of Oregon but my other siblings between—the middle kids—all went to private schools that got fully paid for. That was also the expectation at Lincoln, was to go to a private school, but for obvious reasons, at some point, being fully funded for my other siblings, had a lot to do with the types of—going to Benson, the private schools they ended up going to were not common. So they were the only ones from their school applying to that school, so it made it really really possible for them to be seen and paid for. Instead, I went to a college prep school which made it really difficult for me, there the competition is just high. So I ended up going to UO, not by choice but because that is what I could afford. Using all of my summer savings and that sort of stuff, I ended up going to UO and I think it was one of the best decisions of my life. So I am actually really glad that I did not end up doing what my sister did, which was fly across the country to the east coast and go to a school. I feel like my high school experience was that elite experience that I needed and I did not need anymore. So I went to UO and I ended up joining the Vietnamese Students Association as well as the Asian Pacific American Student Union. I got to meet other students, I got to meet other people who were asking similar questions about a Vietnamese identity. Asian Pacific American or Asian Pacific Islander identity, and even realizing, "Oh wait, there are Pacific Islanders and what does that mean?" And UO has a lot of variety in terms of like there is a number of Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander students going there. So it was a really deepening, eye-opening experience to be going to school and learning things and also learning things socially and doing idea formation and political campaigns and political education with other Asians. I loved—it was the most amazing experience for me. It changed my life for sure.
AJ: Can you talk a bit more about what some of that—like the political campaigns or what you were learning socially with your peers?
PP: Yeah I mean we did all of the typical fun stuff like the ski trips and the parties and stuff, but then also we did these other things like putting on New Year's celebrations for the entire campus as the Vietnamese Student Association and being able to write speeches in Vietnamese and be able to give them. And practicing and learning from each other. And then realizing that there is a particular experience being Vietnamese American and talking about that. Like what does it mean to be born here, but still have a deep connection to your culture and family? And that your family really does not disappear at all [getting tearful]. We did Tết celebrations several years in a row, that was a lot of fun. You know cultural stuff, so we did presentations on who we are, what we were doing on campus and again—all in translation, all in Vietnamese. With the support of the Vietnamese language teacher, instructor at UO. Then with APASU, which was the Asian Pacific American Student Union, we did other political education, talking about what were the moments in history that affected us and affected American history? So things like internment—the things that people did not know about that are definitely a part of US history, we tried to bring to light. We did sessions and workshops and we even did—to talk about internment in May during APA Heritage Month, we set up a fenced-off area—literally a fence—and mimicked what it would be like to be waiting to get on a bus for internment as a Japanese American. Things like that, physical exhibits and just generating that kind of interest and organizing other Asian students to get involved in both the social and political work that we were doing.
AJ: I am going backward a little bit, but were you involved in Portland and sort of the larger Vietnamese community before you went out to Eugene?
PP: So the Vietnamese community has changed a lot over the years. I think each family has a different involvement. There are different groups that have formed and definitely I feel like my community is my family and the people we know. So I have a really good mental map... because Vietnamese people lived all over the city, it wasn’t just one place. For instance, my aunt and uncle live in Sellwood, in the same house they have lived in [laughing] since they moved in in the early eighties. Next door to them was a Vietnamese family as well. I have these memories of going to different neighborhoods all over Portland to go meet up with families. But again there are concentrations, there are places. So that was my experience of the community. You go to so and so's house to get banh chung or you go to another person's house to get—like my mom and my family we made banh chung which is a big seasonal northern style New Year's cake—a big square rice cake that my family makes. And they make it a certain style, so people wanted it from my mom. So they would come to our house for that. We would share that way. Or my aunt, she makes really eggrolls so people would come to her house for the eggrolls. That is what I remember of my community because it was young and kind of not politicized or not aware yet. Then when I came back from college I think I was a little bit more aware, a little bit more understanding of a system or an ecosystem of how things work. Realizing that there were different things that we were supporting each other with. Like my mom, she went out of her way as a community member to support newer arrivals. Back in the seventies through the eighties and nineties, Sandy was the street that you would go to to find the Vietnamese community. That is what my memory was, so if there were a place, it would actually be the neighborhood that we are sitting in right now. Where CAT is right now, is this neighborhood—really close to Sandy. My mom, she was on this list of interpreters, she would do medical interpretation because she used to work for a hospital... I think it was mainly medical interpretation she would do. So she was on a list of interpreters and I think if it was Catholic Charity or someone needed an interpreter she would get called any time of the night, any time of the day. If she were available she would take the job so she would meet a lot of newcomers that way and she would make friends, and some of the friends she made she would help them. She did it not as a non-profit worker or caseworker, she would just do it because she thought it was important. She helped people set up their shops on Sandy. Like go through all the business licensing and promotion and just doing things. It does not require special skills, it just requires someone that is willing to do them and follow through. So my mom helped set up a couple of people's businesses and that sort of thing. I think I started realizing that when I got back from college, like, "Oh my mom is doing stuff, she is participating!"
When I was a little kid, and we lived at that house on 58th and Rome, we found out that my grandfather died back in Vietnam. So we started going to temple. And so this is the other connection. We went through a mourning period for my grandfather and we would go to temple. That is when I started going to Vietnamese language school. I would go and hang out with the monks and they would teach me Vietnamese. It was not that they did not try, I was just... you know I am a kid and I am not paying attention, so it did not stick. It was funny because that temple was actually in deep North Portland. So if you know where the—near Chautauqua—Lombard and Chautauqua is the main intersection. There is a bar called the Mousetrap right next door, there is this house right there that used to be our temple. There is another temple over in North Alberta on the corner of Tenth and Alberta, which is now the Eritrean Community Center. That used to be one of our temples as well—in terms of Buddhist temples in town. But over time, they have grown, and the temple that we went to on North Lombard is now on North East hundred and forty-eighth and San Rafael. They are growing so it is exciting. To have been a part of the community and see. For me, community is hugely what we do. It is a part of the everyday. And what I love about it? I think about the community when I come to work... People think of it as “Who is the leader? And how do we talk to them to get answers?” I think that is how the government—because I interact with the government a lot here at CAT—That is how the government interacts with us, But from someone inside of the community like myself, when I think of myself in the community? I do not go to the leader to ask what to do in my own community [laughing]. I just exist in it, I just am. I go grab lunch with somebody and we go for walks or we literally go to the garden at the temple just to see each other. That to me is community. It does not have to be only—so it is a really different perspective and sometimes I would wish [laughs] that when the government asks for our opinions, they would not just go to the person they perceive as the leader.
AJ: Well, that is a great segway. You mentioned CAT. Could you talk a bit about your work here and what this organization is?
PP: Yes, CAT is the Community Alliance of Tenants—that is what it stands for, CAT for short. We are the statewide tenants union. It has been around since 1996. It developed out of the need for renters to understand and to be able to assert their rights and assert their rights as organized individuals. So to be able to come together for collective power because we often know that when you are one person trying to advocate for yourself or trying to get something, it makes it really really hard for you to be heard or seen because of all of the potential discriminatory ways the system might treat us individually. It can prevent that from happening or it can actually shine a light that it is happening. So that is what CAT is. We are literally the statewide tenants union. I have the privilege of being able to be the Policy and Organizing Director. What I get to do is actually—it is a dream job!—I get to spend time with community members where they live and find out what is working for them and what is not working for them. Especially when something is not working for them, share with them that they are not alone. Share with them that if they are getting evicted or if their rent is increasing or if they feel and know that something is a little fishy in the way that their landlord is treating them, that they are probably right and that they are not alone and that other people are experiencing that same thing—even their neighbors. What I get to do is get organized with folks around these issues and help support people pooling together their experiences and deciding on collective action. So is it to change a law? Or is it to get a repair made in their building? Or is it to express that enough is enough in terms of the way the world thinks about our housing? Does it always have to be that people who own property always have the upper hand? So those are some of the questions we ask here at CAT. So what we do is we run a renter's rights hotline and then we also organize with people to win their homes back in whatever way they are deciding that is.
AJ: This might be a huge question, but from a fair housing perspective, how has Portland historically treated communities of color, refugee communities or immigrant communities?
PP: That is a big question. A friend of mine actually spent her entire dissertation working this, you should chat with her if you want to hear the Vietnamese perspective as well because she is also Vietnamese American.
AJ: I would love to.
PP: She would have much smarter things to say about it than I do just because she studied it, but what is interesting is that in terms of fair housing, we know that housing in the United States is deeply segregated and Portland… is no exception. Portland is probably one of those [laughing] very stark examples of that segregation, quite honestly. If you want to see an example of how effective the combination of redlining and the homeowner's loan corporation and racial grading is? You look at Portland. When you match that with Portland's tradition of urban planning, then it makes it even more stark because these were all intentional choices at every moment. That speaks to the broader fair housing question of segregation. My immediate family—in terms of my parents and my siblings—we all came in 1975 with my father's family. But then there are other waves of my family—my mom's side of the family who came later, in the nineties, as refugees. They had a very different experience. Those waves of families—I ended up working with them as a youth worker when I worked at the Asian Family Center, an Immigrant Refugee Community Organization, over at IRCO. I worked with a lot of these families that came in the eighties and nineties and they were actually settled in North Portland. They were settled right in the same neighborhoods we are talking about in Albina. It is really interesting, there is a reason if you ever drive down Killingsworth or walk down Killingsworth and go "Woah, why is there a Vietnamese market here?" It is because that is where we were and that is where my aunt and grandmother first settled when immigration brought them here. They found them a place in North Portland. That is where Catholic charities sent them. So to answer that question, I think Vietnamese people—I think this is a pattern that my friend can probably speak to more research about—families were put in these same segregated places. And experienced and watched the racial hierarchy in the United States play out or participate in, or are in the mix of hierarchy we did not create for ourselves. So that is one. But on the other hand, in terms of fair housing violations, when it comes to the individual violations of discrimination of one person to the next, we see it every day here at CAT. It is really really common for Vietnamese renters to experience different treatment because they may or may not understand the language as well. They can not read the lease agreement or terms and they get treated differently. In terms of fair housing, I see it writ large as well as in the everyday aggressions of being able to access your housing fairly… And sometimes we see things at CAT, we sometimes see immigrants who do not have a command on the language and this would be under national origin discrimination. Which as a protected class is—because of this a lot of Vietnamese families I talk to, their rent is way higher. Or they are in a really weird lease term that you would find outlandish and that no one would ever take. But because it was the only choice that they had or they felt that it was the only choice—they made the decision under duress, they took the lease agreement. We see that quite a bit.
AJ: Do you have the time?
PP: It is eleven.
AJ: Well, I do not want to take up more of your time than I said I would. Before we close, do you think there are more things that I should ask right now? That you want to talk about?
PP: I think it would be fantastic—I mean I am not the person to talk to. I think you could dig into a few of the connections—and I can connect you or share with you. I would love— I have been wanting to do this with my aunt. I wanted to do this with my mom, my mom actually passed in June.
AJ: I am sorry to hear that.
PP: But it would be great to do an oral history with my aunt. She literally arrived at the airport—I actually met her for the first time on my fifteenth birthday, I remember it very distinctly. She and my grandmother and my uncle arrived on that day. She has been here since then living in Portland. She has helped build the temples and the congregations that I am talking about because she went into the order many many years ago when she was young. But now she is in her eighties and she is really connected in all of these connected temples. Because you have noticed more and more of our temples are popping up. It is because more and more of us are coming.
AJ: Yeah, it would be great to hear more about that.
PP: I can ask her if she would be interested and definitely it would need to be in Vietnamese. She is kind of at the end of her life—or she is older, so she has a lot of good reflection but then she is also very no-nonsense, so I do not know if you have run into that.
AJ: OK well I am going to close this off. Again my name is Azen Jaffe, today is October 16, 2019 and I am speaking with Pam Phan. Thank you very much.