1. For those who don’t know you, please tell us a little about yourself and your background. How did you become who you are today?
Alright, my name is Vy Hoang, a Vietnamese-American cis womyn raised by immigrant parents from San Jose, CA. I identify as queer, prefer she/her pronouns, and am a third-year student majoring in Sociology and minoring in Asian American Studies at UC Berkeley. Both my parents came to the States after being displaced from Vietnam as refugee camp survivors and boat people after the Vietnam War. They came here without an education, without much money, and without much knowledge on how to navigate the system. Growing up seeing my parents work day-in and day-out in their working-class jobs, I understood the importance of having agency over what I wanted to do for myself and others in the years to come. So, throughout high school and now at the Cal, I’ve worked closely with many marginalized communities, predominantly the queer/LGBT community, at Cal, in grassroots organizations, and in non-profit, community based organizations including the Berkeley and Santa Clara County Public Health Departments, the NAACP, and California State Assembly.
2. What are you currently working on?
So here we go: on campus, I work with the queer community in six different student orgs and projects. I’m currently the Operations Co-Chair for Cal Queer & Asian, a space dedicated to the needs and narratives of the campus’ queer and A&PI communities; the Outreach Co-Chair for Cal’s Queer & Asian Conference, an annual conference hosted by Cal; a Board member and in QARC (Queer Alliance Resource Center), an umbrella student organization comprised of representatives of all active, campus queer orgs; the Legislative Resource Coordinator in the office of Cal’s current queer Senator, where I write bills specifically for the larger campus queer community; a committee member of the Queer Inclusivity Workgroup, a committee responsible on developing inclusivity education curricula and workshops; and a committee member of Big Queer Events Planning Team, a group responsible for planning events such as shows, flashmobs, etc. for the larger campus queer community. When I’m home back in the South Bay, I work with the Santa Clara Public Health Department with menthol regulation and addiction prevention, primarily with policy and legislature, in the underrepresented and marginalized communities of this county.
3. What are you most proud of?
I would have to say, I’m most proud of earning and having the trust and support of my communities, on and off campus, with my current work. Though, I am proud of my academic and professional achievements, I’m more proud of the connections I’ve made with different communities which has led me to have such a strong, supportive network of friends.
4. Has your race or ethnicity ever helped you or held you back in any way?
I know that others imposing the model minority myth of Asian & Pacific Islander Americans on to me have institutionally and personally held me back. I would have to say that my reclamation of my ethnicity of a Vietnamese American womyn has helped me understand how to navigate my spaces as a Southeast Asian person in predominantly East Asian spaces and as a person of color in non-A&PI spaces. Speaking of reclamation of my Vietnamese American identity, I also love disrupting the notion of the docile, eroticized Asian woman by giving people some fierce, hard-femme, queer flair; and, I, as A&PI womyn, can and will drop some knowledge on my narratives and the narratives of my people, if necessary.
5. What do you want to accomplish most in the next year?
I really just want to continue building my community be it continuing the work I’m doing now, on and off campus; being part of new spaces; or just meeting new people. And, beyond listing my goals for my seven obligations, I feel most accomplished when I go home at the end of the day knowing that I have a community that has my back. Connections with people are an accomplishment and they make me a happy camper.
6. Who has influenced you the most?
My mentor, Lorna, who I met through Santa Clara County Public Health. She introduced me to people in the queer and A&PI communities across the Bay area; and, ever since then, I’ve learned the ropes of how to organize and mobilize community. Throughout my high school years, she taught me tangible, organizing skills: facilitation, public speaking, and legislative processes. I couldn’t be more grateful for her being an example of continuing this type of intergenerational work as someone who was involved in HIV/AIDS prevention for our queer people of color communities back in the 80s. The skills and knowledge that I acquired from her in this work could not have been acquired through my formal education.
7. What are the five most played songs in your music library?
My Top 5: Bad Girls - M.I.A; Intro - The xx, Angel Baby - Rosie & The Originals, Darkest Dim - TOKiMONSTA, and Only Wanna Give It To You - Elle Varner feat. J. Cole.
8. If you could offer some advice to someone who looks to get as involved as you are, what would it be?
I would suggest checking out what resources and groups are most accessible to you, be they local community-based organizations advocating for issues that connects with your daily life or a campus group that provides a safe space for an underrepresented community that you feel passionate about. Once you got that down, I mainly suggest that you come in with a humble, open heart. Be ready to learn about other people and yourself, to say “I’m sorry,” to be vulnerable with other people in the work, to be willing to work through your discomfort with heavy and difficult isues, to build support systems (so you don’t get burned out), and to add some humor and be silly sometimes. It’s work, yes; but, it’s all really worth it.
9. What issues light a fire in your heart? And how did you get involved with them?
I would have to say issues pertaining to health, especially mental health; visibility in safe spaces; and safety of my queer people of color brothers, sisters, and gender nonconforming people. It all started with Santa Clara County Public Health and since then I branched out to the larger queer and A&PI communities in the South Bay. When I started going to Cal, I broaden my networks to the larger Bay Area. So, as my connections expanded, so did my work. It’s pretty much keeps going and going for me.
10. I heard that you’re currently running for Cal Senate. How’s the race going?
Oh yes! I’m running for Cal’s ASUC Senate with CalSERVE as a queer/LGBT-endorsed candidate, chosen by representatives from Cal’s 18 active queer/LGBT student organizations. I’m running with an incredibly supportive campaign team, an amazing party slate of student leaders, and a strong community of brave queer students and allies. Now, my schedule is booked from 7am to midnight every night for the next two weeks! And I’m running with three platforms:
1 - Inclusivity Training for All: Implement inclusivity trainings to incoming students, staff, and faculty on issues regarding gender identity, race, class, physical ability, mental ability, etc.
2 - Queer Recruitment and Retention Center: Establish an institutionalized student-run campus space with the mission of recruiting and retaining queer/LGBTQ by working with our Queer Alliance and Resource Center (QARC) and our Bridges Multicultural Resource Center, our campus coalition of student-raun recruitment and retention centers.
3 - Extended Ethnic Studies Library Hours - Extend library hours to make Cal’s Ethnic Studies Library, the largest in the nation, in order to make our library more accessible and visible to students.
And, if I may: If you’re a Cal student, vote for me, Vy Hoang with your #1 vote and my running mate, Caitlin Quinn with your #2 vote for ASUC Senate on April 9th-11th! Be sure to check out our CalSERVE Executive Candidates, too! And if you want more info, check out my website at https://flavors.me/vy4senate#_ . Thank You!