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Vietnamese groups furious over 'Jane Fonda Day' in LA County

Hannah Fry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Citing her advocacy for social justice and environmental sustainability, Los Angeles County leaders last month declared April 30 as "Jane Fonda Day."

The backlash was immediate.

Within days, politicians and members of the Vietnamese American community sharply criticized the decision to honor the actress on the date known in the Vietnamese community as "Black April" in commemoration of the fall of Saigon. Fonda famously made headlines in the 1970 with her staunch opposition to the Vietnam War.

"She may be a very strong activist for climate change, but besides that, we also view her as being a person who was very cruel to the rights of the South Vietnamese people during the antiwar protests," said Phat Bui, a Garden Grove resident and chairman of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California.

The outcry has now spurred plans by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to move Jane Fonda Day to earlier in April.

Bui told The Times that he was shocked when he learned that Jane Fonda Day and Black April would share the same date. On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnamese stronghold of Saigon — now known as Ho Chi Minh City — fell to communist forces. It marked the end of the Vietnam War.


Nearly 50 years later, the day is still observed by those who fled Vietnam or whose family members did. In Orange County's Little Saigon, home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities outside Vietnam, residents gather each year on April 30 to hold a ceremony with prayers and traditional songs in remembrance of the day.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen, a Republican whose district includes Little Saigon, wrote in a letter to the Board of Supervisors that dedicating that particular day to Fonda was "alarming and profoundly disrespectful to over half a million Vietnamese Americans in California."

Other lawmakers also wrote letters opposing the dedication. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach) called the decision "unconscionable" and urged the board to rescind the honor.

"To elevate Hanoi Jane over the Vietnamese Community, Americans who sacrificed their lives, and the loved ones they lost to communism, is deeply offensive to the freedom-loving Vietnamese Americans who bear such tragic and painful memories of the Vietnam War," Steel said in a statement, using a pejorative nickname for Fonda that circulated following her protest of the war.


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