Vietnamese celebrate lunar New Year

February 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The pride and emotion of Vietnamese Americans filled San Jose's downtown streets on Sunday as tens of thousands celebrated Vietnam's lunar New Year. However, Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilwoman Madison Nguyn were not present.

Parade organizers chose not to invite Nguyn because of the issues surrounding her support for the name 'Saigon business district'. Many Vietnamese prefer Little Saigon. Madison Nguyen successfully led an effort to call an area along Story Road as "Saigon Business District." Many in the Vietnamese community want the name "Little Saigon."

The councilmember was not invited to take part in the annual Tet parade in Downtown San Jose on Sunday.

"If I can avoid anything negative, PR within the community, by not inviting one council member, then it's worth it," says Loann Nguyen, Parade Organizer.

Since San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed backed Nguyen, he says there have been threats to disrupt the parade if he attends, and so, he will not.

"I'm not personally concerned about my security. That's not an issue. I'm concerned about the security of all the people that might be attending the parade if there's some sort of effort to disrupt the parade," says Reed.

Making everyone happy seems impossible, which is why the council settled on the name it did. Even under pressure of a recall, it appears 'Saigon Business District' is here to stay.

"I still firmly believe the recommended name we came up with is a sound compromise," says Nguyen.

Councilman, Forrest Williams, questioned the mayor's absence, even though Williams himself is at the center of the naming controversy. He's accused of privately supporting the name change before the council publicly voted on it in November.

Still, the most popular float in the parade was the one belonging to the group backing Little Saigon.

"We want to let people know little Saigon is the name, the identity of our people in San Jose," says Barry Do Little, Saigon supporter.

Supporters say for refugees, Little Saigon pays proper homage to the fall of Saigon.

Still, Madison Nguyen claims Saigon Business District is also respectful, plus it's a compromise for those who don't want Little Saigon. She chose to spend the day with family in Modesto.