Westminster and Garden Grove, part of metropolitan Los Angeles, are home to 83,400 Vietnamese (2010 census) and their myriads of businesses: restaurants, retail shops, accountants, lawyers, doctors. Signs at the entrance to shopping centers may be as much in Vietnamese as in English.

Little Saigon signs

Signs at the entrance to a mall in Little Saigon

Two fine artists from Saigon settled in this huge diaspora, Be Ky and Ho Thanh Duc. Linda and I met them and their three children in PRPC in 1989, and we later met their daughter who stayed behind in Vietnam. Duc, Be Ky, Cao, Hai Dung and Cung left for California after six months in PRPC. After some years of losing touch, I found them again in 2014 on a trip to southern California with Lina.

With Duc and Be Ky

With Duc and Be Ky


Be Ky and Duc written up

An article about Be Ky and Duc

Be Ky was a well known street artist in Saigon while still a teenager, creating drawings and caricatures in flowing brush strokes, fluid portraits of people going about their daily business, especially families at play and at rest. She is a fine lacquer artist also.

Be Ky with painting

Be Ky with one of her brush paintings

Duc, a more “formal” artist, has done stunning collage paintings made up of tiny strips of paper torn from glossy magazines as well as oils. He paints large canvases on themes such as the struggle for freedom and human rights. The figures of Jesus and the Buddha appear often in his work.

Tears and Smiles

A poster for Duc’s 2005 exhibition, “Tears and Smiles”: Jesus weeps, the Buddha smiles.

Like hundreds of thousands of other refugees, Duc and Be Ky went through much and gave up much to get to this country. Their story includes an aborted escape and time spent in prison. Eventually they left Vietnam under the Orderly Departure Program, negotiated by the UN, US and Vietnam, which allowed people to leave by plane either to Manila or direct to the US, sparing them the dangerous sea voyage undertaken by so many others.

Duc shows Be Ky

Duc shows us Be Ky’s work in their home gallery.

They now live in manufactured housing in Midway City, their home also a gallery of their work. Their oldest son, Cao, a skilled painter and graphic designer himself, has taken on the task of preserving his parents’ legacy by designing two books of their work. He has digitized all their paintings, written text, designed the books and now looks for a way to publish.

Cao and David

Cao and I, in a gallery of his commercial work

Japanese knives

Cao designed this poster for a company selling fine Japanese knives!

This family has faced and still faces many challenges.   They have not wavered from their ideals of art and human dignity. The parents and their four children are devoted to each other, they take care of each other and they persevere.

In Westminster we also met Belinda Theam, whom I wrote about in 2013. [See https://orionblair.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/belindas-story-the-long-journey-home/.%5D Belinda is now a lawyer with a great interest in using law to improve the lives of the community she grew up in.  Her growing up was not easy and she has a heart for those who struggle in difficult circumstances.


With Belinda

Belinda was a fine high school volleyball player. We learned that it was through touring with a volleyball team that she was exposed to the possibility of higher education. She pursued that goal with the same tenacity that she showed in coming to the Philippines to find her father’s grave. I am sure that she will continue to create a powerful path for herself.