Our next board member to featured is a Vietnamese-American who is no stranger to community involvement. Terry Vo, API Mid TN Vice President, is a vibrant leader in the Middle Tennessee area. We were so excited to talk to her about discovering her heritage, what it means to be API in Mid TN, and why uplifting API voices matter.
Why is it important to build the API community in Middle TN?
As the African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." Other API individuals and I saw a gap in representation and space for API individuals and decided that in order to bring light to the issue, we needed to build an organization that created a welcome and safe space for the API community to meet, gather, and bond.
What are ways that you try to uplift API voices?
I try to uplift API voices by supporting their businesses, attending their events, and connecting them to organizations that could use their skill set. There are so many talented API artists, individuals, and businesses in Middle TN and I really want to support and share their gifts to our community. I have really enjoyed being one of the Main Stage emcees for the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival for the past few years and sharing the deep and rich relationship between Tennessee and Japan.
What has your journey been like discovering your heritage?
It's an ongoing process. I will never forget going to Vietnam for the first time with my parents when I was in junior high. I had never met my grandparents or extended relatives who were living in Vietnam until that moment. I loved eating all the street food like banh mi and exploring the cities where my parents lived. They had a full life before me and had to go through so many hardships I could never even imagine. I realized that I do not know enough about my heritage and am taking time now to discover that by having deeper conversations with my parents, reading books by Vietnamese authors, and researching more about Vietnamese history. I am so grateful to my Mom because she prepared Vietnamese food for us growing up and it has really made me feel more connected with my heritage. She showed us love through the endless dishes that she made. I am thankful to my parents for speaking Vietnamese to my siblings and I because the Vietnamese language should never be forgotten. Having the ability to speak other languages is a gift. I have realized that my parents had moments in their lives where everything was uprooted and they had to make unfathomable choices. They sacrificed so much for my siblings and I. Discovering my heritage, you realize that there is pain, misunderstanding, love, devotion, and an astounding amount of grit.
Who is one person in API history that you look up to?
Michelle Kwan is a retired American figure skater who is one of the most decorated athletes in the sport. Then, she became a senior adviser at the U.S. State Department and her autobiography, Michelle Kwan: Heart of a Champion, was published in 1997.
We are so inspired by Terry’s vision and drive to bring API voices to the forefront. She has a great connection and knowledge of our community, and we are so fortunate to have her as our Board Vice President.