VROC at the Tet Parade Was — There’s No Better Word for It — Fabulous! (Photos and Video)


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A rainbow of hearts

A rainbow of hearts assembled and raised before the Tet parade begins.

The 2014 Tet Parade was fabulous. It was not just normally fabulous, but fabulous for the inclusion of VROC, the Viet Rainbow of Orange County, which patiently and firmly asserted its right not to be excluded from the parade — and won the right to march equipped not only with the traditional Vietnamese and American flags, but with the LGBT cultural symbol — who, whether anyone likes it or not, have long been a part of Vietnamese culture and pretty much every other composed of more than a handful of people. That symbol is the rainbow flag. It doesn’t mean that anyone else isn’t entitled to the rainbow symbolism as well; it just means that they have to share it.

I have 32 photos and five videos to show you (and many more photos that didn’t make the cut.)  I’m doing something unusual for me: I’m asserting copyright over them, while granting the rights to anything but commercial sale and destruction to anyone who planned, helped, marched with, or well-wished with VROC on February 1.  Everyone else: your rights are limited to Fair Use.  I’ll license these with abandon for the asking, but retract that license as need be.

Let’s start with the videos, then the 31 remaining photos.  First, here’s the last (and longest) video that I took.  In case you’re only going to watch one of them, I’m putting it first, because it so wonderfully captures the sights, sounds, and spirit of VROC’s participation in the 2014 Tet parade.

Now to go back to the beginning: circling out to look at the marchers as they assembled pre-parade, joined by friends and well-wishers.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal welcomes and celebrates the VROC marchers.

When you’ve won State Sen. Lou Correa’s blessing, you’ve won America.

VROC marchers sing and celebrate as Jose Solorio sneaks in some balloons.

Now for photos, more or less in chronological order.  I’m printing them big (and I have the full sized ones 5x this size if anyone from VROC needs them), but that’s so people can more readily snag useful images of them.  Just scroll down as fast as you’d like.

Putting It Together

Some assembly of the VROC display — which, as you’ll see, was festive and gorgeous — was required.  At 7:00 on Saturday morning, people trickled in; by 7:30, they were well into their work.

Assembling a rainbow

The centerpiece of the VROC display was this balloon rainbow. Here it is before it cooled down (color-wise.)

Primary Color Ao Dois

The Ao Doi formal dress is appropriate for the occasion. Here are three in primary colors. They didn’t stop there.

The Rainbow Assembled

Rainbow … assembled! We had serious concerns about how to keep it from flying away. One valiant woman sacrificed a lot of circulation to her finger to make sure that it stayed in place.

Somewhere under the rainbow

Somewhere under the rainbow

Filling more balloons

NEED. MORE. BALLOONS!

Hearts join the formation

It wasn’t ALL gowns and balloons — check out the beautiful rainbow of hearts, here and in the first photo above!

Hurrying Pp and Waiting

Once everything was together — and after some extended period of hanging around wondering what to do next — the marchers advanced towards what seemed like a reasonable waiting area, behind a group of youthful martial artists (whom I didn’t photograph because I was afraid that some 7-year-old would flip me onto the asphalt.)  You can here get a sense of the procession.  Then we hung out next to people who were also hanging out.

VROC on the move!

VROC on the move from the assembly area to the “wait here for an hour” area!

Hieu Nhu inspects his marchers

Among the primary organizers of the event was Hieu Nhu (whom I knew as Damien), in the white Ao Doi. Here, he makes sure that everything looks OK before they proceed.

Hieu leads entry 59 into the parade

Hieu heads ‘em up and moves ‘em out!  Entry 59, march!

Not only VROC looked fabulous

While VROC marchers were looking good in their finery, so were others in the parade

Motorcyclists

Some managed to simultaneously look good — and look badass!

The Wonnnnn-derfull Worrrrrrrld of … COLOR!

It is not that every entry in a parade such as this needs to be so flamboyantly and buoyantly colorful.  It’s that this too is a part of Vietnamese culture — and America’s.  As VROC’s contingent shows, the LGBT community just happens to be particularly avid at pursuing it and accomplished at achieving it.  And isn’t it lovely?

A happy color guard

The color guard was clearly enjoying all of the added color

VROC outcolors its own rainbow flag

When the rainbow flag is not even necessarily the most colorfully attention-grabbing thing in the photo, you KNOW that people have gone all out!

Flags add to the color

Part of the color, of course, includes the flags — proudly borne and waved

Four flags

All four flags of the day on display

Rainbow, golden bear, balloons, and marchers

Looks good from this side too!

Golden Bear and Rainbow

At first, the parade organizers wanted only the U.S. and South Vietnamese flags. VROC asked if they could have the California flag. Sure! Then why not the rainbow flag? Well, as you can see, people carried it — and the sky did not fall in. Mostly, the effect of VROC’s participation is that things just got prettier.

Lots of photographing going on

Even the VROCkers themselves couldn’t resist photographing the display

VROC Gets Visitors from the Land of … Politics!

Once VROC got far enough into the parade that political and community leaders could find it — not that the balloon rainbow wasn’t a good hint in that respect — well-wishers came by, and were often given miniature rainbow flags paid for by the Democratic Party of Orange County.  (Next year, the OCGOP is welcome to join us in this!)

Black suits in a riot of color

VROC was feeling the love from local politicians and community leaders, such as these black-suited figures

Rep. Alan Lowenthal with VROC organizer Hieu Nhu

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, who represents Westminster and most of Garden Grove in Congress, was a delighted supporter of the event (as you’ll see in the video well above.) He’s seen here with Hieu Nhu.

Alan Lowenthal and Bao Nguyen at the parade

Alan Lowenthal and Bao Nguyen at the parade

Lou Correa embraces VROC advisor Jeff LeTourneau

State Senator Lou Correa, who currently represents this area, celebrates the New Year with LGBT activist and VROC advisor Jeff LeTourneau

Bao Nguyen waves without wavering

Bao Nguyen waves the rainbow flag without wavering — and has it keeping company with his cultural patrimony

Hieu Nhu with Garden Grove City Councilman Chris Phan

Garden Grove City Councilman Chris Phan celebrates the New Year with Hieu Nhu

Councilwoman Diana Carey with Westminster High School marchers

Westminster City Councilwoman Diana Carey mixed and mingled well with the VROC group — but she was also REALLY enthusiastic about this Westminster High School entry!

DPOC stickers on Rainbow flags

Because the VROC contingent was (and had to be) non-partisan, their rainbow flags were unadorned. But — Democratic Party of Orange County volunteers handed out to the crowd flags with DPOC logos, to celebrate the victory of LGBT inclusion in the parade. Next year, I hope that both — or all! — parties will have rainbow flags with their own logos. (Note: we do NOT put logos on US flags!)

13 - VROC Color Guard with Bao Nguyen, Julio Perez, and Gloria Alvarado

While Garden Grove School Board member Bao Nguyen was a welcome visitor, the OC Labor Federation’s Julio Perez and Gloria Alvarado were in on the planning, helping bring their intricate security protocols to the parade. We were ready for civil disobedience had anything untoward happened — which, happily, it didn’t. Thank you, Westminster Police Department!

Group portrait with Lowenthal and Correa

All in all, it made for a pretty happy looking group!

Some Final Images

Rainbow tie

Like Julio and Gloria, as one of the people helping with the parade without being within the boundaries of the marchers (in my case, as a legal liaison and troubleshooter, along with Mike Kinslow and Dominique Thieu), I was entitled to wear the “rainbow tie.” (Sadly, I was not allowed to keep the rainbow tie as a souvenir. But I’m not bitter, much). [NOTE: an earlier version of this photo showed my eyebrows, the vision of which threatened to swallow the entire comments section, so I have removed it. I cropped my beard, too, just in case that too was too much for people. There may be chest hairs visible in the photo -- I didn't bring a shirt I could button up to the top -- but I upped the contrast so that they should not stand out. To the extent any still do, commenters will just have to endure it.)

VROCkin' the US Flag from the sidelines

More than ever, the beauty of the Tet Parade was not simply celebrating the New Year and Vietnamese culture — but that fact that we are all Americans, with equal rights under the law.

Hieu addresses the marchers

“OK, everyone, you can all stop reading this article now! Check out some of our other fine blog articles! Thanks!”

 


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.