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LA County Declares April 30 ‘Jane Fonda Day,’ and Vietnamese Americans Are Angry

LA County Declares April 30 ‘Jane Fonda Day,’ and Vietnamese Americans Are Angry

Actress Jane Fonda visiting Hanoi, Vietnam, on July 25, 1972. (AFP via Getty Images)

Beige Luciano-Adams

Beige Luciano-Adams

5/3/2024

Updated: 5/5/2024

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At its regular meeting April 30, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors held a ceremony honoring actress and activist Jane Fonda for her prolific contributions to entertainment and progressive causes.
“Starting today, we proclaim every April 30 as Jane Fonda Day in L.A. County,” Board Chair Lindsey Horvath beamed, after highlighting Ms. Fonda’s “tireless advocacy” and “unwavering commitment to making a difference in this world.”
But some Californians are outraged.
“It’s beyond a slap in the face, it’s spitting in our faces, that freedom of the masses means nothing, that we mean nothing, and that our ancestors and family members who died meant nothing,” California State Senator Janet Nguyen told The Epoch Times.
April 30, 1975, was the fall of Saigon. Since then, the date is typically marked by somber remembrance among Vietnamese Americans and Vietnam War veterans.
More than 50 years later, many still take umbrage at the Oscar-winning actress’s anti-war activism, namely a 1972 trip to Hanoi, North Vietnam, during which she was filmed laughing and clapping aboard a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. That Los Angeles would choose April 30 to honor her is unfathomable, critics say.
“It’s a day for us to remember the true fight for freedom, and to honor a woman who is anti-American, anti-freedom, anti-democracy on the day that we are mourning is offensive and disgusting,” Ms. Nguyen said.
The state senator represents the 36th District, which includes Garden Grove and Westminster, parts of which make up Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam.
During the ceremony, Ms. Fonda graciously accepted the honor, urged people to vote “with climate in your heart,” and recalled a childhood spent in the Santa Monica Mountains, during which she fell in love with nature.
“I became familiar with the skin of California, the way it really is, not with a lot of exotic plants and fancy mansions, but beige in the summer, and green in the fall and winter,” she said.
While Ms. Horvath presented Ms. Fonda with a scroll, Ms. Nguyen was across town, attending a memorial for Vietnamese veterans of the bloody civil war.
Ms. Nguyen’s father and uncle both served in the South Vietnamese Army, and her uncle was executed just before the fall of Saigon. She escaped with her family via Thailand as a child, landing in the U.S. at the age of 5.
State Sen. Janet Nguyen in Sacramento on April 22, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

State Sen. Janet Nguyen in Sacramento on April 22, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

“Our family were the boat people,” she said. “We escaped and left everything behind. I don’t even have a picture of me—the youngest picture I have of me is at the refugee camp.”
California Assemblyman Tri Ta, whose 70th District also includes Westminster, said the decision to honor the actress on “Black April” is “deeply painful” to the Vietnamese community in Southern California and around the world.
“Black April 30, 1975, was the day we lost Saigon, it was the day we lost the country,” Mr. Ta told The Epoch Times. “It’s a really sad day for us. And every year we commemorate the day to honor the sacrifices of Vietnamese and American soldiers who fought side-by-side in the Vietnam war.”
In a statement calling on the board to rescind the proclamation, Mr. Ta said the decision to honor “someone on Black April who purposely worked with the horrific communist regime is not just poor timing, it unnecessarily causes pain to our community and reopens the wounds of war.”
An estimated 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and 58,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in the conflict, while more than one million North Vietnamese soldiers, and around two million civilians on both sides were killed. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City as a tribute to the first leader of communist North Vietnam.
Ms. Fonda was also pilloried for statements at the time questioning accounts of returning prisoners of war.
In subsequent writings and interviews over the years, she has expressed deep regret for the controversial images but maintains the trip was a “humanitarian mission, not a political trip,” pointing out she was one of nearly 300 who traveled to North Vietnam in an effort to end the war.
In a 2011 post titled, “The truth about my trip to Hanoi,” she elaborates on how the event has been misconstrued.
“[T]hese lies have circulated for almost forty years, continually reopening the wound of the Vietnam War and causing pain to families of American servicemen. The lies distort the truth of why I went to North Vietnam and they perpetuate the myth that being anti-war means being anti-soldier.”
Ms. Horvath introduced a motion for the proclamation last month, and all five supervisors voted to approve it.
A representative for Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who was not involved in the ceremony honoring Ms. Fonda on April 30, said in a statement that Ms. Barger “has profound respect for our veterans and understands the sentiments surrounding Ms. Fonda’s past actions. [She] remains steadfast in her commitment to honoring those who have served our nation with dignity and valor.”
Requests for comment sent to Ms. Horvath, as well as to Supervisors Holly Mitchell, Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn were not returned on deadline.
Both Mr. Ta and Ms. Nguyen said they have received a barrage of comments and inquiries from constituents who are incensed over the proclamation. Neither has received any response from the board or individual supervisors regarding their requests to rescind the declaration.
The Westminster City Council scheduled a special meeting May 3 to discuss the issue and allow residents to voice concerns, Mr. Ta said.
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Beige Luciano-Adams

Beige Luciano-Adams

Author

Beige Luciano-Adams is an investigative reporter covering Los Angeles and statewide issues in California. She has covered politics, arts, culture, and social issues for a variety of outlets, including LA Weekly and MediaNews Group publications. Reach her at beige.luciano@epochtimesca.com and follow her on X: https://twitter.com/LucianoBeige

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