Women in the Green Economy Project organizer Tammy Nguyen agreed to tell her story as part of a national Mother’s Day campaign led by the Strong Families Initiative. Read Tammy’s story below and consider making a Mother’s Day gift to Got Green in her honor or in honor of a mama or strong woman in your life…
” Becoming a teen mom is like careening off a highway, then sitting in the ditch watching my peers go by, experiencing milestones that teens typically go through. Becoming a teen mom was hard in all the ways you expect it to be and being a single teen mom was even harder than I imagined.
I got a lot of flack from my aunt because I was so young. “You’ve ruined our family’s reputation. How could you do this to your mom?” she said. Those words cut deep.
My mom immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in the early 80’s. She was also a single mother and worked extremely long hours to provide for four kids. As the eldest I had a huge responsibility of taking care of my siblings.
Growing up in the low-income neighborhood of New Holly, I saw a lot of the poor families constantly in survival mode, just like us. Whenever there was movement in our community, we neither engaged nor understood what was going on. We were left behind, only able to focus on surviving. We were outside looking in.
Being a single mom of two who have not completed high school, there were few expectations of me. No one had any pretensions that I would ever become a leader of any sort.
Things took a turn in the summer 2008, I began helping out in community events. Then I was invited to be a district representative at a Got Green community meeting. At this meeting, Michael Woo, the director of Got Green, talked about green economy, green jobs, climate change, and renewable energy. My interest piqued. I had never heard of these terms, yet it struck me because he talked about the role of young adults in a movement I had never heard of. He was talking about me! It stirred a hunger for new ideas and an excitement for new connections.
This is a movement that is growing increasingly powerful. I did not want to be in the ditch being an observer again. I did not want my family, neighbors and communities to be left behind again. My instinct as the eldest sibling and single teen mama rose to the occasion.
I got even more excited as I got to know the group better. Got Green ensures that the benefits of the green movement and green economy – such as livable wage jobs, access to healthy foods, energy efficiency and healthy homes, and public transit – reach low income and communities of color.
Today, I’m a Green Organizer for Got Green, but it’s not a job, it’s a journey. I talk to low-income women, just like my mom, just like me, about how to make our homes and neighborhoods more healthy and livable.
We started the “Women In Green” program when I noticed that even though women are central to healthy foods and homes, there were only five women out of our membership list of 40. Our women leaders are pounding the streets, surveying their neighbors, poring over maps and district plans and working to get access to healthier foods. This winter we took the bus to the Capitol in Olympia to save nutrition programs.
As I gained skills and confidence, I’ve also started to pursue another dream – to get my GED. It’s humbling how my leadership has been recognized and rewarded by my community, a far cry from the days of low expectations. I understand so much more and not just about the environmental justice and organizing, but more importantly, about my own power and how motherhood did not limit my life, nor diminish my talents. Motherhood made me ferocious and fierce, not just for my children but for all children.
Don’t get me wrong. There are days when the triple shifts of parenting, community organizing and surviving wear me down. But I am not the defeated 15-year old who had ruined her life. I am as powerful as the community that I fight and organize with.
There is a highway chocked with cars that go through my neighborhood. Instead of observing longingly at the drivers and passengers rushing through their lives, I now ask, “How is this responsible for the higher rates of asthma among children in my communities? How is this dislocating people from their homes who’ve been integral to the vitality of their neighborhoods? How is this redirecting funding for public transit, a much needed service to connect our families to good jobs?” I look at that highway and I think, “How do I bring that down?”
Join Tammy Nguyen and Got Green to organize families living in food deserts. Food deserts are neighborhoods with no access to grocery stores and healthy food. Your financial support will help the Women in Green program to organize women like Tammy and increase access to affordable and healthy food in Skyway.
Got Green is a cohort member of Western States Center’s Strong Families Northwest Project. Strong Families NW combines movement building analysis and training growing communications experience and infrastructure for cohort groups. The Center provides each cohort group support to advance their campaigns through December 2012.
Make a Mother’s Day gift to Got Green in honor of Tammy or a strong mama in your life!