John was known for his legendary work ethic. He could be found crafting manifestos to instrumentals or pounding his soul’s meter on a MPC until the breakadawn, when immigrant dreams decompose into the aroma of buns and the rumbling of the Red line. John was/is Argyle’s son, a fierce young man spitting acetone laced truths with an urgency that inspired his peers to move, act, and stand for something (“anything”), and the outpouring of love since his death is a testament to the impact that he had on others.
In remembering John, however, I think it’s important to understand this exceptional young man was not manifested out of thin air but raised by a village. John developed his creativity, consciousness, and compassion as a result of the intentional community and curriculum created at three Uptown youth organizations: Connect Force, Kuumba Lynx, and the Multi-Cultural Youth Project, where I first forged my relationship with John. It is within these settings that John learned to not only hone his Hip Hop skills but to wrestle with his Asian American identity, explore his family history, and think critically about his relationship to the world around him. It was within these safe and sacred spaces that John became John Vietnam, artist/activist for the people.
As Advancing Justice—Chicago prepares to launch KINETIC, our youth civics and empowerment program, I am driven by the memory of John: not only the memory of John Vietnam as the exceptionally gifted MC but as the expectation for what every youth can accomplish when exposed to a culturally relevant and empowering curriculum. On those late-nights-turned-early-mornings, I am certain John shared this same vision: a mass movement of youth from immigrant and refugee families fighting for justice—his music providing the soundtrack.
–Steve Moon, Senior Youth Organizer at Advancing Justice—Chicago
To Listen to John’s music:
John Vietnam Nguyen
‘93 to Infinity
For information on KINETIC:
Please contact Vi at firstname.lastname@example.org