Truth Be Told: Writing a New Chapter

By Día Bùi, DC Middle & High School Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Día Bùi


If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name” – Kendrick Lamar, Hip Hop Artist

My name is Día Bùi, AALEAD’s DC Middle & High School Program Coordinator. I am a new face in this position. I started exactly four weeks ago at the beginning of the new school year; meeting and working with youth from all over D.C. at two of our sites, Chinatown/Northwest One Library and Mt. Pleasant Library.


(Dia Bui performing spoken word poetry in Los Angeles, CA)

I come from a background of youth organizing and advocacy that originated in Los Angeles, California more than 10 years ago. Straight out of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and into the community, youth empowerment was and still is the center of my passion. I grew up in a low-income, predominately immigrant neighborhood in El Monte, CA where there were no multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community centers. I wanted and wished there were programs and safe spaces like AALEAD to support the many intersections of my identities and dreams.

Story of Self

Now in my 5th year living in DC, I have the opportunity to engage and to learn from young people. Thus far, I’ve learned about their stories; what impacts their education, their livelihood, and their perspective of the world. On my 2nd week as their program coordinator, I facilitated a “Story of Self” activity with them and shared a quote by Grammy award winning artist Kendrick Lamar, as included above. “If I’m gonna tell a real story, I’m gonna start with my name”. It’s real. The youth immediately gravitated towards these words. One by one, as the youth return to the AALEAD program for another year, they told parts of their stories:

* A youth from our Chinatown/Northwest One site gave insight into her difficult reality of living in Museum Square and her family’s fight to stay in the D.C. area.

* A youth from our Mt. Pleasant site revealed his own experience of being separated from family members because of deportation.

Each testimony sheds light on a shared struggle or accomplishment with other Asian, black and brown youth in AALEAD. Through the activity and open dialogue, the youth shared about the most important people around them, what’s currently happening in their lives, where they wanted their story to go in 3 years and how they wanted to tell their story. Many of the youth expressed a strong interest in writing, poetry, music and film.


(Dia Bui [front row, far left] with AALEAD youth during Terrapinoy Day at the University of Maryland on September 25, 2015)

These are our present and future leaders I learn from every day. It’s an empowering feeling to wake up every morning knowing there’s something new to learn, something new to experience and a power shared among our young people of color in AALEAD.

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