My American Dream
My name is Avery Le and I am the founder and Executive Director of Daughters’ Advocates. I dream of a world where women of color who have experienced similar hardships and struggles as I have, can be given the opportunity to watch their lives play out differently. I believe every woman of color deserves equal opportunities at independence, success, and happiness despite the racial disparity, gender inequality, and socioeconomic disadvantages they have endured, to be given a fighting chance at obtaining a normal, stable life.
I was born in Vietnam and my family moved to the United States in 1991 with just a few pieces of luggage – our entire lives being uprooted to receive a taste of freedom – that which my father yearned so desperately to give to me and my two older brothers, after serving seven years in a prison camp after the Vietnam War without ever knowing if he would come out alive. We were lucky in that my entire family was granted refugee status via the Human Rights Organization efforts to provide relief for veteran soldiers like my father. And just like that, we were beginning a new life in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a strange land where we did not know the language, without any money in our pockets and very little community assistance to help us get on our feet.
My parents never made more than $15,000 a year yet managed to raise three healthy and happy children. It was their resilience and determination that kept us focused on our goals. My father spent his life in America doing rigorous manual labor jobs, and eventually lost all mobility function and speech ability after overworking himself while caring for my sick mother and now needs 24/7 care (which my brother and I provide). And my mother…she died at 69 years old from her declining battle with a brain tumor she developed as a direct result from working with dangerous chemicals during her first years in America.
I often wonder what it would have been like if my mother had received the help she needed to have career *options*, instead of being forced to take on the only jobs that required no previous education, experience or qualifications. Maybe she would have been able to enjoy something called paid time off, vacation days, and most importantly, breathing room to spend time with her children. Would she be alive and healthy today? My story is not unique as it rings familiar to my fellow Asian immigrants.
However, I know my families’ struggles pale in comparison to my women of color peers – who have mostly been met with a life of perpetual unemployment, teen pregnancies, physical and sexual abuse, drug addiction, imprisonment, homelessness, or worse – death. The statistics for these tragic life situations are staggeringly disproportionate by race, with black women being mostly affected.
I thought about how I was able to break the cycle while these other women could not.
The answer is clear – I had constant encouragement, motivation, and help from my loving parents, caring teachers, supportive friends, and charitable angels who paid for me to receive the best private school education.
After high school, my growing network of wonderful mentors and role models consistently made a huge difference. My American dream was realized as I went on to receive not just a Bachelor of Arts, but also a Master of Science and a law degree from prestigious institutions – something that I am incredibly proud of as a first generation immigrant college graduate.
It is time for me to give back and I now know that my American Dream was not about my personal achievements. It has brought me here to take concerted, immediate and intentional action to alter our failing education system. That begins with ensuring that no woman gets lost in the shuffle due to disadvantaged circumstances.
I’m putting my story out there because I believe in these daughters of America and I hope you do, too. Please join our movement and help us turn the tide, one woman at a time.
With utmost gratitude,