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Remembering Tam Tran

May 17, 2010

I was coaching in Pomona. I was a year out of UCLA.  Tam, Claudia, and their other roommates were having a party on the Westside, a bit of a drive from Pomona. I picked up Migs in palms and we headed to their apartment. Tam had just been handed back a paper and proudly displayed it on fridge for all to see.  She wasn’t, in the words of Migs, a “cookie cuter:” she didn’t always follow the rules, she wasn’t chasing them As, making good with the profs. She was, as some of us came to call ourselves, an “intellectual gangster.” The proudly displayed paper was not an A, but a C-, an experiment. As we drank some beer, Tam told us her goal was to use the most simple, common, and yes vulgar (Fuck, Shit, etc) language to express herself. The Teaching assistant appreciated the paper, but was not sure how to grade it….

 I imagine Tam was making a comment on the erudite and exclusionary nature of academia: a certain language, style, and demeanor are required to be heard, to have a seat in the classroom. Her paper, I think, encapsulated her work and scholarship: she consistently sought to expand our definition of who is “American,” who belongs in academia, and what constitutes knowledge.

Several months ago as we tried to stay warm in the cold New York winter, we talked at length about how confining academia, and places like Brown and Columbia, can be. Yet, while I was thinking of ways to write outside of the nation-state she was telling me about turning in an electronic dissertation and balancing her activism and scholarship. Tam was an amazing film-maker, activist, and scholars. She took risk most of us can’t understand. But she was also surprisingly humble, optimistic, and always a pleasure to around. She will be missed by many.

Several of us are far from Los Angeles, making mourning that much more difficult. Yet, this has also made us wonder what we can do. We’ve thought about establishing an annual run/walk to fundraiser for the Dream Act in her name. Aver que hacemos.  

Below are some links (from facebook memorial page)

*Memorial will be broadcasted*

*Slide Show for Memorial*

*YouTube Slideshow*

* Blog Posts about Cinthya and Tam*

*News Articles*

Vietnamese Paper:

Brown University Media Release –

UCLA Media Release:

*More on Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix*
Blog –
Tam’s Youtube channel –
This was an incredible video that Tam created while a UCLA undergrad about the undocumented student struggle –
Fan Page:!/pages/Tam-Tran/64635456938?ref=ts
Facebook page:!/profile.php?id=2513788&ref=ts
Facebook Page:!/profile.php?id=2516774&ref=ts
*Previous News Stories about Tam and Cinthya*
Tam testified before Congress in support of the Dream Act:

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