Remembering “Vietnam” the Unforgettable Artist

John “Vietnam” Nguyen

The Cipher will celebrate the life and memory of talented First Wave Scholar and artist John “Vietnam” Nguyen this Saturday by dedicating the closing night of Passing the Mic to the music, poetry and performance he loved. The tribute will be from 9 to 11 p.m. in the Overture Center Rotunda Studio and is free and open to the public.

The record will say Nguyen died by accidental drowning on Lake Mendota in August, but those of us who knew Vietnam may prefer to remember him as having left us to carry on in dedication and love while enjoying a moment of playful bliss at sunrise. Vietnam was just 19 years old and from Chicago.

OMAI’s Annual Passing the Mic Showcase tribute feature special performances by First Wave’s Shameaca Moore, Myriha Burton, Janel Herrera. Taylor Scott and Zhalarina Sanders will present a musical set backed up by no other than acclaimed Madison musicians David Stoler, Nick Moran and Robert Schoville. Violinist and vocalist Marques Toliver will perform with special guest poet Frank X. Walker.

“John ‘Vietnam’ Nguyen was an exemplary scholar, artist and First Wave member whose mantra of “maximum efficiency” reflected his life of being committed to being on point with everything he did,” said OMAI Executive Director Willie Ney. “He was an incredible inspiration to all those that knew him young and old and had developed an international following in his short life. John represented the best that First Wave has to offer and his legacy will be in the way he lived his life to the fullest and served as a socially conscious community-builder within First Wave and everywhere he graced with his presence.”

Check out these cherished works by our very gifted and talented young First Wave Scholar: View a video of his audition for First Wave or the webpage of the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of the Midwest: The Legacy of John “Vietnam” Nguyen. As a phenomenally inspiring and supportive Brother for many, John “Vietnam” Nguyen fully Lived His Dash.

This week’s 8th Annual Passing the Mic Intergenerational Hip-Hop Arts Festival will bring words to life as an imbedded program within the 2012 Wisconsin Book Festival. All events are free and open to the public in the Rotunda Studio of the Madison Overture Center.

Each year, Passing the Mic brings top national talent to UW–Madison. This year’s festival begins Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. with First Wave hosting the Midwest All-Star Hip-Hop Arts Show featuring the Midwest Youth Spoken Word and Hip-Hop All-Stars from Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis and the Twin Cities.

On Friday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. the festival will feature curator Robbie Q. and special guests Lynda Barry, Frank X. Walker and Marques Toliver in “Encyclopedia Show 2.0.” This show is a live variety extravaganza that commissions local and touring artists and experts from many disciplines who use their individual talents to present different monthly encyclopedia entries.  Also performing will be First Wave and other surprise guests.

Also Friday night at 7:30 p.m., the festival will present First Wave: Performance Poetry and the Personal Narrative  hosted by OMAI Artistic Director Christopher Walker and Madison Poet Laureate Wendy Vardaman & Sarah Busse.  Poetry and performance were once a united art, going back to common ancient roots. In the last few centuries this connection has largely been lost. This event will point to some of the ways back, bringing “page” poets and “stage” poets together across multiple divisions: poem/performance/class/race /gender/age. Presenters will explore what knowledge is essential to understanding the poetry of Spoken Word and Hip Hop Theater and how “page” poets and “stage” poets connect. The dialogue begins with three performances, and continues as panelists address questions of craft and aesthetics, the role of performance in poetry, and of the larger role of poetry in building identity and achieving social justice.

This lecture performance is presented in partnership with the Verse Wisconsin, the UW Creative Writing Program, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, Black Earth Institute and Madison Poet Laureates.