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Gulf oil spill: Fishermen sing and pray together at New Orleans concert

June 27, 2010 |  8:57 pm

The New Orleans-based Vietnamese American Fishermen Assn. sponsored a concert for oil spill victims in New Orleans East on Sunday night that drew about 300 people, including fisherman Tam Le, 43, of Baton Rouge, La.

Le, a father of three who bought his own shrimp boat in 1998, said he never thought about joining the association until the oil spill. He came to the concert to join.

"I don't know what to do by myself,” he said. “So I join with others to see what we can do."

The Rev. Joseph Vu of Vancouver, Wash., flew in for the service, at which a group of parishioners from nearby Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church performed several Vietnamese songs he wrote about the spill, including “Oil on Water.”

“A group of fishermen are fighting for their rights,” they sang. “Where is the money to feed the family or to pay the bank? Let’s get together and demand BP help right away so we can live. Our lives belong to the sea."

Vu said he was not just praying for the fishermen.

“Tonight we pray for the victims, the government and BP, to give them the knowledge to stop the spill,” the priest said. “We gather together with other denominations to say, ‘United we stand.’”

The Rev. Sharon Gartman of the Interfaith Baptist Coalition flew in from Houston for the event. Gartman adopted her son from Vietnam and said she feels for the fishermen.

“They just need encouragement and hope because they’re facing so much right now,” she said during the concert at To Chau banquet hall, a mirrored room complete with spinning disco ball, where a Vietnamese color guard mingled with women in traditional costumes.

“We can’t do much,” Gartman said. “But we can pray.”

-- Molly Hennessey-Fiske, in New Orleans