Skip to content

Sunny Nash Speaks at Khmer Conference

March 18, 2017

Sunny Nash – Author & Journalist

“My mother’s mantra was, ‘Do not tell me what you cannot do! Tell me what you are going do!'” Sunny Nash began her address at  the Long Beach, California, Second Annual Khmer Parent Association Mother-Daughter Conference, where she also exhibited a selection of her mother’s artifacts.

“I am honored to have been chosen to deliver the keynote address to the Khmer Mother-Daughter Conference,” said Nash, former nationally syndicated newspaper columnist and author of Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s about life during the Civil Rights Movement with her part-Comanche grandmother. Nash’s book, collected worldwide by museums, universities and libraries, is selected by the American Association of University Presses as a Book for Understanding U.S. Race Relations, and recommended by the Miami-Dade (Florida) Public Library System as a Book for Native American Collections.

“When I was growing up during the U.S. Jim Crow 1950s and 1960s, I saw my mother struggling to further her professional training,” Nash said. “It wasn’t easy. That was a time in which only a few women of any color were allowed to rise, unless, through marriage. My mother and father taught me that it was important for me to be able to stand on my own and complete at the highest level.”

The annual Khmer Mother-Daughter Conference presents useful tools to mothers and daughters’ emotional, professional and economic growth. Because the conference is hosted by the Khmer Parent Association, the event does not ignore fathers and sons, who are welcome to participate in furthering the understanding of their roles in the success of women in their families.


Chan Hopson

“The Conference is not only for the Khmer community,” said Chan Hopson, co-founder of the Khmer Parent Association and the organization’s executive director for more than twenty years. “We welcome the entire Long Beach community. Our audience comes from many different cultures in the area.”

Committed to helping as many Long Beach Khmer families as possible, the Khmer Parent Association brings meaningful programs to all segments of Long Beach. Hopson’s multi-culture civic and social activities increase understanding of the Khmer culture among the larger Long Beach population. Honored in 2016 by the California State Assembly as Woman of the Year, Hopson was also  named Woman of Distinction –  International Goodwill and Understanding in 2015 by Soroptimist International of Long Beach; and named by Senator Ricardo Lara in 2015 as Woman of Distinction for her role in addressing mental health issues such as PTSD in the Khmer community.

Long Beach, a city known as the Cambodian capital of the U.S., is home to the largest Khmer community in the world, outside the Southeast Asian nation, Cambodia. Khmer women and girls face similar experiences as other females the general population. The annual conference, which presents multicultural focus groups, mother-daughter discussion panels, question and answer sessions, exhibits and other activities, is a resource for all women and girls.

Because of the need for greater communication and education, this year’s Khmer Parent Association Mother-Daughter Conference was a collaboration with 70th District Assembly Member, Patrick O’Donnell; 2nd District Council Member, Jeannine Pearce; and Long Beach Neighborhood Association, AOC7 (Anaheim, Orange, Cherry & 7th Streets, representing the borders of the 2nd, 4th and 6th Long Beach Council Districts).  Special recognition for individuals and entities came from the offices of Senator Ricardo Lara, 33rd District, Supervisor Janice Hahn, 4th District, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, 70th District and Councilmember Jeannine Pearce, 2nd District.

Fostering discussion on topics affecting women of all ages, socioeconomic status and ethnic background, Chan Hopson was assisted by many organizations and individuals. To name a few: Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, 70th District, Councilmember Jeannine Pearce, 2nd District, our grassroot AOC7 Neighborhood Association and our long term sponsors: Dignity Health, St. Mary Medical Center and the Port of Long Beach and our other supporters such as Dr. Visal Nga Medical Office, Majestic Medical Clinic of Dr. Christina Lee, Blue Shield of California, A3PCON, Cambodian Advocacy Collaborative (CAA, UCC and Families In Good Health), Cambodian Family Center of Santa Ana, Long Beach Building Healthy Community, Latinos In Action, Long Beach Immigration Rights Coalition, Orange County Credit Union, Long Beach YMCA, Healthy Active Long Beach, City Language Access Department, Sophy’s restaurant and Joseph Tappero.

“The wonderful program of the conference wouldn’t be so smooth and beautiful without the hard work of our Planning Committee,” Hopson said. “Dr. Leakhena Heng Tappero, Lillian Herrera, Lindsay Gervacio, Jocelin Padilla, Karla Estupinian, Candace Yamagawa, Susana Sngiem, Sochetra Hong, Sinara Sagn, Mary Simmons, Roth Prom, Maribel Cruz, Vattana Peong, Martha Cota, Astrid Bashmakian, and Mark Anthony Paredes.”

Second Annual Khmer Parent Association Mother-Daughter Conference, Long Beach, California

Second Annual Khmer Parent Association Mother-Daughter Conference, Long Beach, California – Introduction of Keynote Speaker Sunny Nash, by Karla Estupinian, Field Deputy of Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, 2nd District.

Silhouette of Sunny Nash by Keith Jerome Lilly, Founder of Developing Future Leaders
Silhouette of Sunny Nash by Keith Jerome Lilly, Founder of Developing Future Leaders

Addressing issues affecting women of all races, Nash’s speech and exhibition highlighted examples her mother set for success, which Nash has written about in her popular blog, Race Relations in America.

Sharing stories of her mother’s hope, education and vitality, Nash exhibited a selection of her mother’s cultural artifacts and educational credentials. Some of the credentials were earned more than 60 years ago through correspondence courses by postal delivery of books and lessons, her mother’s only route to licensure and certification during the Jim Crow era.

“Only a few decades ago, my own mother had to create a path for herself that led around racist barriers,” Nash said. “Beginning in the 1950s, my mother found a unique way to skirt Jim Crow law forbidding her admittance to certain institutions of higher education, professional training programs and even trade schools.”

On mail-in correspondence training applications, Nash’s mother obscured her gender by using only her initials, and omitted racial identification altogether to avoid the risk of being denied admittance to courses that had no class meetings to reveal her race and gender.

“Until after the Civil Rights Movement,” Nash said, “My mother gained professional credentials using this method and hoped no one in the admittance office insisted on more thorough records. When some did, my mother quietly dropped out and forfeited the tuition. But that no refund policy did not stop her from searching for programs she could eventually complete via the U.S. Postal Service.”

Her mother’s earliest correspondence course credentials have been lost over time. However, Nash was able to locate her mother’s later credentials from the 1970s and 1980s. “Without those correspondence courses, my mother would not have qualified for the employment she was able to secure at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement,” Nash said. “My mother spent a great deal of time preparing and not really knowing if or how the preparation would pay off. But it did pay off–for her and for me.”

Sunny Nash’s Mother, Littie Nash, built a career for herself and demonstrated to her daughter the power of overcoming obstacles.



Certification Awarded by the State of Texas to Littie Nash

After the Civil Rights Movement, Nash’s mother, having already qualified for certain positions, applied for and obtained employment in her field of study–dietetics, nutrition for special populations, and food safety. She also became an award-winning baker and collector of historical recipes.

“I did not fully appreciate or understand the significance of my mother’s achievements, honors and awards until I began preserving and archiving her artifacts,” Nash said. “Until I was in the process of creating her archive, it had not occurred to me that my own mother, Littie Nash, was a leader in civil rights through her defiance of segregated education. It then occurred to me that she knew her actions were important. Otherwise, why would she have saved all these documents for me to find after her death?”

state-of-texas-licensure-coverAt the Khmer conference, Nash used her mother’s artifacts to demonstrate the value of preserving a mother’s past and suggested ways they could do the same.

“My message to the mothers, fathers, grandparents, daughters and sons attending the conference was to listen to each other even when the other seemed not to be paying attention,” Nash said.

There were many times that Nash, her mother and father were distracted by life and may have thought they were not being heard by the other, but Nash learned along the way that my mother and father heard her and responded to her needs. And she heard their counsel and encouragement to get an education, no matter what or how long it may take.

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) is an organization in the largest Cambodian population in the United States, Long Beach, California.

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) is an organization in the largest Cambodian population in the United States, Long Beach, California.

“A major problem in many communities is communication,” Nash said. “I don’t mean language, as such; I mean being able to talk things out. Many young women, for a host of reasons,  do not talk about the things that are most important to them. Sometimes it is cultural to remain silent; sometimes, young women do not feel they are being heard; and often we do not ask young women the right questions and leave them feeling left out when it comes to conversations about their lives, such as racism and discrimination.”

Teen advocacy group, Khmer Girls in Action, helped to address racism and issues surrounding discrimination when they participated in a University of California, Los Angeles, survey of 500 Long Beach Khmer youth. Greg Mellen reported in the Press-Telegram that 56 percent of the surveyed Khmer youth listed racism and discrimination at work and school, and in language access. Other academic studies, Mellen wrote, indicate high stress among young Cambodian-American women.

“I was impressed with the large number of grandfathers, fathers and sons in the Khmer conference audience,” Nash said. “Making it truly a family occasion.”

An eight-year-old boy, staring at the picture of Nash’s mother in her cap and gown said,” all of this is like a history lesson. Was your mother back there in the time of Rosa Parks? And after the Civil Rights Movement, was your mother able to go to regular college without hiding behind the mailman? Like Rosa Parks was able to sit where she wanted on the bus?”

“You know your history, don’t you?” Nash asked the boy.

“I hope it is alright that I brought my son,” one boy’s mother said. “It is important to teach our sons this information, too. I believe it will help them grow into better men, and that will be a good thing for women.”

“Yes, it will,” Nash said.



Sunny Nash earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Mass Communication, Texas A&M University; Postgraduate Media Studies Certificate, Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications, Arizona State University; Postgraduate Diploma, Instructional Technology, University of California, San Diego; and Postgraduate Digital Literacy Studies Certificate, Simmons College, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Boston; and international studies include Intellectual Property Law, World Intellectual Property Organization Academy, Geneva, Switzerland; Diplomacy, Culture and Communication, United Nations; Research Methodology, Digital Preservation, Online Archival Information Systems, University of London; and Archival Data Governance, National Archives of Australia, Melbourne.

Sunny Nash’s Appearance & Exhibition 
Sponsor – Developing Future Leaders  Future Leaders Logo


Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: