Benji Vuong is a park ranger and freelance photographer. At five years old, his family left Vietnam as one of the last families to come to the United States through the Humanitarian Operation. Growing up in Portland, Vuong attended Jason Lee, Rigler, Gregory Heights, and Benson Polytechnic schools. Though he has lived as far away as Spain, Germany, and China, he always considers Portland his home. He gives back to the community that raised him by protecting Oregon’s parks as a ranger and contributing to many local organizations and community projects as a photographer. He has worked with Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization and Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, as well as other non-Asian or refugee projects such as Piano Push Play and Beats Lyrics Leaders.

In this interview, Vuong reflects on his family’s immigration to the United States and what it was like to grow up in Halsey Square with other refugee children in a predominantly white city. He goes on to describe his professional journey, including his community work and responsibilities as a park ranger. Stepping away from his personal history, Vuong examines Portland at large. Having lived in Oregon for most of his life, Vuong is able to track changes in Portland’s natural environment, racial awareness, and the Vietnamese community’s evolving demographics and size. Vuong recounts scenes from the protests after the murder of George Floyd and expresses his admiration for Gen Z, who are bravely and candidly confronting the unresolved social and political issues of past generations.