The next generation of the city’s Cambodian-American
community steps up to help its elders—and itself.
By MICHELLE WOO Thursday, Nov 29 2012
PraCh Ly drives his black Mercedes SUV down Anaheim Street in Long Beach on a warm Thursday afternoon, passing clusters of storefronts with barred windows and squiggly Khmer script. He gazes at the familiar businesses—fabric shops selling jewel-toned sarongs, DVD stores plastered with posters promoting the latest Cambodian titles, and restaurants serving up plates of fresh lok lak beef salad and bowls of mango sticky-rice pudding.
“Over there is where you go after coming back from the clubs,” he says, pointing to the nondescript bakery-turned-nightspot Bamboo Island. “You can sing karaoke until, like, 3 a.m.”
This is Cambodia Town, the heart of Southern California’s Cambodian community, the largest such enclave in the United States, and one of the largest on Earth. And the 33-year-old Ly (he goes by praCh; the spelling is his own) is perhaps its most famous ambassador, a rapper who became an accidental superstar in a country he only knew about through library books and fragmented family tales.
“Just like any other community, we’ve had our struggles,” Ly says. As he turns the steering wheel, he reveals the tattoo on his wrist: an image of the Angkor Wat temple beside a tank. “When people got here, they were literally fresh off the war and mentally all screwed-up. We’ve had to rebuild a sense of trust.” ( READ FULL STORY )