Drowning in leis

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If there is one thing I appreciate about my Samoan culture, and most Polynesian cultures for that matter, it is the way we celebrate graduation.

To many graduation is important, to others it is a simple stepping stone in life, but to Samoans? It feels like the BIGGEST deal in the world.

Naw, for real.

Like you just won the Super Bowl on the game winning throw.

And saved someones life on the way to the end zone.

While the stadium was on fire.

You get the point. it’s pretty epic.

With that said, Summer is right around the corner and soon enough myself– and many other Polynesians around the world– will have a Facebook, Twitter and instagram feed full of outlandish amounts of leis on one poor Poly kids neck as he teeters around trying to take pictures with his hundred-something long line of relatives.

When i say “outlandish,” i mean exactly that. Your lucky if these intricate homemade leis filled with money, candy (sometimes food) and many other gifts allow you to see through the crevices of their plastic, let alone breathe.

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Me (left) and my brothers Jordan (right) and Christian (middle) celebrating Christians graduation from Western Washington University.

This past summer was perhaps the craziest.

I saw blown up cut-outs of kids faces, large 10 x 10 ft. quilts with their students names stitched into its fabric, and my personal favorite:

Humongous crowns made of money.

It was like every family was competing for who gave their child the best celebration, gifts and love.

At first i thought it was funny and sometimes over the top, but then i thought, why? why do we do this? is it really that important?

The answer now that my college graduation is months away is conveniently, YES! haha

Seriously though, why not? Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t need any of that stuff because we know we are loved, but I love that my culture allows us to celebrate their kids successes in the largest way possible.

I know that I’ve worked hard to get here and that college wasn’t easy. My parents didn’t go to college, so i had to figure a lot of this stuff out on my own and it’s okay to be proud.

I also love how much that support motivates me.

Senior-itis is real and being so close to done makes you want to take your foot off the gas right?

Naw.

Not with my support system. Not with the greeting party that will be waiting for me when i finally do it!

So Poly families, keep celebrating each other. It’s not about the parties, money or celebration. It’s about telling each other how proud we are.

It’s about acknowledging our gifts and celebrating our successes.

Because at the end of the day, your kids know that they’re drowning in so much more than just leis!

 

 

Polynesians are Taking Over Sports and Entertainment

Although 2016 has been labeled by many as the worse year of this 17 year long century, the last year allowed for many Polynesians to excel in their respective crafts.

From dominating on the football field as usual to sweeping through the most acclaimed awards in Hollywood, it was quite the year for Polynesia. Here are some praiseworthy moments:

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson claims his stake as the worlds highest paid actor raking in $64.5 million (Forbes).
HBO Ballers Season 2 Red Carpet Premiere and Reception in Miami

We all have our favorite rocky lines and have at least once in our life shouted the words “if you smeeeeeellllll!? well, you know the rest, but this year has to be his most impressive.

Along with releasing the number one comedy of the year alongside Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence, The Rock has had a busy year shooting the HBO series “Ballers,” and the now famous animation “Moana.”

He also has been working on films such as Baywatch, Fast 8 and Jumanji. Can you smell that?

At age 16, Destanee Aiava competes in the Australian Open.

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Although she lost her first Grand Slam match on Monday, Jan. 16th, she has been climbing the ranks quickly and her name has already begun to gain traction.

This week she got to hit with her long life idol Serena Williams, and has continued to play with elite company.

Watch for Destanee, the only player who was born in this century to play in a grand slam tournament, to continue to get better and rack up more wins against elite competition.

Reggae artist J Boog and Hawaiian Contemporary artist Kalani Pe’a invited to the Grammy’s.

kalani-pea-and-j-boog

Some of you remember the beginnings of J Boog’s career with songs like “Love Seasons,” and “lets do it again.” Others have only recently picked up his music.

At first it seemed as if underground reggae would be his only outlet, but he continued to gain popularity by releasing hit after hit.

This year he is nominated for Reggae Album of the year with his latest EP – “Rose Petals,” a prestigious award that puts him with the likes of Ziggy and Damian Marley, Shaggy, Sean Paul and other popular mainstream reggae artists.

Kalani Pe’a however, was nominated for best folk album with his debut album “E Walea.”

This category was added in 2011 and is award that acknowledges the best folk music from various cultures.

If Kalani, a Hawaii native who speaks Hawaiian fluently wins this award, he would be the first Hawaiian, or Polynesian for that matter, to receive this honor.

Moana makes headlines with Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.

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Polynesians all over the world got to experience something they never have: Seeing a reflection of themselves on the big screen.

Although there were some inaccuracies pointed out and an outburst in the Polynesian communities about where Moana is actually from (it’s okay guys she’s just a cartoon), for the most part this animation was received with love and admiration.

This heroine allowed our Polynesian sons and daughters to vicariously live through these animated characters while giving the world around us a taste of Polynesia.

Moana was nominated for two Golden Globes including best original song and best animation (which they didn’t win), but still has a chance to claim the Oscar for best animated feature in February.

This is just the beginning.

There are many other notable performances with many Polynesian’s like Danny Shelton, Marcus Mariota and Steven Adams excelling in professional sports and Jason Momoa coming in the much anticipated “Justice league” as “Aquaman.”

The truth is, our talents are everywhere and have penetrated the very core of mainstream media with fresh style, culture and flavor.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of all is how small we are in numbers.

We come from tiny places scattered throughout the South Pacific yet our talents and aspirations are as big as the ocean that surrounds us. That’s what makes us amazing. That’s what makes us Polynesian.

What/who else is missing from this list? Let Me know!

Sources:

Robehmed, N. (2016, August 25). The World’s Highest-Paid Actors 2016: The Rock Leads With Knockout $64.5 Million Year. Retrieved January 17, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2016/08/25/the-worlds-highest-paid-actors-2016-the-rock-leads-with-knockout-64-5-million-year/#15e7ea2145da

http://www.tennis.com/pro-game/2017/01/92-minutes-on-court-lifetime-of-experience-for-destanee/63363/

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-grammys-2017-nominations-winners-list-20161205-story.html

https://ohmy.disney.com/news/2016/12/12/moana-and-zootopia-nominated-for-golden-globe-awards-see-filmmakers-reactions/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Play

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Q&A: Nicholas Aumua 

INTERVIEW:

 Nicholas (Nick) Aumua, 20, Was born in California before moving to Washington state where he and his family lives in Auburn. Nick is of Samoan decent and a student athlete at Central Washington University, where he is working to earn his undergraduate degree in film and video studies. A standout athlete at Auburn high school, he quickly became the starting defensive tackle for the wildcat’s football team during his sophomore year. Nick represents a community of Polynesians who have dominated the sport of football and continue to represent their traditions and culture through an American-made sport. After graduating, he plans on pursuing a career in film and video studies.

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WERE BETTER THAN MOST AT FOOTBALL?

I started realizing my potential during my years in middle school. At the time my performance was obviously better than those around me and my size added to that.

WHAT ARE SOME OF SAMOA’S CULTURAL VALUES?

 The main value’s in my culture are God first, family, and then respect.

DO YOU THINK ANY OF THESE VALUES TRANSLATES TO THE GAME OF FOOTBALL?

 I think they do. Spiritually I need God and that’s where my strength comes from. Respect comes a long way; just treating everyone with respect, that means a lot. Coaches and players and even off the field. Family, that’s a big one too. Brotherhood is a theme in football and we take that seriously. We believe that if we have that bond, that’s what makes the difference and it just so happens that it comes naturally for me.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART ABOUT BEING A STUDENT ATHLETE?

 One of the hardest things is being on your own. I feel like that is a big part. Just growing up and learning how to be an adult and a student athlete. Another thing is money because not a lot of us have a lot of money and we have to stretch it out week to week. We try to make things last. For Polynesians it’s hard leaving home and going to college because we grow up so tight with our family, brothers and sisters and when we get a scholarship and it’s time to go, it’s one of the hardest things to leave your family. But at the same time it’s also a blessing to get a scholarship and do what you love at the next level.

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT LEAVING HOME?

 Not seeing my parents a lot, my sisters, my girl…home cooked meals (chuckles). Not being around my church.

 IF ANY, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STEREOTYPES THAT YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED ON CAMPUS?

 One of the stereotypes I’ve experienced on campus is mostly about my size. Automatically being an athlete just the way my frame is. It’s for sure in the back of their minds (other students) that “the way he looks”, Is like an athlete and nothing else because the way I look and the way I dress. I think that “athlete” sticks with me and that’s what people think. I feel like that’s the same with a lot of Polynesians on college campuses. We all look like athletes and people assume we are and that’s not true for everyone.

WHAT DOES YOUR EVERYDAY SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE DURING FOOTBALL SEASON?

 I wake up at 5:30 a.m. and get ready. Practice is from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Then I have class from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. From 2 p.m. to 3:45 I have film and then I am in required study hall until 6 p.m.

IF YOU COULD GIVE OTHER POLYNESIAN ATHLETES ADVICE, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?

 It would be a question to them saying, “Why are you here. What brought you to college and who do you do it for?” If you ask that question in your mind and you have an answer to it, that should be motivation for you to be the best you can be.

 

Central Washington University Polyfest

For those of you who don’t know, the Polynesian population at CWU has grown since i became a Displaying Screenshot_2015-05-12-10-28-55.pngstudent here. When i first arrived i knew of about eight students who were of Polynesian decent and that number has grown to close to 40. Yes, that number may seem small to many, but to us it makes all the difference. When i first arrived i didn’t know how to get involved on campus and didn’t trust anyone. i didn’t want to reach out and felt alone and marginalized. When i caught wind of the Poly club on campus i realized that none of the members were actually Polynesian and instead of feeling the need to change that, i simply disconnected myself from the group.

My first year of college i heard of an annual event Central held called Polyfest, an event where students performed Polynesian dances and taught students about the history and heritage of each island. As a Polynesian student i thought the idea of the event was great but still felt uncomfortable about it since none of the students putting on the event were actually Polynesian, but that wouldn’t be the case for long.

This year the floodgates for Polynesian students opened up and Central admitted over 30 Student who were of Polynesian decent. That number literally quadrupled the amount we had in my previous two years and brought life to our community. Since the incoming class of Polynesian Freshman has arrived we have become the closest of friends all with different backgrounds, cultures, and stories but maintaining the same goals and interests. We do everything from Homework to weekend long bbq’s together where we sing, laugh, enjoy each others company and most of all EAT! We have become a tight knit group who has taken on the roll of organizing, dancing and teaching about our culture at this years 2015 Polyfest.

This yeapoly worshiprs Polyfest means so much more to me and our community of Polynesian students for many reasons. First off, this years event has the most Polynesian student involvement than any other event held at Central Washington University. Secondly, we are given a chance to share each and everyone of our cultures by taking our audience through a tour of some of the Polynesian islands. We will be showcasing traditional dances from the islands of New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii and Samoa. Lastly, this is the opportunity to have fun, and perform with family. Our group this year is special and we have grown and will continue to grow with each other as our people have done for centuries. Because every Polynesian knows that we are nothing without God and our community. Be praying for our CWU family as we host our event on May 28 of this month!

A Look At Polynesian NFL First Rounders

Throughout the years there have been many Polynesians who have made it to the NFL as both free agents and NFL draftees. From the legendary Jack “The Throwin Samoan” Thompson to the now spot lighted Marcus Mariota, Polynesians have a long and rich history of top prospects. Here are some of the historical first round picks that have had an impact on our entry and growth into the game of football.

WSU quarter back Jack Thompson
WSU quarter back Jack Thompson

– Elmer Faumuina, 20th overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1977 draft

– Jack Thompson, 3rd overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1979 draft

– Manu’ula Tuiasosopo, 18th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 1979 draft

– Jr. Seau, 5th Overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 1990 draft

– Luther Eliss, 20th overall in the 1995 draft

– Troy Polamalu, 16th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2003 draft

–  Etuini Haloti Ngata, 12th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2006 draft

– Tyson Alualu, 10th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2010 draft

– Michael Iupati, 17th overall in the 2010 draft

– Star Lotulelei, 14th overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2013 draft

Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers
Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers

The Polynesian presence in the NFL Draft is no secret. There have been many Polynesians selected in the first round who went on to have long and successful careers however, this year’s 2015 NFL draft marks only the third time in NFL history that two Polynesians were projected to be selected in the first round. Marcus Mariota of the Oregon Ducks is projected by most to be picked within the top 5, while Danny Shelton is projected to be picked within the top ten. If both players are selected within the first ten picks, this draft would mark the first time in NFL history that two Polynesian players were picked within the top ten.

danny and marcus

Danny Shelton is known for tearing through offensive linemen with his abnormal size and quick feet at 6-2, 340 lbs, while Marcus Mariota is known for his ability to run the ball and pick a part defenses with his arm. It’s an exciting time for Polynesian athletes, fans, and families as our legacy in the NFL continues to grow. We can only wish are best to those entering this new chapter of their lives as they continue to represent our traditions, values, and culture. Here’s to another year of football!

The Annoying yet Inevitable Stereotype of Being a Polynesian College Student

Dwayne-Johnson-The-Rock-TattoosIn the world of sports we are viewed as heroic warriors who are built for speed, strength and dominance on the football field. Proud Polynesians have cultivated the game of football with their broad shoulders and stout lower half. In the world of entertainment and mainstream media, we are depicted by images of movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and other notable charismatic WWE personas. Polynesians typically have big bodies and sun kissed skin covered in traditional tattoos across their chest, arms, and abnormally large calf muscles. We are seen as entertainers, warriors, singers, actors, and athletes. In the world of advertising our homelands are used to promote a lifestyle that promises relaxation and a beautiful tropical getaway. Our islands are portrayed by palm trees, turquoise blue water, and a palm-sized coconut shaded by a miniature pink umbrella. In the world of education we are depicted as…as…well…we aren’t depicted at all.

Maybe that’s why before people even ask me what my name is I get a confident point aimed at the middle of my ribcage followed by the question “football? or rugby?” In fact one of the first people I met when I arrived at Central Washington University was a girl who went as far as asking me what I was doing here if wasn’t playing a sport. Slightly offended and unsure, I answered with a timid “education?” Over the past three years that I have been a college student my peers and I have been referred to as scary, jocks and my personal favorite: intimidating. Although comments like these have gotten under my skin at times, I’ve grown to understand why people would assume who I am, what my interests are, and the the type of things I do with my free time simply because I have long hair, a wide frame, and weigh 215 pounds. It only makes sense that before you even ask me for something as simple as my name you place me into a box that consists of two possibilities. I mean come on, what else could I possibly be? An engineer? A doctor? A lawyer? How about the idea of a Polynesian principle? or a politician even!? All I’m trying to say is that sometimes people need to think before they speak.

Yes I am a Samoan student who is proud of his people and all that they’ve accomplished. We are amazing athletes, entertainers, and come from from a very traditional culture, but those categories should not limit who we are. We are innovators and pioneers who used the stars to navigate the waters of the South Pacific long before maps and compasses. We are warriors who have always found a way to persevere and triumph. We are the purest form of loyalty and love, ready to protect those we care about and what we believe in. We cannot be contained or described by just one characteristic. So what am I doing here you ask? To show the world that being Polynesian means so much more.