My Last quarter.

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Yesterday I talked about graduation. I explained feelings of joy and excitement and what a proud accomplishment it will be when I walk across that stage in front of my family.

But I’d be lying if I told you that happiness is all I’d feel.

FEAR:

Uncertainty scares me. Sure, I’ll have a piece of paper that says I’m qualified to do some things, but that doesn’t mean ill do them.

Now I’m not saying I don’t think I’ll be okay, but I just don’t know what’s next and that’s a little scary.

It doesn’t help that most students stare at me wide-eyed and in awe when i say “I don’t know what’s next,” but i try to act cool and collective like I know what I’m doing.

Truth is, I don’t

What I do know is that I’m going home to a family and community who is depending on me.

To be a leader. To influence change. To serve.

And that’s scary too.

UNDESERVING:

I don’t need anyone to tell me that I deserve it. I know I do, but sometimes I feel like I don’t.

I can’t quite explain it.

From the beginning, when I got to college and realized how different I was as a student of color, different class and different culture I immediately felt as if i didn’t belong.

Do I still feel that way? Not completely.

But for some reason I feel as if graduation still will not make me feel like i belong.

I hate that.

SAD:

I’m not gonna miss the homework.

I’m not gonna miss relaxing on a Saturday or Sunday night when that “oh sh**,” feeling hits you and you realize you have an assignment due in a couple hours.

But I will miss the people and the experiences college has offered me.

It’s not about the fun or the going out, but I’ve grown so much since freshman year.

I’m a completely different person, and leaving a place where I’ve done so much learning, growing and living will be hard.

I’ve worked through some of the hardest times of my life here. I’ve met people who have changed me and leaving that will be hard.

Doubt:

Lastly, sometimes I don’t believe in myself. Where I’m from, there aren’t many examples of people who have graduated college and can tell you what life is like post-education.

I have so many questions.

What if I’m not good enough?

What if I fail?

What if this is the wrong career path?

What if I can’t find a job?

So many feelings at once and I don’t know how to handle them.

I think experience will provide all the answers I need and there is really only one way to deal with it all.

Keep moving forward. I need to make sure that these feelings aren’t going to stop me from at least doing that.

 

 

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!

 

 

Growing up, Birthdays Didn’t Mean Much.

Growing up, birthdays didn’t mean much.

Now don’t get me wrong, my families outrageous tradition of singing happy birthday as loudly and off key as possible is something we all look forward to, but it’s just another day to me and my siblings.

It’s not cause were stuck up or unloved, in fact, we’re the complete opposite.

But when you’re family is struggling and you’re thinking about things like when the next time you’re going to eat? Or ‘are we going to eat?’ There’s not a lot of time to think about birthdays.

Again, that’s not to say we didn’t have enough, because my family always made the impossible happen out of nothing, but birthdays always took a backseat to far greater worries.

Years later not much has changed. I am in my last year of college and of course, worries are stacked on top of worries.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my birthday, but it does mean I’ll settle for a dinner with friends, a few happy birthdays and call it a night.

Boy was I wrong.

My days are busy between two jobs, classes, homework and our CWU Polynesian club so naturally I kept to my schedule.

Went to class, went to one of my jobs, got a short workout in and went straight to Polynesian dance practice.

Before practice I informed other leaders of the group that I would be leaving early to get ready for a dinner that my girlfriend planned and that they should join when they got done.

They said they would come and so I went home and got ready.

My girlfriend arrived at my house at 8 o’clock and when i got in the car she said “Okay here, put this on.” She has a lavalava (traditional Samoan garment) in her hand tied into a blindfold and now i’m like “hold up, wait. Why?”

She proceeds to tell me that she made me a gift and that if I saw where we were going I’d know what the gift was.

I play along because I really do appreciate the effort and her excitement, so i toss on the blindfold.

We drive for about 7 minutes until we park and she helps me out of the car. I can’t see a thing and every step feels like I’m going to bump into something so I’m not feeling this blindfold thing anymore.

We walk thru the cold, into a building, and now I’m thinking “Okay, what the heck is going on?”

She slowly guides my small fearful steps through a hallway, we turn left and I feel myself walking through streamers.

Before I could realize what was happening, the blindfold is stripped off my face and there stood my CWU Polynesian family.

SUURRRRPRRRIIIIISSSEEE!

 

Turns out my girlfriend tirelessly planned a surprise birthday party and with the help of my friends they pulled it off.
People continued to tell me how much I meant to them over the course of that night and I couldn’t help but continuously remind everyone that it was them who brings me joy.At first i felt so undeserving of everyone’s love, but as the night went on i realized that that was not what that night was about.Growing up, birthdays didn’t mean much.But this night was about celebrating life and for once, letting it mean something.Displaying IMG_0183.PNG

 

 

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.

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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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLM – Unpacking My Beliefs on MLK Day

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A couple months ago, over 2,000 staff, faculty and students wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts to show the support and commitment they have to their black students.

In an article written by CNN reporter AJ Wellingham, many educators got together to support the BLM movement in their public schools http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/21/health/seattle-teachers-black-lives-matter-trnd/.

Some called it heroic and inspiring. Others were sickened.

There has been much controversy surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and whether you agree with it or not, kids in Seattle and all over the U.S. have been exposed to this phrase day in and day out.

My older brother, the first in my family to graduate from college, is a Seattle teacher whom supports the movement.

So do other peers, family members and mentors I know who work for the Seattle education system.

In Ellensburg, Wa where i go to school, most hate BLM and– to this day– I often have to hear about it.

Let me share how I, a Polynesian college student from Seattle, feel about it.

In the 6th grade a cop stopped me and my brother on the way to 7-11. My older brother asked why we were stopped, to which the cop responded “just wait here long hair.”

“Man, we ain´t do shit,” shot out of my brother’s mouth. “Talk like a nigga and I treat you like a nigga. Got it?” the officer said sternly.

I never thought anything of that incident accept that I, a Polynesian who had just moved to Seattle from Hawaii, must be a nigga.

I remembered thinking “I’m not even black,” but somehow my image or the way I talked made me a nigga.

Now, it´s not just about a jerk cop who called me a nigga. It´s everything else.

I was told that I was supposed to be dumb, so I said stupid things. I was told Samoans were tough, so I internalized an intimidating persona.

I watched my peers who were also minorities experience the same kind of abuse by internalizing stereotypes, while listening to micro-aggression after micro-aggression, not realizing the damage it was doing to them psychologically

Black and brown students are told so many things growing up, but rarely were we told that we mattered.

This is my experience, the problem is, not everyone has to identify with this experience.

If you were never called a nigger, never racially profiled or felt belittled because of the color of your skin, chances are, BLM makes you angry, uncomfortable, or both.

I am not black but I stand in solidarity with my minority counterparts. What doesn´t make sense to me is the level sensitivity and anger people who do not agree with BLM approach me with.

There are discrepancies in our systems, Institutionalized racism is a real thing and we will never fix anything until we admit there is a problem. So why not let other lives matter?

People of color did not just wake up and decide that they were the superior race. If that´s what you think, then you are missing the movement and this form of “creative suffering,” will never end.

It is okay. We know you matter. We know we all matter, but obviously, some lives matter more than others.

How To Do Homework And Hangout With Friends

All right everyone. Tonight is a Thursday night and this week has been jam-packed with work, homework and late nights.

Some of you have been reading my blogs, some of you scroll past them, but none of you have to write them for a grade in majority of your communications classes.

So, here we are. It’s Thursday and the last thing I have looming over my head is a blog that’s due at 12 p.m. tomorrow afternoon. Ma or Carrie, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry for the procrastination!

Most of you are reading this like “dude, just write the damn blog.” Well, it’s not that easy.

I have a problem.

Some of my friends walked in about an hour ago with a box of (insert favorite beer here) and now I’m stuck in a stone cold dilemma.

Write my blog? Or call it a week?

Paranoia has me in front of my laptop typing away in a half circle with friends, so instead of skipping out on a blog, I’m going to tell you what life is like inside of this half circle:

My roommate Simi is pointing at me, dancing and bobbling his head back and forth. They are playing Bruno Mars’s new song “24k in the air” for the hundredth time.

I’m not going to lie. This song is dope.

Buba and Jesse join Simi in singing and—as if they’ve been practicing for weeks—shout out “hashtag blessed!” along with Bruno Mars.

That was also pretty dope.

Abruptly the song cuts off and a slow 80’s melody comes on (if you know Polynesian’s, this is when it gets real).

Buba quickly shouts, “Aw man, ya’ll don’t know nothin’ about this!”

“Slow Jams” by Morning Star is playing and yes, Buba is feelin’ himself.

Someone pauses the music mid-song and who walks in the door? Jordan and JT. Empty handed? Of course not, they have bags of McDonald’s.

“How’s the blogging coming uce?” Jordan asks (“uce” meaning “bro” in Samoan).

“Good uce! You barely made the cut,” I reply.

Jordan balls his hands into a fist knowing that means he’ll be written about in this weeks blog.

Everyone takes a seat and now, the real hanging out happens. In a Polynesian circle of friends, hanging out isn’t just talking.

It means singing at the top of your lungs, making fun of each other in every way possible, and loud hyena-like laughter.

I look up and Simi is trying to convince JT that his fries cannot runaway. He responds by eating more fries.

Jordan asks Buba to toss him a can. He drops it. This shouldn’t be a big deal, but Jordan is CWU’s running back and of course, jokes are made.

The song that is now playing has the lyrics “Won’t see me no more,” so the boys are looking at Simi singing “Won’t Si-mi no more.”

Woaaaah. Don’t mean to leave you readers hanging on a cliff, but my boy Elisha Pa’aga just walked in which means I gotta go!

Wouldn’t spend a Thursday night writing/hanging out with any other group of boys.

Peace!

 

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.