Words from the Wise--Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui

[Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui]

Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui is an associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University, where she teaches courses on Native American sovereignty issues, U.S. colonialism in the Pacific Islands, and U.S. racial formations, and critical race methodologies. Her first book, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Indigeneity and Sovereignty, is forthcoming from Duke University Press in October 2008. She is currently co-editing a book with Andrea Lee Smith, Native Feminisms: Without Apology (under review, University of Minnesota Press) and is currently embarking on two new book monographs: Mana Wahine Hawaiian Decolonization that explores gender politics in indigenous Hawaiian nationalist struggles, and Hawaiian New England: The Grammar of American Colonialism. She is also the host and producer of a weekly public affairs radio program, Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond, at WESU, Middletown, Conn., which is syndicated through the Pacifica radio-network.

[Kauanui's first book- Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Indigeneity and Sovereignty]

Dr. Kauanui on the dangers of having Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders subsumed under the general ethnic categories of Asian-Pacific American (APA) and Asian Pacific Islander (API)

The problematic terms “Asian-Pacific American” (APA) and “Asian Pacific Islander” (API) not only offer no recognition that Pacific Islanders already constitute a pan-ethnic group that is distinct from Asian Americans, they also efface Pacific political claims based on indigeneity. For example, indigenous Pacific Islanders who have ties to islands that were forcibly incorporated into the United States (Hawai`i, Guam, American Samoa) have outstanding sovereignty and land claims, based on international principles of self-determination, which get erased by the categorization with Asians. Hence the frameworks for understanding the ills affecting Pacific peoples and their political claims are shaped by imperialism and settler colonialism, not simply civil rights.
--Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui
Read more articles by Dr. Kauanui HERE

Sunday, November 30, 2008

No thanks to Racist Traditions...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

I know that during the holiday season we tend to become intoxicated by how everything becomes so commercialized, desensitized and packaged into a neat little "holiday" that gives us time off work, time to spend with family, and time to eat lots of great food... oh yeah and did I mention eat lots of great food? hahaha!!!

It becomes difficult to spend some time really reflecting on some of the injustices that we continue to perpetuate in the name of "American Traditions" without ever giving a second thought to its origins.

One of these annoying traditions is consistently practiced in our educational institutions throughout our nation which involves dressing up young kids as Pilgrims and Indians while re-enacting a watered-down-happy-go-lucky-everyone-live-in-peace version of the so called first Thanksgiving!

In Claremont, CA. many parents protested against these Thanksgiving costumes! I think these parents should be commended for taking a stand on this issue! We can only progress as a nation if we face up to the truth--which is the fact that dressing up as a racial stereotype is not cute nor is it educational!

[Kelley Davis, left and Andrew Loeffler dress up as pilgrim and Indian in Claremont, CA. (picture by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)]

For decades, Claremont kindergartners have celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing up as pilgrims and Native Americans and sharing a feast. But on Tuesday, when the youngsters meet for their turkey and songs, they won't be wearing their hand-made bonnets, headdresses and fringed vests.

Raheja, whose mother is a Seneca, wrote the letter upon hearing of a four-decade district tradition, where kindergartners at Condit and Mountain View elementary schools take annual turns dressing up and visiting the other school for a Thanksgiving feast. This year, the Mountain View children would have dressed as Native Americans and walked to Condit, whose students would have dressed as Pilgrims.

Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without "dehumanizing" her daughter's ancestry.

"There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype," she said. Read more here.

Here is another great response from a parent whose Kindergartner attends the same school district.

As a parent of kindergarteners, one who has been in “de-program” mode all week around this very subject, I celebrate Professor Raheja’s courage—even as I am ashamed of my own silence up to this point. More persons must actively resist oppressive narratives that only prove to indoctrinate another generation into the lies we live within. Reenacting this nation’s egregious history of European conquest and genocide as if it was an innocent gathering of ol’ friends amounts to intellectual child abuse. And like all forms of destructive behavior, we must name it and seek healing from it lest we normalize the absurd and reenact the abuse on another generation.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my son to be that idiot standing in front of a kindergarten in thirty years doing the tomahawk chop with construction paper taped to his brow.

Some traditions we have no reason to be thankful for!

Read more here
For those of you who still don't really know the real story behind Thanksgiving (because its been strategically left out of all US History Books) here is a quick and condensed version for you to read

Beauty and the Blog...

My sisters and I love to buy makeup! We have containers full of makeup that we haven't even opened or probably opened and tried once and never looked at it again. It's so ironic that we buy so much makeup but end up only using the same ones over and over (my brothers think its hilarious except for when they happen to accompany us to the store and we make them buy it...then its not so funny anymore)...LOL!!!

I always get disappointed when I buy makeup that looks great in the store and on the pictures only to find that it should remain in the store on the pictures... hahahaha!!! I wished that someone I knew would actually try it out for me first and then tell me if it's worth buying.... and what do you know... my wish has come true!

[Ane Phillips showcasing that Tongan Beauty]

My beautiful Tongan sistah Ane Phillips, who works as a model and also works in marketing has a great blog where she gives some awesome beauty tips!

Please check it out HERE. I guarantee you will love it!!!

She alerted me to the NYX cosmetics jumbo eye pencils and my sisters went and bought some to try it out and it's a big hit!!!

Check out her blog and add her to your blog-list today!!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Words from the Wise-- Dr. Konai Helu Thaman

Dr. Konai Helu Thaman is a Tongan native Scholar and Professor at the University of South Pacific (USP) in Fiji. She holds a BA in Geography from the University of Auckland, an M.A. in International Education from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and PhD in Education from the USP.

Dr. Thaman's PhD Dissertation entitled ‘Ako and Faiako: Cultural Values, Educational Ideas and Teachers’ Role Perceptions in Tonga was based on studies of the relationships between cultural values and educational ideas and how these were reflected in teachers’ perceptions of their professional role. She has conducted research, consultancies and published widely in the areas of teacher education, curriculum development and culture and education and has held senior administrative positions in the USP including Director of the Institute of Education and Pro Vice Chancellor and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor.

She is a Fellow of APEID (Asia-Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development) and a member of several international and professional organisations including the UNITWIN/UNESCO Asia Pacific Higher Education Network and the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendation on the Status of Teachers (CEART), and the Asia Pacific Regional Scientific Committee on Research in Higher Education. She serves as the UNESCO Chairperson in Teacher Education and Culture. She is also a widely published poet. Read more HERE

The following is a quote taken from her keynote address at the Center for Pacific Island Studies Conference in 2003. Her talk was entitled "Decolonizing Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, Knowledge, and Wisdom in Higher Education"

"...my western education has not caused me to shift from a belief and reliance in the supernatural...I am a Tongan woman of the commoner class, and although schooled in western ways, I continue to see myself as part of an organic unity, not as a chance result of natural selection at work in a world devoid of supernatural guidance..."

you say that you think
therefore you are
but thinking belongs
in the depths of the earth
we simply borrow
what we need to know
these islands the sky
the surrounding sea
the trees the birds
and all that are free
the misty rain
the surging river
pools by the blowholes
a hidden flower
have their own thinking
they are different frames
of mind that cannot fit
in a small selfish world
(Konai Helu Thaman, “Thinking”)
I have always loved Dr. Thaman's work and how her words articulate a reality that is based on indigenous Tongan thought that claims knowledge existing and arising from the supernatural. It claims multiple ways of knowing and thinking! It aims to deconstruct the western thought and idea that literacy equals intelligence. Her words have helped me to expand my thinking beyond the walls of my classrooms and to envision and redefine education in a broader sense. It ruptures the idea that formal education is the only space where knowledge is created and produced!

Double Cuties!!!

Last night I got to hang out with my two cutie twin nephews --Arona & Arami-- They are almost 5 months old and are the cutest and nicest little boys ever unless you want to take pictures of them and then they start doing random things like rolling their eyes, turning the other way, ignoring me, screaming, crying or spitting up saliva all over me... LOL!!!!

[My two cutie twin nephews...Arona & Arami]

I took about 50 pictures with my camera phone before Arami finally looked at the camera with that look like "is this woman for realz...Geez get it over with already!!!" LOL!!! yeah persistence really pays off!!!

[This is Arami or as I call him Orson Jr. Part 1]

It took forever to take this picture because Arona kept looking at me and refused to look at the camera. Everytime I turned him to the camera he smiled and right when I would take the picture he looked away. I finally had to hold his bottle from the top together with my camera and as he was looking at his bottle I took the picture (yeah I am so talented!!! LOL!!!), but how come he looks totally bored like he already knew what I was trying to do and finally gave up and just looked at the camera...hahahaha!!! So much for me trying to be tricky! lol!

[This is Arona or as I call him Orson Jr. Part 2]

The whole night I had the TV on and was flipping through all the news channels CNN, CSPAN, FOX, MSNBC, etc., and unfortunately my nephews didn't really enjoy watching the news! LOL!!!

[Arami laughing while we were watching Sarah Palin being interviewed on Larry King]

We watched the Palin interview with Larry King and basically the twins reactions mirror my own reactions when I hear Palin being interviewed. She either puts me to sleep or makes me laugh! I guess it's safe to say that my twin nephews share my same political views and convictions! LOL!!! LOL!!! LOL!!!

[Arona sleeping while we were watching Sarah Palin being interviewed on Larry King]

I promise I didn't try to influence them toward any political party, although I had to change both of their poopie diapers right when Pat Buchanan came on TV... hahaha!!! hmmm... I wonder what that means??? Yeah it means Pat is full of CRAP!!! LOL!!!

Looking forward to my next night out with my twin nephews so I can follow up on how their political views have progressed! hahahaha!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Words from the Wise-- Dr. Haunani Kay Trask

Haunani-Kay Trask is an indigenous leader in the Native Hawaiian sovereignty movement. She is widely considered an authority on Hawaiian political issues, as well as an internationally-known Indigenous human rights advocate. She has represented her nation at the United Nations in Geneva, at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, and at various gatherings throughout the Pacific, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. She has authored four books, including From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai'i, widely considered a masterpiece of contemporary resistance writing. Trask was co-producer and scriptwriter of the award-winning documentary, Act of War: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation . She was the first full-time Director of the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa in Honolulu. Currently, Trask is Professor of Hawaiian Studies, University of Hawai'i-Manoa.

There are so many wonderful quotes from Dr. Trask, but I have chosen the quote below because it speaks of the alternative to the crazy violence that we see happening all around us, that alternative being-- creating art!

This was her response to those who have criticized her as being too outspoken, too abrasive, too angry, and too militant, when it comes to fighting for Hawaiian Sovereignty.

"We are not happy natives...the anger is actually a safety valve...what's the alternative? I'd rather make art than, you know, commit murder"
--Haunani-Kay Trask

Monday, November 10, 2008

It’s been a long time coming…

As you all know, I have been a huge Obama supporter from the very beginning, when I first heard him speak at the DNC in 2004, when he posed the question: Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope? I have always been conflicted about America’s two dominating party politics because I didn’t feel that either one of them fully represented the complexities of my life (and those around me) and the values we espouse based on culture, experience, spirituality and the list goes on.

Yet, somehow his words really moved me, it made me think much deeper about the role of politics in our lived realities, especially as Pacific Islanders, who seem to always be excluded from these political discussions. His words resonated with issues that I had been grappling with in my work among Pacific Islander young people, and when he said we need to “eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white” I was quite surprised that a politician was actually aware of and would raise this issue that is often referred to in the Tongan community as being “fie palangi” and how this construct has been used to silence, divide, essentialize, marginalize, and restrict the creativity and intellect of many of our young people. I chose at that time to slowly move toward a politics of hope, but approaching it with a critical eye!

I must admit that throughout this presidential campaign, I have doubted whether or not it could actually really happen, that we as American citizens (regardless of race, class and gender) would come together to vote for an African American to be President of the United States. My doubts were not because I felt President Obama wasn’t ready (because clearly to me he was the best candidate) but rather I was unsure if America was ready. I mean let’s just keep it real—to willingly trust White America would be an act of historical stupidity—yet at the same time to ignore how far we have come would be to disrespect and dishonor the sacrifices of many who have come before us and have given their lives so that we can be closer to actualizing our own dreams and on a more personal note, it’s their sacrifices which have made it possible for me to be here blogging about these very issues.

Putting my doubts aside, I chose to be hopeful and this past Tuesday, it became a reality as Senator Obama became President-elect Obama! Do I think this means that America is now post-racial (as many would like to think)? Absolutely Not! Do I think that this election serves as a paradigm shift in America? Not Yet! Do I see a shift in consciousness? Possibly!

This election, in my opinion is about America finally growing up and rejecting the politics of fear! It is about young people yearning to hold America accountable to its promises and ideals (which for centuries have only benefitted a privileged few)! This election is a reminder that grassroots efforts is where change always starts and that community organizers totally rocked the country (in your face McCain, Palin, Guilanni and others who mocked community organizers)!

This election is not just an African American victory, it is an American victory! It is a reminder to all politicians (democrats, republicans, independents, etc.) that American politics needs to generate a new kind of language and policies that reflects the uniqueness of this moment in our history and the possibilities this election can and must create. It is a reminder that we as citizens must do some serious grassroots politics if we want to continue to foster this momentum of change that is sweeping through our country!

I strongly believe that how President Obama governs will be determined on how we as citizens take up our own responsibilities and hold Washington accountable to its promises. As the late Roosevelt reportedly told those who were in charge of the Labor Movement, “I agree with you, now go out and make me do it!”

I believe this is the attitude that we must embrace, especially in this time in our history!

I leave you with the music and lyrics of one of my all time favorite music artist-- Sam Cooke!

...It's been a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come...

A Change Is Gonna Come
Sam Cooke (1964)

I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like the river, I've been running ever since
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

I go to the movie, and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me "Don't hang around"
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Then I go to my brother and I say, "Brother, help me please"
But he winds up knocking me back down on my knees

There've been times that I've thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Sunday, November 9, 2008

President Barack Obama!!!

The 44th President of the United States of America President Barack Obama!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote! Vote! Vote!

Don't forget to VOTE today!!!

If you don't know your voting location go to www.voteforchange.com or call 1-877-874-6226

Check back later tonight as my cousin Richard and I do some live blogging about the final day of the Presidential election!!!

New Segment-- Words from the Wise...

Every Monday I will begin the week by posting some wise words from someone in our Pacific Islander community.

This week I am quoting the words of Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Te Rina Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou) who is an internationally renowned Professor of Education and researcher in Māori and indigenous education and is one of the leading
scholars on indigenous research methodologies. She currently serves as the Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Waikato.

Her critically acclaimed book Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Zed, 1999) explores the intersections of imperialism, knowledge, and research and is one of the most cited text on indigenous research.

How do you mobilize people who fear change, who fear shifting the status quo, and how do you suggest to them that as a minority they can win? That they can win a political argument? That they can win a political struggle? There is this deep cynicism about change...what many of our activists have done is to move that great cynicism and that sheer passiveness around change and that sense of grim determination to stay as we are because to rock the boat is to make it worse...as activists we need to be able to take all of that and activate it, mobilize it and make it work in particular ways...what my generation has learned is that the next step in resistance to oppression and injustice is the step of mobilizing and activating in particular ways that move communities forward...The confidence of knowing that we have survived and can only go forward provides some impetus to a process of envisioning --(Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith)

We are at a time in our history where we can no longer stand idly by while our young Pacific people are dropping out of school in alarming numbers, the incarceration rates of young Pacific Islander men continue to triple, the brown-on-brown violence continue to be an every day phenonmenon, the numbers of native language speakers diminish daily, and the idea of learning about our own history in mainstream classrooms almost seem impossible. We continue to suffer from third world statistics when it comes to health care, poverty, and the list goes on and on...

If we want to create a different kind of future... the time is NOW!

Monday, November 3, 2008