Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Advance Pasifika

It was a bit harder to get up than we had projected. We both got a bit carried away during our catch-up with Sunbeam the night before (well worth it), and our hangovers felt like they were tainting our auras. But we got up, and showered away the stale smell of beer, and opened the windows to let out the smell of old McDonalds, and left. On the street in front of our building were a group of Cook Island drummers, and I started to feel excited.

The night before, I'd told Sunbeam about the march, and as often happens to me, said things I only realised after they had come out, that I really felt. I'd read about it in the Central Leader at my parents' house the weekend before, and was impressed with what one of the organisers, Uesefili Unasa, said about the social responsibility we all have to one to another, and about the need for Pacific leadership that isn't subject to "political parties or the dominant culture" (I would add religious belief). I came home with the clipping, and didn't even have to ask Vincent to come with me.

Vincent guessed there were about a thousand people on Princes Street when we arrived. There were lots of flags flying, and music playing, and singing, and I immediately felt like I might cry, which would totally undermine my outfit. I had Angela Davis on my mind as I got ready, and decided my look was going to be Black Panthers inspired. As we were walking past the marchers to join at the back, a guy called out Black Power to me, and I was so gratified I had to stop myself from pulling a yuss, and just gave him a very grave nod. It was as cold a Saturday as we've had so far this winter, but it didn't stifle spirits. We walked first behind a mother with her two young sons, one of whose Samoan flags kept falling off its stick and whom we consequently nearly tripped over a few times, and then a family of a mother and father and their three of four adult children. The second family meant the most to me. People who aren't Polynesian might not understand the significance of older Pacific people taking part in a march. Polynesian cultures are based on hierarchy and obedience, and in spite of having lived here a long time, it's not a natural thing for an older person to challenge government, or even just to openly petition for representation. In things like this, the march was a success just because it happened, and these people were there. I envied the families marching together, but Vincent pointed out that we're a family, and I realised maybe I wouldn't have been there myself if my family was different, and I felt better.

I did the march because I want representation and advocacy. I want acknowledgement that there are issues that directly affect Pacific people, and I want a say in the decisions concerning those issues - for all of us. I am tired of Pacific people being over-represented in all of the bad things; poverty, sickness, crime, and under-achievement in school. Obviously something is wrong, and the finger is pointed time and time again at us, rather than examining and questioning the system into which we clearly don't fit. NZ society has been built around the values and culture of European New Zealanders, which are presented to all New Zealanders as a norm, simply because they are a dominant majority. As the population changes, this has to change, or members of minorities will always be disadvantaged. And I did the march because I want Pacific people to unite. As Unasa said in his interview, we are all individuals and have different needs and experiences, but we have to support one another.

Lastly, I want to mention the flags. There was one for the Greens, and a few for Labour, and Su'a William Sio was there. Cathy Casey was there, and so was Len Brown. A family friend who is a National MP was also there (to our amusement he was not wearing anything saying National, for perhaps the first time ever). But the most noticeable party flags belonged to Mana, and the people beneath them included Hone Harawira and John Minto, and I have even more respect for these people because of it. And finally, I'll just point out that the Samoan flags outnumbered the Tongan (but as Vincent said when I gleefully mentioned it to him, that's enough of that.)

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