It’s a disease we don’t really talk about, and it goes unnoticed by many and ignored by the rest. I’m talking about culture and I’m talking specifically within my domain of ethnicity – Pacific Islanders (PI).
Being one of the youngest racial minorities in the United States, we stand in a position of vulnerability. Just like a child in a new place, our tendencies as a people is to learn survival skills, and learn them quick. We are like sponges, ready to absorb the hustle and flow of society so that we are embedded and categorized as American civilians.
“How much for your culture?” it seems as if society continues to question me. As a first generation Tongan American, I straddled the line between my Tonganness and my Americanness and in both worlds, I was never enough. So rather than appreciating my Tongan culture, I buried it in a place of nondisclosure. It was my grave of comfort, where I could undress from my culture and be,talk,walk,think like the rest.
But one summer spent in the Kingdom of Tonga changed my perspective entirely. Things began to reconcile and my resentment for my culture morphed into curiosity. I became a sponge again with a desire to absorb my Tonganness which organically bridged together my love for expressive art and my Tongan heritage . How beautiful it is to blossom from buried pavement!
In realizing this, I’ve come to envision the greatness of people who are culturally sound. Those who hold knowledge of their ancestors, who have appreciation for the Ocean, and can identify the power behind their culture. These qualities live in us, first generation Pacific Islanders. However, in order to practice our culture we must feed it curiosity. We must allow ourselves to disconnect from societal trends and tap into the stories and promises of our heritage! We must hunger for cultural understanding so that we can understand ourselves better.
Do this and you will succeed.
P.I.L.O.T Alum [Cohort 2]
Pacific Islander Leader of Tomorrow | Summer 2015
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities
Los Angeles, California
ENROLL NOW: http://tinyurl.com/PILOTsummer2015