Mahalo to everyone at U.T.O.P.I.A. Seattle - the United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance. Huraiti Mana celebrated with this amazing organization at their lū'au celebration: A Journey Through Pasifika. Huraiti Mana represented Hawai'i and Tahiti islands with performances of hula and ori Tahiti or Tahitian dance to end this festive night in Burien, Washington. Mahalo to Taffy and to everyone who poured their hearts and soul into making a powerful evening of visibility and connection. Ia vai e U.T.O.P.I.A. and the entire LGBTQA community of the Pacific Kingdom!
We were so excited to announce Huraiti Mana's participation in Northwest Folklife's newest program Our Big Neighborhood and to be able to participate in their Movin' Around the World segment focused on Polynesia. This week marked the Spring Break for many schools in the nearby area, which meant lots of youth and families were able to come through Seattle Center. There, they could find program after program featuring teaching artists from across disciplines, across cultures, and for some - like Etienne of Gansango whom I met and learned was originally from West Africa - from across the globe.
The morning began with a generous invitation from Q13 Fox News to feature Huraiti Mana in their early morning live broadcast to help share the news of Northwest Folklife's youth event! I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful, charismatic, energetic, super-real, and quick-witted Ellen Tailor. The Q13 Fox Morning Features Reporter and I talked-story about our heritage, her Greek background and my Native-Hawaiian, about the similarities of laughable language barriers, of appreciating our elders, and of a peoples' resilience.
My day continued with performances and workshops led by Halau 'O Napualani's Kumu Gloria and Bill Nahalea (both of whom also run the non-profit organization Pacific 'Ohana Foundation (POF)). It was so beautiful to see so many keiki (children) perform and help teach hula and Maori poi ball dancing! My hands were twitching the whole time - it's hard for a dancer to watch others and not feel compelled to join!
And following this, I had an absolutely amazing time meeting the bright faces and inquisitive minds of so many youth during Huraiti Mana's 45-minute hula workshop. There is Hawaiian proverb: a'a i ka hula. Dare to dance. And these youth danced unabashedly, learning kāholo, hela, and 'uwehe steps. They listened to my story as I recited "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai" and danced. After watching intently and listening to nothing but 'ōlelo Hawa'i (Hawaiian language), they repeated to me the story they saw unfold before them; "in the beginning, you were looking at sea-waves," "and you loved it and shared it with everyone," "and the plants of the ocean smelled good." 'Ae. Pololei. They in turn stood to learn and perform this story - and they did so beautifully.
Questions followed after I left the stage and youth gathered around: "when you dance hula, how come you always dance with flowers?" "How come you dance barefoot when you're doing hula?" "Do you always dance hula?" Questions we look forward to addressing each day with Huraiti Mana.
Our sincerest mahalo to Anna and Leta of the Northwest Folklife team for having Huraiti Mana as a part of your innovative program to engage our youth and create empathy across the many cultures that create our big neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.
Huraiti Mana was kindly invited by the College & Career Readiness team of the Highline School District to participate in the high school's Multilingual and multicultural career fair as a community career partner. Students sat down to an introduction to the fair's main themes: that multilingual skills and multicultural backgrounds are an invaluable asset to our everyday lives and can be used to help each of us thrive in our future endeavors. There are many creative opportunities out there for us multicultural people of color to achieve and in which to excel. Many students in our communities of color are soon to become the first in their families to graduate high school and the first to attend college. This endeavor is very exciting - but it can also be intimidating. So, Highline High School has been building ways to engage their students in networking opportunities to prepare them for their next chapter.
Following an introduction to our goals, students split into small groups and visited various tables of community partners to learn more about job opportunities, resources, and experiences. At the table for Huraiti Mana, as Rayann Kalei'okalani Onzuka, I shared about my experiences with Huraiti Mana as a business and cultural community partner, but I also shared about other organizations in which my cultural work has developed. Organizations including the Wing Luke Museum where I've exhibited my work and am also the Director of Museum Services; and Arts Corps, where I am a Master Teaching Artist instructing after-school hula classes. Students asked me questions about starting my own business, building skills for design and accounting, and why I chose particular majors to study in college. I was able to follow up with individual students after the fair, and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience.
It's been great to meet curious students and hear about their dreams: some wanted to begin a restaurant or food truck and others wanted some type of business "but I'm not sure what, just yet." I suggested joining clubs on campus to build resumes and receive "free professional training" in a way; if you want to create a restaurant someday, become your club's Food Logistics Chair and learn about permits, licensing, and catering for your club's annual food-centered fundraiser. Or, if you don't want to begin a business, there are other ways to be creative; such as suggesting a new job position at your organization, one that will be mutually beneficial and fits your unique skill set. Although conversations were short with only an hour and six career partners to visit (including Seattle Times, Interpreters, and more), they sparked inspiration and excitement - for students, but most definitely for myself as well. I realize there are many more ways to partner with the community and tabling opportunities would be great to continue!
Students shared feedback with organizers of the event: