Over 100 community members packed into the small basement event space of the Elliot Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, September 19, to celebrate with Sharon H. Chang the launch of her newest book and first memoir, Hapa Tales and Other Lies. Sharon kindly invited me to perform opening and closing ceremonies as well as share a couple mele (specifically, a couple hula performances). This experience was powerful, inspirational, and fulfilling regarding womxn and femme power, a force of indigeneity, vulnerable sharing and deep cultural exchange, a multi-racial community's pains and triumphs, and a breath of fresh intellectual enlightenment and prosperity.
I feel so blessed to be in the company of greatness. Sharon's excerpts chosen in her book reading were equal parts eloquent and down-to-earth, simultaneously humorous and bluntly painful. Although she and I have very different relationships to Hawai'i - I being Native Hawaiian and she being mis-identified as such - I find my questions and emotions completely seamless with her own. For example, she questions the changes in expectations and justifications from having dark skin in the tropical places where she had grown up - she in California while I was on O'ahu - but now living as a light-skinned mixed person in cloudy Seattle. People treated us differently than when we had been growing up elsewhere. We have been identified, misidentified, claimed, and disowned and singled out. Where is home?
I can't wait to sit down and read voraciously through this memoir. Stars Marian Macapinlac, Selena Velasco, and Moonyeka feel the same. Marian's voice began the set of performances with sweet rock and roll - her voice echoing smooth melodies throughout the room. Selena's slam poetry piece with artistic interpretive dance moved me - her vulnerability is her strength; her body is her own, now. And so is mine. And Moonyeka smashed onstage with a super-chill-cool dance set and disturbingly great video montage. Watch them. These individuals, led by the community Sharon H. Chang is drawing together, will shake the world as we know it.
Mahalo nui loa to Sharon for the opportunity to share in such an incredible night I will always remember. Me ke aloha e ku'u 'ohana hou!
Huraiti Mana brought Ori Tahiti and Hula for the first time ever to Rainier Beach Community's annual BAAMFest celebration on Sunday, August 19, 2018! We rounded out our summer months with this amazing festival that had three performance stages that featured Huraiti Mana, Deems Tsutakawa, Taiko Drumming, Belly Dancing, and so much more; tons of food trucks including Full Tilt; activity booths and cultural vendors; a pop-up traveling exhibit with the Wing Luke Museum; and horse-mounted Buffalo Soldiers.
A big mahalo to all those who have made BAAMFest possible year after year - especially to Cindi Laws! Volunteers work tirelessly to create a multi-cultural and cross-cultural event to showcase the communities of the Rainier Beach neighborhood as well as to highlight the histories of the area through a social justice lens. This year, the festival focused on the experience of Japanese Americans in the neighborhood and in Seattle at large, educating visitors about the Japanese American incarceration during World War II through pop-up exhibits and the arts.
While at a vendor booth, a little boy mentioned about his love for Chinese dragon mythology, for the Hawaiian State fish the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, and other fascinating facts. His father smiled: "Yah, we try to raise him to appreciate other cultures. Because if we don't appreciate other cultures, than no one is going to appreciate ours."
This feels like it's been the longest summer yet, filled with so many Hula and Tahitian performances and workshops across Seattle and beyond, all with the mission to showcase the cultures and communities of which we consider Huraiti Mana a part. We are all connected. This year, we've danced our way with ori Tahiti and hula in the Seattle Center, Chinatown-International District, Tacoma, Burien, Auburn, Wallingford, and so much more. Mahalo, mauruuru.
Our festival performances are coming to the end as we head into the Fall season - this is a great time to join Huraiti Mana, build a strong foundation in our Ori Tahiti (Tahitian dance) and Hula dance classes, and become a part of this community of aloha in Seattle. We invite you, e manava!
The amazing folks planning the Duwamish River Festival invited Huraiti Mana again for another cross-cultural celebration to honor the Duwamish peoples, the Duwamish River, and diverse indigenous peoples that share a common love and connection to the earth and its life-giving waters. This event is always so warm and caring, filled with interactive and educational booths and a line-up of talented performances all day long. This year, some of our youngest huraiti graced the stage in a first-ever all tamari'i ote'a (children dance number)! Together, we danced Ori Tahiti (Tahitian dance) in Seattle's South Park in recognition of the peoples and places that have come before.
Duwamish River Clean Up Coalition is a non-profit organization and was founded in 2001 by efforts of the community. The coalition serves to restore and protect the Duwamish River while also supporting sustainability for the lives of the communities and neighborhoods in the area. During this year's festival, part of the programming included kayaking along the river! Programs such as these are available throughout the year, serving to educate the community using culturally-responsible means and through an equity lens.
Our deepest mauruuru to the hard-working team of the Duwamish River Festival and Duwamish River Clean Up Coalition - your tireless work lifts up these communities. Haere mua!
Huraiti Mana was invited to perform hula and share Hawaiian story-telling at the University House in Wallingford, Seattle for their annual lū'au celebration! We shared stories about our home in O'ahu where we were born and raised with E Wai'anae; we shared about ourselves through our mele He Hawai'i Au - I am Hawaiian; and we shared in a brief activity with a hula-hands workshop. Mahalo nui to this fun-loving senior community for inviting us for a sweet evening of sharing in hula dance and performance! Hana maika'i!
Arts Corps is an amazing organization, one that I have had the ultimate blessing to work with as a Master Teaching Artist. I have grown so much as an artist, a leader, a teacher, and a student. I have found so much more of myself by sharing more of myself. And that is when I learned that I am ha'api'i, a Reo Tahiti (Tahitian language) word meaning both "to teach," and "to learn." In my three years with Arts Corps, I have been sharing hula, the dance and spiritual art form of the Hawaiian Islands, with my after-school hula class and Native-Hawaiian ambassador program "Hula Mai 'Oe." However, for the Art & Sol line-up, Arts Corps invited staff and teaching artists to take the stage and share their creative talents outside of the usual scope of the organization. It was an amazing experience to perform alongside the amazing Cheryl Delostrinos, Carlynn Newhouse, Eduardo Mendonça, Amy LP, Shelby Handler and so many others in this incredible and diverse cast.
I chose to share my love of dancing to the drum beats of Ori Tahiti with an Aparima and Ote'a performance.
As my finale, in true teaching artist fashion, I asked everyone to join me in dancing fa'arapu, ta'iti, afata, and pa'oti while we all yelled joyously. Mauruuru, Arts Corps, for the work you do in igniting the light in us all.
Photo credit to: the amazing multimedia artist and storyteller Amy LP
Huraiti Mana was invited by The Outlet Collection Seattle (formally known as the Auburn Super Mall) to participate in its second annual Rock the Lot event. This year's event was dubbed the "Island Edition" with Hula and Ori Tahiti performances, musicians, food, music, games, and more for a packed family-fun event. It was on record the hottest day of 2018 as we performed onstage in the parking-lot-converted-to-fairgrounds.
Early in the morning, our Hawaiian Story Telling time was such a sweet and intimate event - right in the middle of the mall! It was a perfect venue - so creative, so original - and we were joined by the cutest young ones and their 'ohana. We discussed what it meant to be kind, and what was the right thing to do through mo'olelo kahiko (stories of old). Then, we moved outdoors for performances on the main stage alongside Jessie Matsui's Mixxed Fit demo, Arden Fujiwara's 'Ukulele performance, and Sunshine from Polynesia's Hawaiian mele performances.
Special Mahalo to the team at The Outlet Collection for creating such an amazing and warm event (no pun intended!). It is not always that Hawai'i events in Washington have such a great turn out from folks in the Polynesian Communities who are able to meet and connect with one another! We met so many amazing leaders in our Ori Tahiti (Tahitian dance) community and were able to talk briefly about our dreams for the future of Ori in the Pacific Northwest. As one of the newest dance groups to the region, Huraiti Mana is so humbled and so blessed to begin contributing to and connecting with this community here in Seattle. During our audience participation section, many friends and family and other groups' dancers joined the stage for laughter and shared love of dance.
A big mauruuru roa to Lara Mae and all who planned this amazingly fun event - your care and sincere devotion to Hawaiian and Ori cultures is so important to our communities.
Northwest Share in partnership with the Vedic Cultural Center held its first annual Festival of Compassion for Seattle's houseless population, providing free food and a line-up of high-energy performances including Huraiti Mana, Northwest Tap Connection, LQ Lion Dance, and many more. Everyone should have access to events such as these where we share in food, music, and dance, connecting with everyone that makes up our home. As someone who has travelled here from the islands and now calls Seattle home, I hope that this home can be shared - equally - by all. Mahalo nui loa to Northwest Share, Vedic Cultural Center, and Latha Sambamurti for your amazing work in our communities. Mahalo and mauruuru roa!
Highline High School kindly invited Huraiti Mana back again, and this time, to celebrate the amazing achievements of the graduating seniors who are headed off to colleges across the nation in their formal College Day event! I am so proud of the staff that has put on such an important tradition for this school. Similar to Sports Day when many young athletes celebrate the professional sports teams they are joining, College Day is meant to celebrate students' next step toward pursuing their education - a feat just as momentous, daunting, and rewarding.. Shout out to the young student headed to Seattle University (my alma mater) and the two headed to Stanford! E ho'omaika'i nō! Congratulations!
Huraiti Mana was invited to participate in a multi-cultural showcase reflecting the diverse population of students (shout out to my islanders!). I performed "He Hawai'i Au," which is a song expressing the journey to finding and understanding oneself, something I hope that each of these many students come to understand as they embark on their own journeys of self discovery. That though the journey may be difficult, they can always look within and know who they are.
I kēia pō eia au me ʻoe
Kēia pō ua hoʻi mai au
He loa ka helena ma ke ala hele
E huli i wahi ma kēia ao
Maopopo a ua ʻike hoʻi
Ka home i loko o kuʻu puʻuwai
Ua hoʻi mai au, ke ʻike nei au
ʻAʻole au e ʻauana hou
Ke maopopo he Hawaiʻi au
Tonight I am here with you
Tonight, I have returned
Long was my journey on the path
To seek a place in this world
I now clearly see and understand
The home within my heart
I returned when I realized this
I will not wander again
For I understand, I am Hawaiian
My sister and I are the only of our Native Hawaiian family to attend a four-year university and earn a Bachelor's degree. For many of the students celebrated at this College Day event, they are the first in their families to attend college. But, we will not be the last. This opportunity not afforded to so many in our family and so many more in our island homes cannot be reserved for so few. Imua e nā pōkiʻi! We are here for you on this journey.
We circle back to an entire year of work and dedication culminated in a first anniversary performance of Huraiti Mana at the API Heritage Month Celebration! We were excited to share with our family, friends, and community that we are united in the efforts to perpetuate and celebrate our cultures, our stories, and our spirits. We opened our performance with hula kahiko, a traditional and ancient form of hula, percussion, and chant, honoring our Queen and last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Ke Ali'i Lili'uokalani. We moved into a hula 'auana number with contemporary musical instruments and melodic tunes with Justin Young's rendition of a hula classic, Ka Manu. And we finished our performance with ori Tahiti or Tahitian dance, including choreography to Moemoea by Sefa. Friends and family in the Seattle Center joined us onstage and rounded out our performance with a fast lesson in Tahitian dance. Our finale always brings smiles and laughs, but for myself, it also brings a joyous empathy and compassion. Joining together in dance is what I strive most for in this life, no matter how briefly. Dance connects us all.
Immediately after leaving the stage, we jumped in to a quick interview with API Heritage Month, and our huraiti so kindly, and with so much aloha, shared their spirits. Huraiti Mana is about empowerment, about self awareness and self expression. It is about 'ohana - our family. It is about us all. I am so very grateful to be a part of this growing, evolving, inspiring, loving, and caring 'ohana.
During our lei-making workshop that followed the performance, Sam Le of the Northwest Asian Weekly circled to our tables and asked, "why is it important to celebrate your heritage?"
"It is important to celebrate our heritage because it breathes life and meaning into our identities and our knowledge of who we are. It is always important to explore the past and see how our heritage is with us today."
This past year has been an amazing year filled with learning, compassion, dedication, and inspiration. Ia vai e Huriati Mana! Ei aha roa to oe hiro'a e ia mo'e e to'u nuna'a! May you always have the consciousness of your origin. I will always remember how we became a family, and how we will continue to be so today and furthermore. Mauruuru roa e nā Huraiti no tou aroha.
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!