Pasifika Excellence Mural Project uplifts the Pasifika community
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Pasifika Excellence Mural Project is a response to the findings from the Kāpasa Fetu’u Community Needs Assessment that was conducted in 2022 by The Samoan Community Development Centre (SCDC) and their Pasifika Urban Roots collaborative partners.
When asked by Samoa News, on why is it called the Kāpasa Fetu’u, Community Researcher, Program Manager of Pasifika Urban Roots SCDC Mr Dannyboy Naha Veevalu said that it is Tongan for ‘star compass’ and “the reason we named it this is because a Tongan leader from the Bay Area, Leafa Taumoepeau gave us the name for our project.
The assessment sought to understand the experiences and challenges of Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander (NHPI) young people in San Francisco as well as strengths and gaps of services provided to their community.
The findings revealed that NHPI children do not feel represented in their schools due to the lack of Pacific Islander representation in staff and curriculum.
As a result, they experience cultural identity crisis and feel unimportant, neglected, abandoned and unloved by educators and their environment.
NHPI young people also feel like there is a lack of representation of their Community in their neighborhoods that they live in.
The Pasifika Excellence Mural aims to
1. Create a sense of belonging,
2. Express cultural identity,
3. Uplift NHPI history, and
4. Provide access to mental health resources.
A statement from the Dannyboy, says that, “Many NHPI young people expressed their need for grief support due to the rampant gun violence that plagues their communities.
“Pasifika young people experience an immense amount of grief due to loved ones being incarcerated or murdered by gun violence.
“This mural project creates a pathway for NHPI young people and their families to access mental health services and a plethora of resources offered at SCDC.”
Furthermore he states, “The Pasifika Excellence Mural Project serves as a tool for cultural education through transformative arts, storytelling, and painting.
“Native plants and flowers of Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia are featured on this mural.
“As well as included along with 21 panels of Pasifika cultural images painted by local youth and artists, community members, leaders, and stakeholders.
“The mural is about 90% completed.
“At the Samoan Community Development Center, our Creative Arts Educator, Tracy Williams (Tongan) is spearheading this project.
“She has restored the mural and added to it — it started June 2023.
“Over 250 volunteers have contributed to the mural over the span of 300 hours.
“The mural reveal is going to start with an opening song selection from our Pacific Islander Youth Alliance (P.I.Y.A.) students, remarks from our Executive Director, Dr. Patsy Tito, and Tracy Williams, with viewing the mural to follow.”
In the report released of the findings in the Kāpasa Fetu’u Community Needs Assessment, NHPI youth and young adults in San Francisco hear varying narratives about their race and culture.
They learn of different aspects of their NHPI cultures from their families, church, and NHPI programs that they have access to — defining respect as a key cultural value.
Many themes emerge across the data gathered from all participants.
The following are some of the findings that reflect the experience and knowledge of local experts — NHPI youth and young adults, who experience life in San Francisco, the parents and families who care for them, and the leaders who work to support them.
"It's structured the way I view life and how I move through it; Although I may not be a consistent churchgoer, my spirituality and faith is something I hold dear to myself. I found love for our music through dance and song, the one thing that connects me to other Samoans even though I'm not fluent in our language.”
“I’m excruciatingly loyal to my family. I will do about anything for them. All of these experiences and relationships I have in my life are connected to my culture."
"I've always tried to dodge my culture because I knew so little about [it]. I feel ashamed about it but I was immature at the time. Now it plays a huge part in my life and wouldn't have it any other way."
“…[being] overlooked, underestimated, stereotyped.”
“People misunderstand my culture and make assumptions.”
“…not having anyone else to talk to about my culture.”
“…being called Moana or being called a coconut.”
“…stereotypes that we're only good in sports and not smart or we're mean.”
“…prejudices of Polynesians not being successful, lazy, and unproductive.”
However, some youth feel conflicted about their cultural identities due to feeling judgment or shame from fellow NHPIs about what they know and don’t know.
One youth highlighted this by sharing what they heard from a grandparent: “They're not going to know you’re a true Samoan because you don’t speak Samoan.”
Then in schools, youth experience racism and other micro-aggressions from teachers and peers based on negative stereotypes of NHPIs as being dumb, athletes, big, violent, tough, or troublemakers.
In their own words, they described the harm as some face specific challenges due to additional aspects of their identities.
Mixed NHPI youth and young adults experience being misidentified by others and questioned about their NHPI background. These youth feel unseen or forced to choose between their different racial identities.
One youth shared, "I definitely felt like we are underrepresented. Being mixed, it was hard for me to fit in. I didn't grow up as traditional as other Samoan/ Polynesian families... it was hard for me to connect because I felt like an imposter even though I am Samoan."
Young NHPI women experience forced gender roles that restrict them to specific duties at home and in families.
Young boys are often expected to maintain a “warrior mentality” and be strong, not express their feelings or emotions, and make sure not to cry. Youth expressed facing challenges because of these forced roles.
For LGBTQ youth and young adults, there is a lack of visibility and space to discuss their experiences and feelings of safety, as 19% of those who identified as LGBTQ reported feeling unsafe at school compared to 12% of all NHPI youth and young adults.
EXPERIENCES AT SCHOOL
There is a lack of academic support and relevance for NHPI students in schools. The lack of NHPI representation among teachers, staff, and curriculum, coupled with bias and racial stereotypes, leads NHPI youth and young adults to feel isolated and less engaged in school.
The inadequate support for families of students with learning differences, as well as remote learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, were also identified as key issue areas in the community, according to the report findings.
You can find or contact them on https//bigpur.carrd.co or by tele: 415-539-6967, according to Mr Daniel “Dannyboy” Naha-Veevalu, the Program Manager of Pasifika Urban Roots, Samoan Community Development Center.