UNITY AND FAMILY
The first Fealofani Festival was held May 15, 2004 at the Hall of Flowers in San Francisco in the beautiful Golden Gate Park. Over 500 showed up to grace the occasion mostly Polynesians. The two guest speakers were the Congressman from American Samoa - Eni Faleomavaega Hunkin and a Samoan Senator from Idaho - Edgar Malepeai.
Patsy Tito and her team put lots love to organize this function. The sound system did not do justice if one chose to seat in the middle or at the back of the auditorium. I tried to hear and did my best to follow the dialog. Patsy and the other speakers focused on a Polynesian community with action and love of family.
Our own organization is called All Islanders Gathering As One and we understand what aiga means - family. We also know what fealofani means - unity. It takes a village to raise a child and all of us must love our youth. The youth are our hope and aspiration.
We in the Southeast Sector of the City know very well the meaning of "death" - weekly killings have become routine and we are duty bound to make a difference and make good stuff happen.
The Idaho Senator once lived at Hunters Point. Senator Edgar Malepeai then moved to South San Francisco and is now a Senator in Idaho and a warrior Samoan at that. Let it be known it can be done.
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega Hunkin worked for Congressman Philip Burton. Philip Burton was the most powerful Congressman that personally saw to it that Bayview Hunters Point was looked after. He is the one that passed legislation that makes the Presidio of San Francisco what it is now. And if it were not for Phillip Burton there would be no Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The largest National Park in the Nation. He is the one that gave a million dollars to build homes at Hunters Point in the 1980s.
Congressman Eni Faleomavaega Hunkin worked for Congressman Phillip Burton and helped Burton's office with all the United States territories that include American Samoa. He must have learned well for today his services are much appreciated. He has been serving as a Congressman for 16 years. He is a man with a heart of compassion. He is truly a Samoan Warrior. He is Fire that we all aspire.
I sat silently and watched so many that I knew and in between I tried to capture moments that my spirit deemed fit to capture with my camera. I saw Peter Vaovasa before he danced with Balboa Dance Group and took a few choice photographs in the open beauty. I saw Teresa Fetuli Nauer with two of her dance companions and I impressed up the trio to pose for a photograph. They were shy but complied to my uneasy request.
After the Reverend said his prayer and blessing, Eunice Ilasa-Foster and Tau Tukuaoga sang the U.S. National anthem and the Samoan anthem. Now it was time for the Congressman from American Samoan to make a speech.
I beckoned myself and went towards the front rows to hear him speak and also to capture a couple of snap shots. His spirit seemed to me one that is caring and I hope he is elected again this November 2004.
After Senator Edgar Malepeai spoke and narrated his personal stories of Hunters Point - the Master of Ceremonies Mana'omia Tito beckoned the Congressman to dance. He bared his chest and I could see a large tattoo all round his waist. His graceful movements to his own music and he does have a CD - did justice to movement, song, music, and voice.
The Fealofani Festival started late but it is a good omen to begin late, as is the tradition in all peace loving Nation Islands. The speeches were long and took some time. The youth were impatient and the elders waiting for the youth to perform. I kept clicking a good shot here, a good shot there in the interim - I had to remind myself do not get carried away with the camera.
The first to perform were the innocent very young children from Guadeloupe Elementary school - I was impressed more so when the audience applauded and wanted more.
Next in line were Balboa High School. I had already seen them perform before but I had to see Peter Vaovasa, Andrew Van Vai, and Teresa Fetuli Nauer. I am sorry I cannot mention the students names. They all did us proud and were easily the best group to perform. Behind the scenes United Territories of Polynesian Islanders Alliance (UTOPIA) did us all proud.
Once again Neo and John from Utopia gave all the love with his team to give the very best to our youth. This is the true meaning when we say it takes a village to raise a child.
Thurgood Marshall High School was next and they performed well. A better performance was that of South City High School.
Other school followed Phillip Sala Burton High School, Terra Nova High School, Enola Maxwell Middle School, Visitation Valley Middle School and San Francisco City College.
The Polynesian Islanders Together performed and the 1st Annual Fealofani Festival ended with a prayer.
There is no doubt that next time around there should be less speeches and more focus on the youth. After all there is so much talent and the youth should be show cased more then the Elders whose time was once and now they should pay close attention to the shadow dance of the youth.
I would like to thank all the parents, teachers, elders, organizers, supporters and the audience for their fiscal support. It is always inspiring when those who cannot afford much give much more in the spirit of love. More when they shower love and understanding on our youth.
America is a rainbow and the Polynesian community has given much. Our Armed Forces are proud of our Polynesian community. Many have given their lives so that this Nation can be free. It is time that Polynesian exercise their freedom by voting and getting involved in decision making.
Now is the time to stand for elections, aspiring to become commissioners, leaders to positions of decision making. This is the hour to encourage our youth to go to college, graduate and contribute.
My connection with the Polynesian community and especially with the Samoans goes back 30 years when I worked for the Department of Defense.
I often had the Samoans befriend me to make good stuff happen. I have had long lasting friendship with the Samoans. Today we work hard with All Islanders Gathering As One. AIGA1 will gather on May 29, 2004 to welcome 50 youth from Carson City and the surrounding area in Southern California. Hopefully 200 plus Polynesians mostly Samoans will gather at Orange Park in South San Francisco to welcome our sisters and brothers from Southern California.
We welcome UTOPIA and other organizations to come and join us. This is a gathering of the tribes on friendly ground to make the best stuff happen. There will be good food and drinks. There will be music and most of all there will be lots of love.
We will focus on the youth that we believe strongly are our present leaders.
We are glad we have leaders like John Nauer who has done us all proud. We are very proud of our youth that have done very well at events and participated with the spoken word. We have seen them sing and dance. We have seen them do well in school and we are very proud of their all round achievements.
We have been humble and have prayed to the Almighty to shower us with His blessings.
We know that prayer is the most powerful weapon. We feel and know some folks like to hate and kill especially in the Southeast Sector of the City and County of San Francisco. We pray for peace. We have also acted and brought those that we love together and try our best to keep them from harms way. It has not been easy but we will persevere. We are survivors.
The Mayor of San Francisco was invited to the event but he was too busy. Had he come it would have been great - greater then the function when he participated on the Hill throwing some hoops and hoping for best. If he was savvy he would have made a great move and endeared to the Polynesians. He lost his chance forever!
The heart of the Fealofani Festival is our young people. Our hope is in our youth that today will be a day of "fealofani" or unity. Let today be the day, when schools from different areas come together for one purpose, "Unity". Truly, the core of this Unity is nothing less than "aiga" or family which is embedded in our culture. Violence has taken its toll on our children and family. It is time for us to take a stand and support our children and their dreams of success. As it is said. "It takes a village to raise a child", let us parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and educational institutions be this village to raise our children."
Malo ma Fa'afetai tele ... Soifua
Thank you one and all
Our children are dying and tears have dried
Francisco Da Costa May 15, 2004 San Francisco
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