By Sina Uipi
Fakamalo pe mo fakafeta’i he ngaue kotoa pe kuo lava ke tau a’u mai kihe tu’unga ko eni, which in Tongan means, I give thanks and praise for all the work that has been done to reach this point. As the last days of the census deadline quickly approaches, I humbly reflect and give gratitude to all the effort made to ensure Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders get counted. There aren’t enough words to sum up the love, labor, and resilience our communities have endured before and during a pandemic. Just as our mothers and their mothers before have done, we still managed to find the strength to navigate through it together because it became part of our census work.
This summer, we had our usual national census call with our partners, which is made up of community leaders from Hawaii to Washington, DC. We discussed the idea of having a NHPI census week of action and with the limited time we had to plan, we successfully saw it through and did one last big push from September 7–13 by posting graphics, videos, and events with a different theme for each day. Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) thrives from meaningful partnerships and relationships, so it was only right that we teamed up with Native People Count California to uplift our indigenous siblings as well. Beyond that, it’s more than a week of action. It’s about being pro-indigenous, practicing solidarity, and leaning into interdependence. Our Executive Director, Tavae Samuelu, said it best, “we know that so frequently, our communities are the ones that are deemed statistically insignificant or too small, but who’s still here is not small, it’s the strongest among us.” Each day opened and closed with blessings from Pacific Islander and indigenous leaders. The blessings were a cultural practice of humility and an offering to our communities who are leaning on spiritual practices to carry them through the most painful parts of this pandemic.
Here are a few highlights from that week:
Tuesday, 9/8/20: #FaithfulCensus Day (Artists: Angel Halafihi & Jason Pereira)
[image description: Teal background with Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian tattoo motifs. White text at the top that reads “Love thy neighbor, make sure they’re counted. Visit my2020census.gov and fill out the 2020 Census!” At the bottom is an image of two young Pacific Islander women helping a Pacific Islander elder to fill out a survey. Behind them are red flowers and green leaves.]
Wednesday, 9/9/20: #QTPITheCensus Day (Artists: Angel Halafihi & Jason Pereira, Photo by Melissa Ponder)
[image description: Diagonal rainbow background with Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian tattoo motifs. On the left is white text that reads “Be counted for who you are. my2020census.gov” On the right is a group of five queer and trans Pacific Islanders laughing and smiling. In the bottom left corner is a logo of Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian canoes with a flag that says “Count Us In 2020” and a teal rectangle with white text that says “The 2020 U.S Census” To the right of the logo is white text that reads “#QTPITheCensus”]
Thursday, 9/10/20: Indigenous Peoples’ Day of Action (Graphic by: Native People Count California)
Friday, 9/11/20: Service Day (Artists: Angel Halafihi & Jason Pereira)
[image description: Yellow background with Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian tattoo motifs. White text at the mid-right that reads “Charlotte Mafutuna Certified Medical Assistant Sunnyvale, CA” On the left is an image of a young Fijian woman wearing a face mask, scrubs, and gloves surrounded by green leaves and red flowers. Below the image are two blue rectangles with white text that read “Honor an essential worker by filling out the census.” At the bottom is white text that reads “Visit my2020census.gov and fill out the 2020 Census!” In the lower right corner is a logo of Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian canoes with a flag that says “Count Us In 2020” and a teal rectangle with white text that says “The 2020 U.S Census”]
Saturday, 9/12/20: #YouthfulCensus Day (Artists: Angel Halafihi & Jason Pererira)
[image description: Orange background with Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian tattoo motifs. In the foreground is an image of a young smiling Pacific Islander boy surrounded by green leaves and red flowers. Below the image is a dark blue rectangle with white text that reads “Big or small, the Census is for us all.” Beneath the rectangle is large white text that reads “#CountAllKids” In the bottom left corner is a logo of Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian canoes with a flag that says “Count Us In 2020” and a maroon rectangle with white text that says “The 2020 U.S Census.”]
What a way to finish strong not just for the week, but for everything that has led up to this point. It has truly been a collaborative effort and we hope to see more of our stories told through the census and leave a legacy with the next generation that will carry them based on this journey; like when Aunty Mona in Sacramento distributed census materials to the Marshallese community, or when Claudia in Arizona did an in-language PSA for the Micronesian community and did food deliveries to local family and friends, or when MALO in Southern California handed out gift cards and backpacks to families with census information, or when UTOPIA Seattle had multiple talanoa sessions via Facebook on census and provided food distribution. Too often we don’t see or hear these stories, so we will be here to help share them as best as we can, for as long as we can, because we deserve to be seen and heard. If I had to explain everything in one sentence, it would be the proverb in which we began our census work with; pikipika hama, ka e vaevae manava, let us link our outriggers, so we can share life. To all our Pasifika people, we love you and we count!
Sina Uipi is the Policy Associate at Empowering Pacific Islander Communities.