Sunday, April 23, 2006
Check out the flyer above for information on the upcoming Tan Chong Padula Humanitarian Awards to take place next month in Garden Grove.
Each year the Chamorro community in Southern California and the Guam Communications Network puts it together. One organization or individual will receive the main award, while a number of others will receive medallions (I was lucky enough to receive one a few years ago).
Last year I was fortunate enough to attend, when the Kutturan Chamoru performers received the main award. This is truly an incredible group considered the types of performances that they are doing and that the majority of their members are stateside Chamorros. Their open debt to the work of Frank Rabon and Taotao Tano' is a welcome reprieve from the usual trajectory of Chamorro dance groups (both on Guam and in the states), which is usually hula, hula and more hula.
Chamorros are scattered throughout the United States, but they have nonetheless been able to maintain crucial social networks through events such as this and organizations such as the Sons and Daughters of Guam Club or the Guam Communications Network. The Tan Chong Padula event is huge, hundreds of Chamorros from all over the West Coast come to attend.
My use of the term "social" to describe these networks, should hint at what I'll say next.
If the preservation of our language, communities and culture is to be based on these networks, then they must go beyond being merely social, they must be political as well. Hunggan, debi di ta agradesi i manamko' sa' ma fa'tinasi hit este siha, but if these connections exist purely for parties or for social occasions, then their work is has little to do with the future of our people here or anywhere else, except in preparation for our little niche as a small but charming member of the patronizing American multi-cultural family. When I say political, of course I am referring to participation in political processes, such as securing funding for inclusion in health services, demographic data, and making sure that politicians in the states consider the interests of Chamorros when they vote (San Diego for example has 7,0000 Chamorros). But more so I am referring to our taking control over our forms of visibility and refusing to accept how we do exist and how we should exist. Not seeking to just include ourselves in the dominant culture, but remembering the sovereignty that our homeland still represents, despite its continuing colonial status. And recognizing the sovereignty we possess even in working to change that, to transform our situation.
At Famoksaiyan last week, someone asked me about the state of Chamorro affairs in the US today. I responded that, things are okay, the next and most important step we need to take, is to move beyond the food. Notice, how so many people in this country, white or anything else, have at least one Chamorro friend, and often speak graciously of the awesomeness of their friend's food. While we can take some pride in the fact that we do have great food, we have to assert our presence as something other than a producer of "ethnic food" that the US consumes. But this doesn't just go for Chamorros, but for other minority groups as well. Is our fate to be ethnic achakma' for the dominant group and culture? A little piece on the side, while ultimately it is "whiteness" that dictates all things else?