Friday, November 02, 2007

NPIEN and Diasporic Distances

Its just a few more weeks until this year's National Pacific Islander Education Network conference. Once again I'll be running a life in higher education, college student networking session. I hope to be joined again this year by my friend Madel Ngiraingas and primu-hu Alfred Flores.

I enjoy NPIEN in a different way then most conferences mainly because of how small, intimate, sincere and unpretentious it is. There aren't any big names there, any hot-shot academics (amko' pat bihu), no one there is really trying to make a name for yourself, because frankly most of academia doesn't know about these sorts of conferences. If you go to a small grassroots conference like this, its because you want to go.

For the past few years its been held at a high school in Long Beach and so the amount of Pacific Islander high school and middle school kids that attend has risen dramatically. I admit that sometimes I have trouble speaking to Pacific Islander kids out here, and to the issues they face here because my mind is often set straight on Guam and its problems. But nonetheless I find it interesting to interact more concretely with diasporic Chamorros and Pacific Islanders, because slowly more and more I am being thought of one by people on Guam.

Part of the reason that I thought that Famoksaiyan was a necessary conference/conversation to have was because of the divides that Chamorros put up between themselves. Chamorros from Guam and from the states tend to speak of each other as being different na ga'ga', different species or something. But when we actually get down to how they are dividing each other, alot of it comes down to simply a lack of knowledge, this is especially true of how people from Guam speak about Chamorun san lagu. They forgot everything, they don't know anything and therefore they have become a different sort of Chamorro, which is absolutely not one of us. A lack of knowledge is not something which is eternal, it is something which can be fixed, it can be dealt with. People can be educated and taught, instructed, ideas can be shared which can change what appeared to be impossible and unsurpassable divides into relationships which can be strategically, culturally and politically important.

One of the few times that I've ever seen this in the minds of Chamorros in the states and in Guam, was over the issue of war reparations. For the first time ever I actually heard people on Guam and people in the diaspora proposing working together to lobby the US Congress to give Chamorros redress for their suffering during World War II. Nothing ever became of it really, there were no international/national movements because frankly Chamorros are ambivalently divided over it never happening and desperately wanting it to happen, and then lastly fearing what would life be like if it did actually happen! But what was exciting was that in the minds of so many Chamorros, there was the presence of the possibility that they could work together as one, across the Pacific and the other boundaries they have been set up, that they themselves resort to defending to elevate themselves of denigrate the other.

For me, a space such as NPIEN absolutely helps me overcome my barriers that I (fihu ti hu hasngon) set up between myself and diasporic Chamorros and Pacific Islanders. Sometimes these barriers pop up in my mind without me even thinking about it, they just simply emerge as a distance of unintelligability or incomprehension, as if when hearing about the struggles of Chamorros out here, I say to myself, "ti hu gof komprede ayu..." But I am not sitting idle on this and letting it go. So many of the things I help organize in the states for Chamorros is precisely to find my own ways of overcoming these distances, but also to educate others and help them as well.

The National Pacific Islander Educator Network (NPIEN) annual education conference is on November 17, 2007, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Paramount High School in Paramount, CA.

Visit for registration, which includes breakfast and lunch.

Keynote speakers will be Dr. Maenette Benham, Michigan State University professor, who will discuss instructional strategies for teachers working with Pacific Islander students, and Dr. Aloha, Saitia Fa’aifo, Hawaii’s top motivational speaker, who will also conduct our student workshops Dr. Aloha’s book, The Riches of Respect, will be on sale.

Presenters include Uncle Henry Kamae, ukulele extraordinaire and instructor, Michael Lujan Bevacqua, College Student Networking facilitator, Zobeida Castillo and the Cabrillo High School Pacific Islander Club, Dance Workshop, and The Thompson Family, Arts and Crafts.

Major sponsors of the event are Majestic Realty, TEAM Referral Network, and the American University of Health Sciences.

Entertainment will be provided by the following Pacific Islander student clubs: Cabrillo High School, Long Beach, CA, Paramount High School, Paramount, CA, Carson, High School, Carson, CA, Davis Middle School, Compton, CA. Paramount High School’s Drumline will lead the processional, and Boy Scout Troop 348 the color guard.

DOOR PRIZES include Disneyland and Los Angeles Dodger Tickets!

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