They call me… bush cutter.
Just another coconut picker.
I’m easily recognized because my thighs are thicker than average.
When white people met my people, some labeled us as savages.
Even till this day, I am still somewhat seen as a savage
Because my tan lines and piercing brown eyes cannot define the divide between my Caucasian and ISLANDER side.
I’m Half American - to a mother born in Atlanta,
Half Samoan - to a father born in American Samoa.
I was born in American Samoa
As a mixed breed. A MUDBLOOD.
Never fully accepted in the world.
So, who am I?
My people call me “Afakasi”.
Meaning “Half of one”.
Ignorant to my native tongue, I spent 20 years perfecting English to the point where I’m a walking encyclopedia,
But when it comes to speaking Samoan,
Été tautala fa’aSamoa?
Do you speak Samoan?
Ioe, laititi. Fa'amolemole, tautala lemu.
Yes, a little… just please, speak slower.
The irony - English is my native tongue but my tongue is NOT native.
We were COLONIZED,
Packaged into a United States territory on April 17th, 1900
114 years later my people are still struggling.
You don’t believe me,
Find Samoa on a map.
A colony of the United States
America stamped by treaty onto our island’s name - Samoa.
Year after year we are force-fed American history books in school classrooms
But they do barely anything to teach us about our own culture!
If we’re lucky, in every few textbooks produced there will be a brief excerpt about American Samoa
Yet never longer than a paragraph.
How can we preserve our culture which is barely acknowledged?
Ancestors, is this the dream you envisioned for our people!?
America may be a melting pot, but we should never dissolve
NEVER forget who we are.
Native Americans, African Americans, American Samoa,
We’re all forced to wear the American name, but
We will NEVER be full Americans.
We come to American shores in search of a better future
Then are laughed at,
Called FOBS - Fresh Off The Boat
For speaking broken english
And can’t afford to dress with American style.
Blame that on the $4.52 cent minimum wage Americans mandated for American Samoa!
You see, I moved to Hawaii for college a few years ago
And was amazed, with over 80,000 Samoans living on the island,
I found only 350 enrolled in my university,
Where are my people?
It’s as if we don’t belong here.
So we resort to the military and corner stores,
becoming high school dropouts and gang bangers,
Many will never make it past being Walmart workers, football and rugby players.
Eating burgers off the dollar menu
Because that’s all we can can afford, in AMERICA.
I hate it.
I hate the stereotypes stamped on us islanders
But statistics… don’t lie.
That is why I do not cry. I do not have time to cry.
My people need me. Future generations, need US.
We don’t just need college degrees,
We need to learn our language.
Anybody with a voice that is willing to stand
Whether written, spoken, drawn, rapped, sung,
Speak up for your people.
Honor your culture.
Be proud of your parents lineage flowing through your veins
It is never too late to embrace who you are.
Because if we do not grow from the seeds our ancestors planted,
Their struggle to survive,
Will have been
This poem was written in preparation for CUPSI 2013 in New York. Myself and 4 other students represented the University of Hawaii - Manoa at the college nationals. After two years of keeping it hidden, I think I’m finally ready to record this piece, regardless of any mixed opinions I may receive. I hope this piece resonates with you, as it means a lot to me.