In the weekend I was extremely honoured to attend (my very first) Love Life Fono. This was the 5th Bi Annual Love Life Fono and I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend my Labour (long) weekend.
The purpose of the Love Life Fono as officially described on the working committee's facebook page as:
Love Life is about acknowledging our cultural heritage and honouring the special people in our communities. Whether you are mahu, vakasalewalewa, palopa, fa’afafine, akava’ine, fakaleiti, fakafifine (MVPFAFF), or GLBTI, Love Life Fono is for you.
Click here for more information.
The Love Life Fono was an amazing experience! Or should I say Fa-fa-Faboulous!! It combined the beauty and pageantry of a fa’afafine show, but most importantly provided a space where the MVPFAFF and GLBTI community could come together to share their experiences, knowledges, values and beliefs and provided a platform for many to begin to think how as a community, we are able to collectively address issues that affect all of us on the national level.
The Love Life Fono was a beautiful gathering of ‘Pacific People’, people of and from the Pacific. Unfortunately, it also happened to be a gathering of the most stigmatised and often ignored sector of the vast and diverse Pacific community here in Aotearoa and the Pacific.
Interestingly, Sua William Sio released a press release about his new vision for Pacific peoples in New Zealand. You have to wonder who, and what (arbitrarily) determines who is in this Pacific Community and also what it looks like. The fact that most Pacific Members of Parliament (bar I think Charles Chauvel and Kris Faafoi) voted against Marriage Equality highlights who they believe they supposedly represent. The traditional, conservative church going Pacific people – but this very narrow understanding and surface level view of what constitutes Pacific peoples in Pacific communities further isolates those who do not fit into those particular categories.
We then have the issue of poor youth engagement in this country. Is it any wonder given all the fantastic youth I met over the course of the love life Fono (there were over 100 participants the entire weekend) felt misrepresented, underrepresented, and were particularly disappointed in the leaders whose self -proclaimed task is to supposedly ‘Advance Pasifika’. Who are they advancing? And in what ways?
Despite the shortcomings of our community and political representatives, what all participants of the Fono were very sure of, is that all of us are an important part of the Pacific Community. Despite the alienation and subjugation, we are also from/of the Pacific. And we are most definitely a valid part of the Pacific community! And we are here to stay.
One of the outcomes of the Fono was the establishment of a National Coalition of ethnic specific Pacific representatives, a body which will work towards representing and advocating for Voices of the Third Spirit, on issues that affect our communities, and also other members of the Pacific community.
The opportunities for networking, building social/professional relationships were one of the highlights. I have left the Fono feeling empowered, feeling refreshed and renewed about my social obligations to my community. As a newly appointed representative to the National Coalition I look forward to devoting what skills and talent I have to further advancing and advocating for voices of the third spirit.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the organisers of the Love Life Fono 5 Committee; Elton Raharaha, Cindy Of Samoa, Frances Anderson, Jaroncye Lole, Tanu Gago, Phlyesha Brown- Acton and all those who supported, for not only their hard work in organising and executing this Fono, but their continued service and dedication to advancing and advocating for the voices of the ‘Third Spirit’. I look forward to all the work ahead.
*Please note that these are my own individual/ random thoughts about my experience of the Love Life Fono, and are not an official representation from the organising committee.