How to celebrate Pacific Islander Heritage Month (during the pandemic)
When I began researching a story about Utah’s Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I had questions about how COVID-19 would impact event planning and community participation. I found my way to Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, long time activist and community leader who has never encountered a problem without a solution.
Feltch-Malohifo’ou and her team at Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (affectionately known as PIK2AR) transitioned from large-scale, in-person programming to the 8th annual “social distance edition” to celebrate Pacific Islander businesses, build connection, and educate the community about Pacific Island culture, heritage and customs.
With traditional programming―such as the Utah Ukulele Festival―postponed until 2021, we have to consider new and innovative ways to engage, support and grow the Pacific Islander community. Here are five opportunities for businesses who want to build relationships, support local businesses, and honor the heritage and culture of the Pacific Islander community in Utah.
Participate in the Utah Pacific Island Film Series (UPIFS)
Based on current standards and social distancing protocols, there are free bi-monthly screenings in addition to panel discussions and live performances. Needing a little more social distance? Log on to the UPIFS Facebook page to find links to a YouTube channel for The Mo’Unga Project, where Pacific Islander Gen-Z and Millennials discuss topics using a critical, cultural lens.
Join the local membership-based Pacific Island Business Alliance (PIBA)
With chapters in Salt Lake and Utah counties, meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month in Salt Lake City County and on the third Thursday of the month in Utah County. Participants include socially responsible organizations and individuals that believe in the five P’s: passion, people, push, partnerships, and profits. Members enjoy networking and mentorship opportunities that support the focus and goals of Pacific Island and other business minded people.
Explore KAVA or PIWE Talks
A program that serves as a Tongan/Pacific Islander male domestic violence advisory group, Kommitment Against Violence Altogether (or KAVA) participants engage in the cultural practice of the Kava Circle with spaces to share resources and education, provide support, and encourage self-reflection to build stronger relationships and community.
Similarly, the Pacific Island Women’s EmpowHERment (PIWE) Talk Space has three meeting sites across the valley where groups cultivate safe spaces for women to discuss issues and connect with others for resources and support. The St. George Talk Space is co-ed and sees Kava Talks and PIWE meet together. This group welcomes all genders and ethnicities to increase community involvement.
PIK2AR volunteers partner across communities to build networks and address local needs, bringing resources, experience, and information to Pacific Islanders with the goal of starting their own nonprofits or programs. Imagine, while sharing your existing network with others, you can begin to expand your own!
Restaurants are taking every precaution to provide quality foods with the highest safety standards. If you are uncomfortable eating in, no problem. Order to-go with a few extra sides along the way. Local eateries such as Sagato Bakery and Café, Touch of Polynesia, and Pacific Seas will have your taste buds singing as you break bread (or turkey tails) and chat with friends.
I hope you will consider these five opportunities for sharing in the celebration, heritage, and joy of Utah Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In a time when we could all be shrugging our shoulders and singing the blues, Feltch-Malohifo’ou and her team have rallied the community to revive, strive, and thrive―the theme of this heritage season.