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Decolonizing the “Woke” Movement-APEC TO PALESTINE AND GUAM

By Momii Palapaz

“It hit me that whatever we do impacts every other community confronting this issue, and vice versa. We’re fighting this environmental injustice in Guam, which is connected to environmental injustices experienced in all these different communities around the country—many of them communities of color and lower economic status. This is environmental racism,” said Monaeka Flores, a native of Guam, whose family has tended to their land for generations.

“I was horrified to learn about the toxic chemicals that would likely be released from OB/OD including PFAS, which are linked to various cancers. And I was shocked that the Guam EPA said they didn’t know much about open burning and open detonation.”

Inside Moscone Center, December 2023, the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference was underway, where corporate suits were schmoozing and partying with recruits. SF welcomed the visitors to discuss enterprising possibilities of capitalist expansion in Asia. Outside on the streets of the Embarcadero in SF, speakers rallied the crowd of thousands opposed to the collusion.  

During the 2023 months of October, November and December, millions around the world were already protesting the Israel government’s genocide of the Palestinian people. The meeting was a timely opportunity for the link to be made where annihilation of indigenous, poor, and displaced Palestinians make way for expansion. It makes way for creating further self-serving interests while desperation, homelessness, invasions of poor communities are enacted in the name of “blight” and eviction as the solution.

I am outside converging among protesters on the block's long march to 5th and Mission. I am here, a Japanese American elder, to physically stand with the people around the world against imperialist expansion. My ancestors whisper to me and now as I get older, I’m finally listening. My curiosity has evolved to consciously seek more of my family history. The lack of conversation or total silence told me this is how we survive. Forget the past. Don’t bring up the past. Move on.  

I am on the streets in solidarity with the countries and islands affected by APEC. I feel the physical presence is important. I am here to walk with the communities of Pacific Islanders, the Moana Nui. As we talk the talk in the “woke” movement, there are organizers that, as well meaning as they are, disregard these communities. And much too often, and without invitation, non Moana Nui will talk for them. This goes unnoticed by the public as internal indifference toward participating indigenous communities particularly in the week of Anti APEC actions.  

“Like NAFTA, free trade for Canada, US, and Mexico and South America, APEC is for the countries that shore the Pacific Ocean. I’m here along with my relatives from Tonga, Samoa, Chamoro from Guam and Fiji,” said Loa Niumeitolu. “That’s what we call Moana Nui, our grandmother, our great grandmother…if we don’t have these stories, we are dead,” continued Loa, in an interview with tiny and Muteado on KEXU 96.1 fm.

Why aren’t coalition leaders holding up the Moana Nui community? The most affected in the APEC expansion, indigenous brothers and sisters are forced off islands by the thousands. Climate terror will drown their land and people. The US military has conducted decades of environmental damage with toxic weapons. History has exposed the unlimited sexist depravity and racism of US power in all the places it fought Japan and China. To this day, neither the Japanese government and/or the US has responded to the relentless trafficking of women and children for sick sexual demands.

I believe our own colonized thinking and conditioning is directly related to the system of imperialism we grew up and presently live in. Even the thought that I am an American is a surprise by both people of color and white. Within our own POC communities there is entitlement of nationalities. As woke as we think we are, there are numerous clues that show otherwise. We are all on stolen land. Ignoring the Moana Nui community and not inviting them to the table is supremacist thinking.

The Moana Nui, representing the Pacific Islands and people for the anti APEC coalition, are collectively placed under the designated title as Asian Pacific Islanders. Moana Nui live on islands in the Pacific Ocean. They are categorically Pacific Islanders, not of Asian descent and cultural history. Those communities of small nations are getting smothered by the “American'' activists. Under the same platforms of colonization, we are under systems with Bored of Dissectors, and paper rules of order that all come from the established supremacist system we live under. The disregard of our indigenous ancestors and their descendants is glaringly clear.  We need to wake up and raise up our relatives.  We must welcome their leadership and knowledge, their history and story. They should be at the head of the table for international justice.

Loa went on to say, “The biggest interest for (the) most profit. We’re standing in Chile looking at the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, China, standing looking at the Ocean. Take the Pacific Ocean, (it is) actually 1⁄2 the mass of the plant. All these countries…’What part do you want?’ And that’s a free trade agreement. They give the free legal rights to make decisions on what part of the ocean do you want. Let’s do it by mining, fishing, how much profits can you want from this fish, seaweed and mining. Indigenous people of their countries, Shoshone, aren’t called to the table. They are right near the ocean. Why (does) this mean so much…we are in the middle of that. Our island is in the middle of that. That is why it’s so important with all the communities around us…We’re in the height of the destruction…you can see the definition to reduce terrorists and other barriers of trade over time leading to the expansion of economic growth. Colonial papers, agreements, treaties never include the Indigenous. Indigenous people have needs and concerns for future generations.”

Hundreds of islands from Hawaii west to Australia make up the area targeted for profit making development. Japan, Korea and the US and China, an under the table component, gather with other imperialist nations, carving up land, sea, air, space and underground.

This list is not all the names of hundreds of islands in the Pacific experiencing climate decimation, the leveling of native living communities. For decades, the US military has made thousands houseless, forced to move to other countries.  For example, there are large communities of Moana Nui in Gardena, Hayward, Newark in California. On the island of Molokai and Oahu, Hawaii, Okinawans were forced to migrate at least 100 years ago.

I looked on the map and some of the names of the islands are incorrectly spelled. Colonizers change names and spelling frequently.  

Papua New Guinea Solomon Island Vanuatu New Caledonia Tuvalu

Fiji Tonga Norfolk Island Niu Wallis & Fauna Tokelau Samoa West

AMerican Samoa Cook Islands French Polynesian Pitcairn Easter Islands

Marshall Islands Palau Northern Mariannas Federal States of Micronesia Indonesia

Malaysia, New Zealand and more.

On the island of Guam, up against the 59 acres of the US military firing range, is the Guam National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of years in the making, this is home to endangered species.  The fruit bat, geckos, insects and trees are being eliminated on 1,000 acres of a limestone forest.  Medicinal plants have healed a variety of illnesses from bronchitis to anxiety. 5,000 marines will be transferred to the island in 2025 from Okinawa, where for many years, the US military has been confronted by the community protesting its expansion and environmental damage.

Julian Aguon an indigenous Chamorro activist and attorney in Guam, shared

 his disappointment at the loss of his people. “Such things are inevitably lost in translation,” he writes. “No military on earth is sensitive enough to perceive something as soft as the whisper of another worldview.”

“Healer” in the Chamorro language is called Yo’amte, and his Auntie Frances Arriola Cabrera is one that writes about centuries of cultural and living traditions impacted by US imperialism.

On the Marshall Island, “Everybody’s sick; they get sick and die young,” Jonithen Jackson told ABC News. “When the bomb is erupted, the white powder they come to the water…everybody realizes, oh, that’s the poison.” Poisons from radiation, bombing tests, destruction of the soil and vegetables all contributed to the forced migration of over 80,000 natives.

Jackson moved from Enewetak Atoll in 1991, to Hawaii.  From then on, he was followed by over 300 Marshall Island family and citizens. They built their own homes plotted on Ocean View Estates on the southern part of the big island. With scattered patches of volcanic lava formations and rock, it was the most affordable place to live. Like back home on Marshall Island, Jackson wanted a place for his extended family and community to live near each other. The US government fund for those affected in Marshall Island sends him $82.00 every few months as compensation for his losses and eviction.

Many Marshallese and Micronesians in Hawaii gravitate toward historically migrant communities. Many live in places like Waipahu or Kalihi, where public housing is more available.

Listen to PNN RADIO archives “Po Peoples Radio” program and hear the full interview with Loa Niumeitolu.

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