Jarome Luai and the Power of Words

All eyes were on Toa Samoa when they were making moves on the world stage. Parades were formed, tickets bought, and an entire nation scattered across the globe came together to cheer on their team. But just as quick as everyone in the islander community came together to cheer on the guys, they were just as quick to bring one of the team players down.

About two days ago, many tuned in to see star player, Brian To’o marry the love of his life. In what was a sweet ceremony and enjoyable reception, turned very cringe. Jerome Luai, the best man and teammate, stood up to give a memorable speech worthy of the Duckrockers. A day later, Luai did issue an apology via Instagram. See the picture below.

While much of the criticism is warranted, in the opinion of this author, some of it is just absolutely ridiculous. So let’s dive in on a few things that have come from this situation.

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Empowered Pasifika Women: Morgan Sloss

I am so excited for you to learn more about this amazing woman. I found out about her because someone shared an article she had written for BuzzFeed. It was titled, “As A Samoan Woman, I Absolutely Hate Hearing People Say These 12 Things.” This was the first thing that I’ve seen from BuzzFeed that spoke on Pasifika culture in a while. And to top it off, it was written by a Pasifika woman! So, here’s here amazing story.

Empowered By Taking Up Space

I’m a Samoan woman living in Orange County with my partner and our puppy-son. After double majoring in English and Gender Studies at UCLA, I started writing for a large media company. The next dream I hope to achieve is becoming an author. I’m currently working on an indigenous fantasy book that weaves Pasifika culture and mythology into the world.

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Empowered Pasifika Women: Lani Tuitasi

I am SUPER excited to share this amazing woman’s story with you all. I didn’t know I would be getting a best friend last when she DM’d me. Now, I can’t imagine not having her in my life. As an afakasi growing up in Arkansas, I didn’t know I would meet someone who shared the same experiences I had. So, I hope you give her some love and read about the wonderful work she is doing for our community.

Empowered Through Mixed Heritage

I’m an Afakasi girl born and raised in Missouri and living out my dream in Los Angeles. I work in the advertising industry as a cultural strategy director writing strategies that help brands, shows, and films connect to culture. My love for the culture drives everything I do, especially my love for my Pasifika culture and community. It’s a bone deep love that I let guide me and has taken me on this path of diving deep into the Afakasi experience. Being Afakasi is a true gift of being multiple cultures at the same time with skillsets that have uniquely positioned me to be good at what I do in the advertising world as I help my clients navigate culture and find their space – much like what afakasis have to do. Throughout the past couple years, I’ve been inspired to tell Afakasi stories which has turned into a screenplay writing hobby and the release of my podcast Club Kasi with Aynsley where she discusses all things Afakasi and Pasifika culture. Most recently, my writing partner Honestine and I are developing a dramedy series about Nafanua and excited to see where we can take it!

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Pasifika Love Story: Jasmine and Soli

Finding love is never easy. Especially when you’re dealing with this modern dating realm. However, this story is one that actually makes me want to read it over and over again. It’s one that inspires hope and heart eyes. But don’t take it from me, read it for yourself:

What is Your Love Story?

I’d never had an interest in dating before I’d met my boyfriend. Sure, I was a hopeless romantic at heart. I’m a writer, and I spent countless hours painstakingly crafting different variations of what I considered a Great Love Story. And while I was firmly set in what I wanted in a partner, I ultimately had no interest in looking in the first place. 

My parents were beginning to worry—here their 26-year-old daughter was with a stable career and college degree, just like they’d planned when they moved to the US from Samoa, and not only was she single with no interest in dating, but she’s never had a boyfriend in her life–an unforeseen turn of events.

What was the point? I was happy, and had plenty of time to reflect and explore what I ideally wanted in a life partner. I wanted a connection that was both like lightning and a summer breeze, one where it wasn’t a chore to try and that I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing core parts of myself. If I never found that person, I knew I’d be okay because I’d spent enough of my life learning to enjoy my own company.

I never expected that I’d meet that person three weeks after I turned 27, not on a dating app, but on Tiktok of all places.

Soli followed me on TikTok after seeing a video of mine where I was showcasing an old sketchbook I had. He’d recognized a couple doodles I’d scrawled across the worn pages during work—specifically the characters Peridot from Steven Universe and Arnold and Gerald from Hey Arnold!—and decided that I was cool enough for him to follow.

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Pasifika Pride: Pele Vaimoso

During the beginnings of Sipping Koko, I was searching for Pasifika podcasts that I could listen to and learn from. It was on For the Qultures that I listened to an episode with a guest who shared his story of what it’s like to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Pele Vaimoso spoke from the heart, and from that episode, I have learned so much from him. He has an amazing podcast called Queer Coco that you definitely need to check out! I’m honored to help share a bit of his story here.

PRIDE in Self Worth

I’m so proud of myself for not letting other people’s insecurities about my sexuality define me. I dictate who, what and where I want to be and there’s nothing more liberating after being told that YOU ARE NOT WORTHY.

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Pasifika Pride: Falefia Jr. Brandon Fuamatu

I joined Clubhouse around February of this year. Like any social media app, I was excited to meet different people. One person who made a real impact was Falefia Jr. Brandon Fuamatu. First off, his profile picture was absolute fire (see below). If that didn’t make you want to know who this person was, then it would be the wisdom and amazing grace he has when he speaks. Falefia has such an appreciation and love for our people that you gravitate towards the words flowing through him. I’m blessed to call him my friend and am so excited to help share some of his story with you!

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Empowered Pasifika Women: Hanelle Harris

In 2018, when I came back to the States after being in the NZ for my cousins wedding, I was looking for anything that would allow me to feel like I was still surrounded by other Pasifika people. I was calling my cousin probably every other day, and it was on one of those phone calls that my cousin suggested the web series, Baby Mama’s Club. Think John Tucker Must Die, but all the girls got pregnant by the same man and he goes missing. It’s an amazing adventure that you need to check out. 

What makes this show stand out is the trail blazing creator, Handel Harris. Someone who I have looked up to ever since seeing this show. She is a woman who is an ally, outspoken, and when she speaks, people listen. I think what I admire the most about Hanelle is how she creates space for everyone at her table. But, she doesn’t just invite people at her table. She brings them in and then teaches them how to build their own table. Making waves that will change the face of film and tv for generations to come. 

I was honored that she took a Zoom call with me to share a bit about the work she is doing and her story. 

Empowered Through Activism and Screen

Sipping Koko: In your own words, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an Aries. Uh let’s start there! I am a proud Polynesian woman. I am Maori. I’m from the tribes of Ngati Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau and Ngapuhi. Ngapuhi women, we’re from the far north of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and we’re known to be quite fiery and natural leaders. Meri Mangakāhia was actually the first woman to actually cross the parliamentary floor boards even though history would say it was Kate Sheppard. Or, history would focus on Kate Sheppard as being the trailblazer for the women’s movement. But, really history records Meri Mangakāhia as being the first woman to cross the floorboards and table that not only should women be allowed to vote, but they should also be members of parliament. Meri was from up north. So, yeah, I would describe myself as quite fearless – a disrupter. I’m not afraid to confront systemic issues, but also a big fan of stories and a big fan of Indigenous and Polynesian people. And, I’m a mum of three!

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“You live overseas. You don’t have a say in Sāmoa.” – Think Again.

Ua sau le va’a na tiu, ‘ae tali le va’a na tau, o lo’o mamaulago i le va’a na faoafolau.

One boat returns from the catch; the other is tied to the shore; the third is resting in the boat shelter.

This was written in the 50th anniversary history book about Samoa. It speaks about how Samoan are placed all around the world. A note made said this about the quote, “The boat returning from fishing refers to those who have travelled to other countries; the anchored boat refers to the chiefs, orators and young people; the third boat is likened to the old people staying at home. All play their part in maintaining Samoa as a proud independent nation.”

We all have a part to play in keeping Samoa true and strong. I have had a lot of people from the island recently tell me I have no right to say anything on the election that is being held. That since I live overseas, my interest in who wins doesn’t matter. However, I beg to differ. Since the Mau Movement, islanders around the world, Samoans around the world, have played a part in keeping our island safe. I may not have a vote, but I have a voice.

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Empowered Pasifika Women: Maiya Thompson

There are times that our community will dismiss young people. Sometimes they are told that they should “be seen and not heard.” But, I believe that is silencing vital voices that we need to hear. Thankfully, there are people like Maiya Thompson who are trailblazing a pathway. They are creating spaces for more of our community to be heard. 

As a writer on The SIS Show, she is creating stories that resonate with many in the community. If you saw the show, you might recognize one of the episodes she wrote. It was the scene where there was a group of guys and gals gathered around a kava bowl discussing the topic of gender equality. What I love about this scene is that through humor, very serious subjects are talked about and brought to light. The fact that women each month are paying extra money for female sanitary items, the pay wage gap, etc. And, the men brought up good points too. Speaking on things like the draft. This show may be shot and written in New Zealand, but being able to relate to the message is worldwide. I’m very grateful for amazing creatives like Maiya who are learning from leaders like the head of SIS, Hanelle. It shows that the torch of progress will not extinguish but will be carried on and handed down generation to generation. 

I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to talk with her via Zoom and help share her story with you. Here is a little bit about Maiya:


Sipping Koko: In your own words, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Maiya: I’m a Cancer. I am huge on representation, a big film lover – story lover. I’ve always wanted to be writer and write stories about my siblings and me. We are never really seen on screen. I’m the oldest of eight. I’m Samoan/Chinese/English. I love my job and I’m still learning. I’m aspiring to be like Hanelle and create amazing content like her.

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Empowered Pasifika Women: Anamalia Su’esu’e

Something I’ve learned through this series is the amazing passion our women have for preserving our culture and passing it on to the next generation. One of those wonderful women is Anamalia Su’esu’e and here’s her story.

Empowered Through Cultural Preservation

Born and raised in Hawai’i to Su’esu’e and Lynda Su’esu’e, I’m the oldest of three girls. I’m forever grateful for the life my parents provided for us. My father came to Hawai’i in the 70s from Utulei, American Samoa. He later met my mother, an Italian/Polish woman from Long Island, New York, at Job Corps in Waimanalo. Fast forward some decades later and I’m now raising my two children near the places I grew up. I work with Le Fetuao Samoan Language Center, a Samoan community based nonprofit here in Hawai’i that offers Samoan language programs for families. I am also finishing my first year of the Psychology MA/PhD program at UH Mānoa. I’m in the Community, Cultural, and Developmental area and would like to explore Samoan identity development in diaspora. Growing up in a multicultural home in Hawai’i has surely shaped my research interests in graduate school. My goals are to develop and implement sustainable programs (maybe even some policies?) within our Samoan and Pasifika communities that support our Pasifika identity development. The way I see it: secure, supported identities = increased well-being.

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