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.
What was the spark that started you on the path where you are today?
I’ve loved reading and writing since I can remember, and I’ve always known this was my path. Harnessing the power of words is especially significant to me because it’s in my blood. Pasifika folks have been storytellers for thousands of years, and I’m honored to carry on that tradition.
What is one thing that you think Pasifika can do to help our voices be heard more?
Take up the space you deserve. Our voices have been silenced and our people overlooked and marginalized for far too long. In your local community, in academia, in the workplace, on social media, in advocacy groups, at protests – anywhere and everywhere – be loud and be proud.
If a young Pasifika girl asked you, “Why is it important to empower other Pasifika women?” What would you tell her?
It is the sacred responsibility of Pasifika women to blaze trails for the Pasifika girls walking behind us. Just as we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, future generations will one day stand tall on ours.
As a Pasifika leader, creative, advocate, etc. how do you find ways to uplift the voices of other Pasifika women?
Growing up in America, I rarely saw Pasifika women represented in mainstream media. As a young girl, I promised myself that when I became a writer, I would highlight my people and my culture. Now that my writing has a large platform, I take that promise very seriously. I do my best to uplift the voices of Pasifika folks and tie my culture into my work whenever possible.
How important is it for Pasifika men to be a part of the conversation of uplifting our Pasifika women?
The effect of colonization is insidious; it’s seeped into our culture, gender roles, social behaviors, everything. Watching Pasifika men fall into Eurocentric traps is alarming as it signifies a disconnect between our people and our traditional values/identity. It’s time for Pasifika men to pull up! As Pasifika women, we face both misogyny and racism; our men don’t bear the weight of that intersectional burden. They have an advantage in the colonial landscape and should use it to uplift our women.
Who is it that you look to as a role model?
Oprah Winfrey. When I was a young girl, Oprah gave me hope – she worked her way out of poverty, broke barriers in the media world, and used her money to uplift girls of future generations (all things I wanted to achieve). When I commuted 2–3 hours each way for internships and college classes, Oprah’s podcasts kept me company while she nourished my soul with mindful and empowering conversations. And now that I’m grown, I find it incredibly inspiring that Oprah chose not to have children. While I certainly don’t judge other women for becoming mothers, I’ve decided that remaining childfree is the right path for me. Oprah is an excellent example of women enjoying wonderful, fulfilling lives without kids.
Where do you think the Pasifika community falls short when it comes to empowering our women? If we do at all.
Speaking from my experience with Samoan culture, I’ve seen customs and beliefs that are at odds with modern feminism. I believe it’s perfectly okay and even necessary to point these out. It isn’t disrespecting the culture, but rather having the imagination and bravery to ensure our culture evolves into the best version of itself. Why should a girl put on a lavalava and tie her hair up just because a man is visiting the home? Why are the vast majority of matai titles held by men? When children are given feaus, why do boys get to muck about outside while girls spend hours in the kitchen? Many Samoan girls grow up with this being the norm, and that can have an effect on our autonomy, mindset, self-value, and dreams. I’d love to see all Pasifika communities empowering all genders equally.
What song do you listen to that empowers you to keep going?
Video – India.Arie. This song reminds me that I am enough just as I am and that being yourself is one of the most radical things you can do in this world.
What movie brings you inspiration?
Whale Rider. I’ve always identified with Pai defying traditional gender roles and listening to her heart while maintaining so much love and respect for her culture. Watching her grandfather evolve into a beacon of support and seeing Pai lead her people into a new age gets me every time.
What is a quote that you go to when needing encouragement?
I have two: “Resistance is its own reward.” – Haunani-Kay Trask and “I have been woman / for a long time / beware my smile / I am treacherous with old magic” – Audre Lorde
What is your advice to Pasifika women who are on the journey to empowerment?
Don’t be afraid to dream big. If you’ve never seen a Pasifika woman in that role/space, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means you’ll be the first.
I am so thankful that Morgan shared her story and her thoughts. These are so encouraging to read and a great reminder that we need and must take up space. That even if we don’t see ourselves in the spaces we want to be in, we can always be the first! Plus, I can’t wait to read her book!