Pacific Islanders the fastest growing community in Oregon. Today the population is over 250,000, a change of over 68% since 2000. A diverse community, many Pacific Islanders have migrated to Oregon from California, Washington, Hawai’i and U.S. territories like Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and American Samoa with U.S. citizenship. Pacific Islanders have also immigrated to Oregon, including Micronesians, Marshallese and Palauan citizens have the unique ability to live and work in the U.S. without traditional immigration papers due to the Compact of Free Association (COFA). APANO recognizes the integral role of Pacific Islander leadership in APANO and continues to take steps to ensure meaningful leadership and investment in Pacific Islander organizing and advocacy.
We sat down with two members of APANO’s Board of Directors, Vui Asiata Dr. Toeutu Fa’aleava who is Samoan, and Paulina Perman who is Pohnpeian from the Federated States of Micronesia, to discuss their experiences and leadership with APANO.
We’d love to get to know you better, and one question we ask of our new Board members when they are elected is “who is someone you look up to and why?”:
Paulina: I have to say I look up to both of my parents. My dad Paulus Materne Perman and my mom Lorenza Seiola Perman. They encouraged and supported each other in everything they do for their community. Both of my parents volunteered/donated their time, talents and gifts on non-profit and church boards. They both have given and continue to give back to their community. With the support/partnership of my dad, my mom has been and continue to be the main sponsor for the women’s association in her municipality. They’ve both taught me that “more is expected on those that have or are given more”. They strongly believe that communities are stronger when community members volunteer/donate their gifts, talents and time. I’m grateful to my parents for instilling in me the value and importance of “giving back”.
Toeutu: I don’t have to go far. My mother was ahead of her time in advocating for women’s rights in Samoa, fighting tenaciously. As a kid, it seemed disruptive and sometimes very uncomfortable, and yet as I grew up I realized what she was doing and I followed in her footsteps in advocating for equal rights. My mother, Fa’aeteete Vui, believed deeply in fairness and justice.
Being an APANO Board Member is serious responsibility. What drew you to APANO?
Toeutu: I liked the inclusive collaborative spirit of APANO. I liked its push for equity, equality and justice. I liked APANO’s unrelenting fight for those values and ideals. There was really a genuine reaching out to the Pacific Islander community. It was the right place and the right time, and I was personally asked.
Paulina: I am a founding member of the COFA Alliance National Network (CANN) and met APANO when we were fighting for restoring COFA citizen’s access to the Oregon driver’s license in 2013. APANO has continued to do great advocacy work COFA community members, with the Micronesian Islander Community (MIC) and CANN. They’re focus on organizing and advocacy and helped make a difference in the lives of our families. I’m very grateful for their support and partnership with our Pacific Islander (PI) community.
What is a highlight of APANO’s work with PI communities?
Paulina: Over my time on the APANO Board, the organization has made it a priority to intentionally hire and develop programs in Pacific Islander communities. In Salem the new Marshallese Parent Organizer is building a base of parents with children in K-12 English Language Learner programs. A new Pacific Islander Community Organizer with a focus on youth is scheduled to start this summer, and APANO is housing CANN’s first community organizer David Anitok. There is also a commitment to having intentional representation of Pacific Islanders on the APANO Board.
Toeutu: The inclusion of PI on the Board and Member-Leaders, the conversations that are coming out of APANO that there is always an awareness and commitment to including PI in programs and policies. The clarification and recognition of the distinctive experiences of PI and our shared history generates respect and contextualizes our ongoing struggles in the US.
How can APANO better support PI issues?
Toeutu: Having the organizational structure and commitment to inclusive values and ideals are an assurance moving forward that APANO will continue to be responsive to and aware of PI issues and concerns.
Paulina: APANO can better support PI issues by continuing to be visible and do more outreach efforts/events. The more APANO is visible and supportive of PI issues the more PI communities will support APANO’s values/missions. I believe that building and establishing positive relationships is key to PI’s partnership with APANO. Thank you APANO for all your support and great work!