by Justin Sipoloa
PI Youth Organizer
A year ago, APANO’s Pacific Islander Youth Program didn’t exist. When I started at APANO last year, it was explained that I would get to create a program for Pacific Islander (PI) youth geared towards social justice. However, when I was first introduced to the ALLY youth, it was apparent that the “PI” in the API Leaders for the Liberation of Youth lacked representation. Let’s be clear: this isn’t just a youth issue.
The label API gets used to label events, workshops, spaces, or when we simply think, “it’s the proper term.” My community has attended API labeled events where a lack of PI representation existed both in content and speakers. The erasure and invisibility of PI’s in the term API came to shape the early phase of my program: find PI youth and be recognized.
“Being a part of my Pacific Island Club is important to me and the others because it’s a space where all of us use to trust people, get a break from problems, and depend on each other. Oregon’s Nesian Youth for Change in Society (ONYCS) exists because we all have different problems, yet similar situations. It’s important to all of us not only because of our personal problems, but because we want to change how Pacific Islanders are seen and recognized. That is why the group ONYCS is important to all of us PI youth.” – Brionna Jack, Centennial High School
Brionna’s statement reflects why I believe in the importance of having PI club within schools. I use this strategy because I want to provide my youth a space that wasn’t available for me growing up. I have interacted and/or checked-in with over 100 youth this school year, with 65 of them identifying as Pacific Islander from nine different schools. Fifty of those PI youth are a part of a high school PI club and 35 of them have attended the ONYCS meeting. I’m excited to see this grow as I plan to be in David Douglas and Parkrose High School fall 2017.