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By Dallas Te’o
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Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011  
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O fanau a tagata e fafaga i upu, a o fanau a manu e fafaga i fugalaau”
The young of birds are fed with the blossoms of trees, whereas the young of humans are fed with words.

East Palo Alto's Samoan-American community joined other Samoan communities around the world to celebrate Samoan Language Week, June 1-7, 2011. This year, for the first time, the United States joined the annual celebration with the launch of the iSpeakSamoan campaign.

“Preserving and strengthening the Samoan language for future generations and raising awareness of Samoan as an indigenous language of the United States are some of our goals,” said Val LiHang Jacobo, interim chairperson for the Samoan Language Week (SLW) USA Coalition.

New Zealand Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres welcomed the entry of Team USA in SLW 2011 celebrations.

"Samoans are a global family and this has been proven by the way people from all continents, from Alaska to Botswana, Denmark to Iraq, have been keen to preserve the language of their ancestors as an important and beloved part of their future," says Mr. de Bres.

Samoans make up 23% of the US Pacific Islander population, second only to indigenous Hawaiians.

Thousands of supporters of the weeklong celebration from around the world connected through the Facebook Fan Page that New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for UNESCO established in 2010.

This year’s global theme was “Samoa Active: Samoa Ola,” promoting health, sports and fitness. Several fitness and sports organizations are supporting SLW USA, including Pacific Health Club, AIGA Foundation, and South Bay Rugby Club.

In addition, a wide range of organizations and businesses also joined the movement. Le Fetuao Samoan Language School, Tafesilafa'i Long Beach, Samoan Solutions and SF Samoa are focusing local initiatives on child literacy, while others partners such as PASEFIKA, TOFA, and Samoa Matalasi have organized cultural song and dance activities.

“Observing SLW USA can be as simple as creating an event at your workplace or even hosting a shared community event,” said Ms. Jacobo. “The ultimate goal of SLW USA is to encourage both private and public participation.”

Although Samoan Americans make up a small percentage of the overall US population, they punch well above their weight in a range of areas including military, academic and athletic achievements.

"We connect to each other through our heritage, we contribute to our communities and our nation by having strong Samoan identity grounded by the universal principles of love and family,” said Ms. Jacobo. “The ability to speak the Samoan language is a big part of that connection.”

The iSpeakSamoan campaign raises public support and government recognition of the Samoan identity. Without a national campaign, we lose an ancient language, near and dear to our hearts and our aiga (families)."

For more information, visit Samoan LanguageWeek USA on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/slwusa and Samoan Language Week at http://www.facebook.com/SamoanLanguageWeek.


The above article was written by Dallas Te’o and the following Samoan-Language Week USA Community Coordinators:

2011 – 2012 Interim Community Coordinators
Faga Misa (Samoan Solutions) – Program Development (samoan_solutions@yahoo.com)
Dallas Te’o (Samoan Solutions, Urban Islanders) – Historian/Documentation (dallas.teo@gmail.com)
Rita Scanlan (Pac Biz, NPIEN) – Communications (ritascnalan@gmail.com)
Christina Pelesasa (University of Washington) – Graphic Design (pelesasa.tina@gmail.com)
Val LiHang Jacobo (Pac Biz, Tafesilafa’i) – Project Leader (vljacobo@yahoo.com)

To contact the author of this article through East Palo Alto Today, email epatoday@epatoday.org.


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