Thursday started out with bagels and coffee at the hotel with my group as we discussed what sessions we would be going to that day. However we were all required to go to the Keynote Speaker.
Keynote Speaker: Haunani-Kay Trask- Militarism and Tourism in the Pacific Islands
To start off, up to a certain point, I actually liked this speaker. She was very blunt about talking about the damage that has been done to Hawaii and who was to blame. Also I was fairly unsurprised at the uses that Hawai'i was put through and the demeaning ways that it has been and is portrayed. I also wasnt put off when she said that the best way for people to help Hawaii is to not visit and therefore not feeding into the tourism trap. I feel like Hawaii is one of the few places that still has enough resources left to support its own people if only it would be left alone. Foreign occupation I feel is definitely a problem.
As soon as she started to talk about how she believes that Al Qeada was right to attack the U.S. and that if there was an opportunity for another 9-11 then the Hawaii tourist airports were it. At that, much of the respect that I had for her diminished and anger took its place. Especially when she claimed that she had an Osama bin Laden poster on her wall. I then no longer clapped, no longer yelled in appreciation of what she said. and there are two reasons why that is:
1. Bin Laden and Al Qeada are pretty much just as hated in Afghanistan as they are here. Their atrocities definitely are not just directed at foreign evils but at home as well. Everybody suffers basically. They remind me of the offshoots of Nation of Islam devotees who took the doctrine of Islam and twisted it to something that didnt recognize anyone's humanity anymore. Now the Nation of Islam itself had good points about why they were forming this group and what it gave to people however, some people within that took it way too far, just like many groups who form from traditions and groups that are based in good. Basically Al Qaeda isnt good for anyone so the fact that she idolized them doesnt exactly make me jump for joy
2. She placed such a lack of value on human life. I mean terrorist attacks signal death for any person. so basically she is targeting anyone that happens to be in that vicinity. for example i feel like i have the capacity to learn and not contribute to a lot of the evils that i have in the past. however if this were say 3 years ago, she would be killing me right along with anyone else who might have the chance to change. and she said herself that we can help from over here however at the time that my family went to Hawaii, i was only 11. so basically I would be part of the tourists that she would target.
basically i find her alarmingly psycho. it's not that she didnt make good points about Hawaii but she took her reaction too far and her insensitivity and lack of compassion frightens and angers me because it means that she has no value for my life included.
So, with thoughts and emotions seriously crashing into my brain, I left that session kid of shattered and traumatized. I went to my next session which was Using the Arts as a Vehicle for Difficult Conversations about Race, Gender, and Class, emotionally raw and unstable. To make matters worse we started the session with Strange Fruit (the song sung by Nina Simone) and a video that portrayed it. So I was also feeling those feelings as well. My brain was suffering from overload and I was starting to cry ( as well as have nervous jitters) so I cut the session short and went to my room to both think and cry. now that I look back, I am not sure why I was crying. I think part of it was because I was thinking of where my life was to go once I really started rolling in my social justice work and life. I was afraid of ending up with the malevolent need for action like Ms. Trask since I am very passionate about everything that I learn, especially injustice (a vague term but it fits for now). So in a way, i could see myself ending up so made that i end up craving my piece of the pie no matters what. here are some poems that i wrote during that time:
Is there anything to reach for anymore
Is decency a dream and hatred and bitterness
the actual, the beginning, and the end
Is hate the never-ending cycle
The Art of Song
Here is a strange and bitter crop
spectacle to the farmers who cut the roots and plucked
from the moisten and rich ground to harvest the juices of
pain and bred strength from the skin of this fruit
Without this fruit, the dirt rots and dries with little ability to fight off intruders
How deep do these roots go that
glisten with blood red
and intrude on any and my own shelter
God, what do we ask for?
Peace? love? or obliteration?
If you keep you lust for my soul under wraps
then the machine that I live in will do its job
and you will probably get it in the ended
So Im pretty much a basket case at this point and I know I need someone to talk to, someone who I am not too proud to let them see or hear how low I was at that point and who would understand why I was upset. Also someone who would let me sit in my own pity. I ended up calling my Uncle Lorenzo, who not only is my God-father but also he is involved with this kind of work and he's pretty stern about give people only as much boost as they need. after talking to him, he helped me see that I had a choice in what kind of activist I could be. and I decided that I wanted to be one that always hope and held out for humanity but didnt take no stuff.
So crisis averted and I walked over to the restaurant where my group was eating lunch ( Dick's Last Resort) and finally was back to some sort of normality.
After lunch was my second seminar Pacific Islanders and their Place in Higher Education. Now considering the morning speaker, I was a little wary of any subjects having to do with the Pacific Islands, I admit. However I knew it would probably be different. I was right. I really enjoyed that session because it definitely opened my eyes to problems that I havent heard specifically of (however their predicaments sound awfully similar with key differences) and I found myself kind of wishing that I went to a college that had a bigger population of people of color because there is so much more to learn than just categories of black, Latino/Chicano, Native American, and Asian American. Diversity is such a bigger and more complicated category than I feel people at Iowa State realize.There are troubles and issues within those categories that need to be separated and alerted about. And I ended up getting much more reading material (as well as a new contact on my facebook) as we talked about issues and problems that Pacific Island students have to go through in Higher Ed and the steps that are being taken. It was a fantastic session.
So at this point, all groups from Iowa State meet up for the group discussion and it's obvious that people are still talking about that morning's keynote speaker. Fortunately Michael had invited one of my hero's, Victor Lewis to sit with us for a bit and talk. Now instead of getting into what Ms. Trask had said, he instead introduced us into a stress- releasing activity called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) where as we tapped on certain parts of our body like under the eyes or under our cheeks while chanting a phrase like "even though I totally disagreed with Ms. Trask, I completely and wholly accept myself". Victor promised us that when we did this at least 3 times (or more if we need it) until our anger and stress was gone, then it never would come back again. I mean, the fact that I can write about what Ms. Trask said without getting angry again since I had to remember and revisit how I was feeling at the time, is very surprising to me. So it was a very relaxing session and all of us had let go of most if not all of our angry and it was very relaxing.
So here is where a lot of carefree fun began. Most of the Iowa State groups, including ours, decided that we would go to Little Italy and go to a Italian place for dinner. So we gathered down in the lobby to wait for people to come down. So we gather a sizable group with plans to take the trolley to Little Italy when this shuttle bus playing loud music pulls up next to up and offers us a ride to where ever we were going. (originally for free). so we jump on the shuttle with a disco song playing in the background. we're getting ready to leave the hotel when Josh, Jose, and Deepak call us because we left them and ask if we could pick them up because their lazy behinds were watching a basketball game and wanted us to wait for them so we went back and picked them up. about halfway to Little Italy somebody asks "Where's Paul?" who, is back the hotel. so we go BACK to the hotel and pick him up and finally arrive at little Italy (with some music trouble on the way. (Air Force Ones wasnt so bad but then Eminem started playing and none of us were feeling it at all.)
The first restaurant we went to was really crowded so we went to a place called Spagghettiria who seated all 20 of us in 2 minutes! So we are just joking around having a good time when a lady selling roses walks by and poor Josh reaches (or is given, i cant remember) for a rose and is give 3 and told 10 dollars. He decides then just to pay for them when he takes out a twenty and gives it to the woman, expecting change. The rose-seller then said that's okay and gives him 3 more roses and disappears out of the restaurant before Josh could react. all of us are laughing because Josh just got completely hustled!
so after taking the music playing shuttle (or the Party Bus as we named it) back to the hotel we got back to our rooms for the night. That is except those of us who went swimming at like 9:30pm. we just hopped into the outdoor jacuzzi and heated swimming pool and talked and messed around until two of us were left and it was 11:30. they eventually kicked us out.