By Inoke Hafoka, APIASF/GMS Scholar
I am a part of a unique community in Salt Lake City, Utah in an urban neighborhood called Glendale. There is a large population of Polynesians here in my community, most of whom are Tongan (that includes me). Outside of the western U.S. states, people might not know what a Polynesian is, let alone what a Tongan is. Polynesians come from the South Pacific. Some of the more predominantly known islands of Polynesia are Hawai’i, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and Tahiti. If you’re familiar with the NFL, you might have heard of Troy Polumalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Haloti Ngata (Baltimore Ravens). They are both Polynesians; Troy is Samoan and Haloti is Tongan.
In Tonga, the word kolo is translated in English to mean village or community. The kolo’s in Tonga are tight-knit and everyone knows all the families within their kolo. No one is a stranger, even visitors. Once visitors come into a kolo, everyone knows the visitor is present and he/she is treated as a guest anywhere they might visit within the kolo.
Although, the surroundings here in Glendale are different from that of Tonga, I still feel that sense of unity within my community. I did not get to where I am today without the teachings, influence, support, guidance, and LOVE my community has given me throughout my life. From the time I was born, to little league football and fast forwarding to continuing my education in graduate school, my community has always been there pushing me along.