Lucky One

Written by Mary Soonaoso
NZ-Born Samoan from Aukilani. 


New Zealand, born in the 90s, an era of pop culture and sanity

I was the lucky one. 

Born into a brown family
Memphis gooey meltdowns and snicker bars were our style
Life of the privilege, life of the wise

I was the lucky one.

My young wild and free primary days were bliss. 
Potato top pies shared with my Palagi friend
My Asian friend and I sharing the crayons
Skipping swimming lessons with my Tongan friend
I was I. No judgment. 

I was the lucky one. 

Math and English, Soccer and Netball, Choir and Art is what I knew
Oblivious to what it meant to be SamoanOblivious to the different ethnic groups
My friend was my friend

I was the lucky one. 

Shielded from the perpetuated ethnic stereotypes existing outside my comfort
ASSIMILATION, FATAL IMPACT!!!!!
Unaware that my ancestors were treated like shit
Because they were brown
Because they were different

I was the lucky one.

My father cried of his struggles
1 towel shared between 9 children
Life of love, life of no hope
He was a savage
Only good for factories
Not the Willy Wonka kind
But the peanuts for pay kind
My mother walked blocks for her education
Losing her father came with responsibility
Education was the answer to her inner demons
Without a mother figure she missed important life lessons
Made mistakes, Loved with no limits
Hitting the scenes of cola and juicies
Intermediate school was a new playing field
I hated the white boys and posh white girls
Asians were only “brainiacs” 
Tongans were my enemies
I became dumb with what I knew
Loud and proud to be Samoan
But was I? 
My identity was challenged for the first time
“Your mother tongue is what defines you”
“Hush you do not speak”
Afraid of foolishness, shame and embarrassment
From the piercing evils from my “loving Aunties” 
Was I lucky that my parents were liberal?
Free to speak, share and experience
Was I less Samoan
Because I was free?
Teine o le Kalama
Duke of Edinburgh, debating
Return to the Forbidden Planet
Advanced English
What kind of Samoan was I?
Thoughtlessly staying away from
The “brown coated activities” 
My choice, my diversity
Lacking in culture however red puletasi embarked on a new journey
Newfound love for my blood
Language a marker of identity but not restricted
Tautua, fa’aaloalo, alofa were my inspiration
Always instilled because of my guardians
Samoa mo Samoa, New Zealand my home

I was the lucky one. 

Talofa, o lo’u name o Mary
Broken Samoan, but trying
Learning different definers of what it meant to be Samoan
I grew up in a semi-privileged environment

But it didn’t make me less Samoan than
My brown brother who grew up
In a sea of brown faces
I never felt that I wasn’t Samoan
Visiting Samoa, I was myself
Hair out, ie lavalava, luau for dinner
I was stared at because I was from New Zealand
But why did I care? I was just as Samoan even though I choose to shower
6 times a day

I was the lucky one. 

My fire for my people came at a time of stress
Law school was a blessing in disguise
Tikanga Maori, fighting for land
Fighting for Tangata Whenua
Stuck in a white worldview, trying to escape
Treaty of Waitangi was nothing
Questions of what if Samoa were fighting for their land?
How would they feel? React? 
Quota systems shoved in our faces
Other ethnic groups were nice
Yet stabbed a knife through our backs
Behind closed doors
Scared of our brown faces
Criminals? Rape? Incest? Polygamy?
Am I too fia Palagi when I challenge these stereotypes? 
Should I just “shut the fuck up” and let them
Think and say what they want about us I am the lucky one. 
I grew up
I learnt to embrace differences
To myself I was a Samoan, who called
New Zealand my home sweet home
I learnt to embrace differences
Yet Speak Up if discrimination of
Any form or kind was slapped in my face
I travelled abroad
America, India, Thailand
I was a young Samoan living the dream
Living the migrant dream
Church members disagreed with my parents’ 
How they raised my siblings and me
To be passionate about life
To do what we wanted
But also be grounded in our roots
Of love, respect and service
Education was my form of service

We were the lucky ones

The skin colour of my parents
Did not define my life
It fuelled a passion to overcome
Societies perceptions of the brownie club
Freedom to prove that brown skin was not limited to the peanut factories
But was an embodiment of milk and honey
Embraced with the scent of koko Samoa
Empowering my own worldview
I have learnt to listen to the posh white view
Without judgment of persona
The brainy Asian kid is now my best friend
Tongans are my brothers and sisters
Fighting for the same goal

I was the lucky one

Because of my experiences
Because I have a father who took a leap of faith
Because I have a mother who never stopped believing
Because I was no longer ignorant of who I was
My name is Mary Tiumalu
I am Samoan, I call New Zealand my home
I am not less Samoan because of my choices
I am Samoan because I bleed brown blood
Because I do with humility, I do with love
I do with respect
I do with my heritage
I do with my blue, red, pink puletasi
I do with my frizzy afro
I choose two worldviews
Living through my parents struggle
Yet defining my own life
I am who I am, because I am the lucky one.