Angry Reader of the Week: Sefa Aina

Awwwww yeah. It is that time again. Friends, please allow me to introduce the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Sefa Aina.

Who are you?

I'm Sefa Aina! I'm a husband to my wife, Belinda, with whom I've been with for 23 years. I'm the father of three beautiful children, Marina, Marcus and Malie.

What are you?

I'm Samoan. I'm an educator. I'm a community advocate. I'm a youth football coach and youth basketball coach. I'm your brother.

Where are you?

Right now, I'm at home in Sun City, CA aka THE CUT. During the workday, I'm at the salt-mines of Pomona College ;-) Just last week though, I was in Washington DC releasing the first ever National Demographics Report on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders!!! And this past weekend... my birthday weekend... I was with my youth boys basketball team, the SoPac Red Devils, winning a tournament in Hemet CA!!!

Where are you from?

My father is from the village of Fitiuta, Island of Manua; and my mother is from the village of Aoa, island of Tutuila...both in American Samoa. I was born in Honolulu Hawaii, but raised in San Diego CA. My activist roots were sown at UCLA.

What do you do?

The job that pays for my kids' health insurance is my work as the Associate Dean and Director of the Asian American Resource Center (AARC) at Pomona College. Through the AARC we focus our work on 3-Guiding Principles: Service, Engagement, and Production of Resources.

Prior to coming to Pomona College, I worked for many years at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center aka the Center. When I started at the Center, Yuri Kochiyama was 3-doors down the hall writing her memoirs; Yuji Ichioka (credited with coining the term Asian American in the 1960s) was scaring graduate and undergraduate students 5-doors down the hall; playwright Judy Soo Hoo worked across the hall from me; Prof. Bob Nakamura was upstairs starting the Center for Ethnocommunications; poet and author Russel Leong was editing the Amerasia Journal; his assistant editor was Glenn Omatsu; author Enrique de la Cruz was the Associate Director and of course the Director was Prof. Don Nakanishi! My mentor and supervisor, Meg Thornton was the Executive Director of SIPA prior to coming to the Center and that was just on the Center staff side. It was also the training ground for Asian American Studies scholars and community activists... I called it the cross-roads!

All that I learned there at UCLA, I tried to carry with me over to Pomona College. Especially the part about Serving the People! Here at Pomona College, we have three active community partnerships: STEP (Saturday Tongan Education Project) that does tutoring and mentoring to Tongan youth in the inland valley; RISE UP, which partners with SEACA in LA to do arts education for primarily southeast asian youth in the downtown/chinatown/Lincoln Heights area; and lastly a new program we're developing with Pomona HS called Empower U. The legacy of Asian American Studies, I believe, requires that we be active in our communities, and I'm just trying to stay consistent with that. Of course... I have a lot of help. My students at the Asian American Resource Center are AWESOME as well as my right-hand/partner in crime, Karin Mak.

In the community, I've been blessed to be part of many projects/programs and organizations. While I was at UCLA, I helped to establish the PIER (Pacific Islander Education + Retention) Project which does tutoring and mentoring for Pacific Islander youth in LA. I also worked with Pacific Islander educators to create NPIEN (National Pacific Islander Educators Network) and over the past 10-years they've cerated a network extending across the country who can share best practices and continue to inspire aspiring educators to become mentors to our young people. Currently, I am the Chair of the EPIC (Empowering Pacific Islander Communities) Board. EPIC's focus is Research, Policy, and Community Development. Last week, EPIC in partnership with Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA released the first ever Demographics Report for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. We're a young organization, but we are really establishing ourselves as bridge-builders for the diverse Pacific Islander community throughout the country.

...and, I'm the Vice Chair for President Obama's Advisory Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. I was appointed in 2010, and it has been an amazing experience to represent the whole community and try to express to the President and his administration how they can better serve the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The whole trip has been a blessing!

What are you all about?

In the immortal words of Marshawn Lynch, "I'm 'bout dat action, boss!" In all seriousness though, I feel like I've had a blessed life. A life of struggle indeed, but one with privilege as well. My hope is to use my blessings and my privilege to extend opportunities to those who need it most. I really feel like the Asian American and Pacific Islander community is filled with young, talented individuals and the biggest travesty is when they're not able to reach their potential. If you have the goods, I feel like it's my job to help the world see it. I guess I'm about helping folks reach their potential.

What makes you angry?

BULLIES!!! Whether they are physical bullies or intellectual bullies... I HATE BULLIES!!! One sure-shot way to piss me off is to for someone to go sideways on someone else just because they can or they think their victims won't fight back. That REALLY makes me MADD!!!

Also, LOSING makes me angry. Whether it's an issue that I care about and we're not successful in supporting it, or if my youth basketball team loses...I hate losing! I think I get that from my mom, She was the most competitive person I knew. She would always tell me, "if that kid can do it, you can do it too!" and NEVER BE "maka fefe" or "maka pala'ai" which basically means, "don't be scared!" I think my kids embody that spirit...especially my oldest daughter, Marina. No one (including me) hates losing more than she does.

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