The sound and taste of Hispanic Culture— Utah Hispanic Heritage Parade

Story and photos by LINA SONG

The nonprofit organization Take Care Utah hosts the Hispanic Heritage Parade annually to share arts and culture and draw attention to the need for health insurance for Latinx children. It is a great example of sharing the arts of culture and bringing communities together to experience each other’s culture better. The events and performances promote community involvement and provide the chance to see, hear, and taste the traditions of the Hispanic culture in Utah. 

Randal Serr, the director of Take Care Utah at Utah Health Policy Project (UHPP), shares the growth and process of the parade over the past several years. The heritage parade is organized by the UHPP which is an organization that started in 2006. The main goal of the Take Care Utah organization is to reach out to the Hispanic community and raise the awareness of the health insurance needed for Hispanic children in Utah. 

Serr stated that after a study by Kids Count Data Center released in 2014 saying that Utah had the highest uninsured rate in the nation for Hispanic kids, they knew that they had to start thinking bigger about how to reach the Hispanic community and take action. By raising the seriousness uninsured Hispanic children, Take Care Utah offers themselves as a resource to help them sign up for health insurance and celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month. 

In September 2019, Hispanic Heritage Parade will hit its fourth annual parade. Since the start of the parades in 2016, the event has doubled in size every year. The first year started off with 2,500 people that attended the parade. The second year increased to the attraction of 5,000 people and the third year 10,000 people showed up to the parade. It takes place at The Gateway in Salt Lake City, Utah. With the increasing numbers of participants, there will be a higher benefit towards the UHPP goal and connecting communities together in Utah. 

The UHPP event is unique because it is the only event that celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a parade. The Take Care Utah nonprofit organization is helping with community involvement and sharing the Hispanic arts of culture in Utah by including diverse sections which are dedicated to people having the ability to represent their country and culture of origin.

With the fourth annual UHPP approaching in September, Neida Munguia, a yearly participant of the parade discussed her thoughts and experiences of the event. Munguia stated that it has been fascinating to see the growth and the increase of participants throughout the past years. She believes that the parade benefits the Hispanic community by displaying and sharing a piece of home through the celebration of culture. Since Utah is filled with people from various ethnic backgrounds, the parade also enhances the connection within all communities to connect and learn about the Hispanic culture. 

Munguia also talked about how she wanted to see more marketing and advertisement for the UHPP because it is a beautiful and fun event that more people in the community should take part in. Furthermore, she expects that the growth of participants for this year’s parade will be significant and wants to see more food and larger dance performances. Munguia believes that due to the increase and acknowledgement of the UUHPP, the parades should expand the amounts of events and other factors in the future. 

 

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Community and inclusion in art — Latin social dancing in Utah

Story, photos and gallery by KRISTEN LAW

“There’s dance for everything. You don’t have to be a competitor, you don’t have to be a professional,” said Julio Morales, a professional Latin ballroom dancer and instructor in South Salt Lake.

Morales said that students come for many reasons: to increase health benefits, enjoy the community and socializing, or to compete and perform. “You get to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds who have different goals, so it’s a great community,” Morales said.

The purpose of Latin social dancing is to build community. Social dance is centered around socializing while engaging in different styles of dance. Morales said all of the styles have their own kind of “flavor.” Salsa is a “high-energy, happy dance,” Morales said. Merengue and bachata are Latin dances originating in the Dominican Republic but have slightly different characteristics from one another. Merengue, according to dance websites, is more of a traditional, lighthearted and festive Latin dance, whereas bachata is more of a sensual and intimate Latin dance.

DF Dance Studio located at 2978 State St. in South Salt Lake offers many Latin social dance classes that fit any level. The beginner Latin social dance classes encourage a comfortable and relaxed environment for learning the basics. DF Dance Studio provides professional performances for attendees for social dance nights to encourage beginners to come out and dance.

Some people come who have never danced before. Teachers are there for students to ask questions and make them feel comfortable.

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Hope Jackson (second from the right) watching the students dance during the Latin Nationals Prep Camp.

Beginner or not, even the professionals take classes. “I’m a professional, but I still take lessons from other professionals because we understand in our sport that we’re never too good to learn something,” said Hope Jackson, a professional dancer and instructor in Utah.

Kyle and Madelaine Treu grew up dancing a variety of styles of dance and now the professional dancers specialize in Latin American dancing. The couple teaches at a studio in Idaho Falls, Idaho, called Extreme Ballroom Company.

“Those who get the ‘bug’ are in it for life, whether they want to pursue it consistently socially, or consistently competitively,” Kyle Treu said.

Jackson and the Treus are professional dancers who put together a Latin Nationals Prep Camp to help students and competitors practice and hone skills for a competition in March 2018. The team flew in Pasha Stepanchuk and Gabrielle (Gabby) Sabler, Latin dance world champions, for this camp to help teach the students.

“In this particular group of people, [the students] were beginners that were adults, beginners that were kids, and then there were our competitive adults who were 19-25 that are going to be competing against [the instructors],” Jackson said.

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Students practicing at the Latin Nationals Prep Camp.

“I want this to be an inclusive sport,” she added. Dance itself is inclusive, but she longs to see growth in the arts in this way.

Latin and ballroom dancing in Utah is very popular and common. Salt Lake City supports the arts well and has donated money for years in support of the growth of arts and culture. 

“It’s a sport, but it’s art as well,” Jackson said. “The arts [in Utah] are really important.” She said kids in Utah are usually either in sports or in an art, and most parents want their kids to be well versed in both.

Madelaine Treu said, “I think overall, dance anywhere is very accepting. So there can be a lot of diversity and age and race and status because dance is so much about self-expression, and the beauty and happiness that dance brings to life. So when you find that community or that coach that gives that to you and you really click with them, then so much happiness and acceptance and family really revolves around that.”

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Gabrielle (Gabby) Sabler finishing a demonstration with Pasha Stepanchuk, behind her, for students at the Latin Nationals Prep Camp.

Jackson said she loves the art because she values being around people who inspire her. “I want to bring more of that to the community here, but I also really just love being part of it.”

Professional Latin dancer and instructor Julio Morales said when he goes out to social dance he sees a relaxed, community environment. “I like to go out there and have fun, whether it’s salsa or bachata,” Morales said. “It’s whatever you like, just to go out there and enjoy yourself and have a good time.”

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The cultural significance of soccer in the Latinx community

Story and photo gallery by TYSON ALDRIDGE

Soccer, or futbol as it is called in Latin America, is the most popular sport in the Latinx community. Children from the time they are born are given a soccer ball to play with, or share a couch with a loved one to watch a game. That is why the love of soccer is so deep, it is firmly implanted in their day-to-day family lives.

Carlos Deschapelles of Univision Communications INC. explained in a 2016 article that Latinx communities have a love for soccer. “Look at the numbers: a whopping 84% of Hispanics follow the sport, compared to 47% of non-hispanics.” Deschapelles also said that 76 percent of kids and teens who watched the Copa America Centenario on Univision did so with an adult.

Grant Barnes, sports editor for the Tulane Hullabaloo, said in his 2018 article, “In 2017, Latinx people accounted for 68 percent of soccer viewership in the U.S. alone. Univision has estimated that approximately 84 percent of Latinx people follow the sport, and that they watch approximately three times as much soccer as non-Latinxs.”

It is no surprise that Latinx people in the U.S. are responsible for most of the soccer viewership in the U.S. because as Deschapelles said, “Based on U.S. census data, approximately 75% of U.S. Hispanics will find their country of origin represented by one of the teams at the Gold Cup in the Summer.” This gives the Latinx community here in the U.S. a sense of pride and excitement when their team is represented at the Gold Cup.

The U.S. does a great job of trying to keep the Latinx culture involved by hosting foreign tournaments in the U.S. Deschapelles explained, “By keeping Hispanics connected to their culture and their home country through tournaments that take place in the U.S. — like the 2016 Copa America Centenario and 2017 Gold Cup — soccer allows them to acknowledge and thrive in their duality.”

Dominic Militello is the head coach of the Cottonwood High School soccer team. Just watching the practice, it is easy to tell that these players absolutely have a burning passion for the game. Senior defender Josue Calderon said, “We were born with it, we basically grew up with our parents playing it and showing us the ways and their love for it.”

The great thing about this connection to the sport that the Latinx community has is that it brings them closer together as family and as friends. Whether it is through their local school team or club, or even recreational leagues that they play in on the weekends, they love the sense of family and community the sport brings them.

Christian Alfero, a sophomore midfielder, said that soccer has been a huge component for him and his family his whole life. He said, “I grew up watching the game and seeing the professionals on TV, and once the games were over my family would go outside and have 5 vs. 5 games.”

Brandon Morales, a sophomore defender, said, “I think it’s more like a family. It makes you act like you are actually a part of a family. You can relate to each other better because we are all Hispanic, and having that similarity with our culture makes us like each other more.”

Each of the players stressed family as the main component of their love for soccer. Sophomore forward Kody Flores said, “Ever since I was little my first toy was a ball. When you’re playing soccer it makes you feel at home.”

The Cottonwood High players’ faces lit up when talking about the competitiveness that soccer brings them within their community. Senior defender Calderon said, “We have a lot of Mexican league teams that we have friends and family playing on, and you look forward to playing against your friends.”

Soccer also brings this community a sense of pride. Morales, the sophomore defender,  said, “Mexico has always been good at soccer. It is one of the things that they are really good at and have a ton of talent when it comes to soccer. Just showing it off and displaying it feels good.”

The Cottonwood High School soccer team puts a tremendous effort toward getting better daily. They practice from 3 in the afternoon until 4:30 Monday through Friday, with games mixed in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The team has Latinx representation, and as result, spectators can see the passion go from them to the rest of the team. Coach Militello pushes his team to succeed. And that is shown through constant instruction and coaching to ensure each player is doing their best. Sophomore defender Alejandro Barahona, said, “Being on this team and playing soccer makes us more like a family, and brings us closer together as a team.”

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You are not crazy: Mental health stigma among Latinx community

Story and photos by SAYAKA KOCHI

One of the frequently discussed topics is that Latinx people are less likely to seek mental health treatment by themselves. Even when they are suffering from severe mental disorders, asking someone for help isn’t easy. There are several reasons why they cannot signal SOS.

“I didn’t want to admit that I was not OK,” Diana Aguilera said. Aguilera was born in Mexico and moved to Utah at age 10. She is a Peer Programs coordinator at the Latino Behavioral Health Services (LBHS) located at 3471 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City. LBHS is a nonprofit organization for unserved Latinx and Hispanic Utah citizens with mental illnesses, co-founded by Jacqueline Gomez-Arias and other contributors.

Before Aguilera became involved in LBHS, she had been suffering from depression, triggered by a harsh breakup. Because of her mental breakdown, she said she gave up school, her desire to be a social worker, and full-time work.

“I went to bed every day and like ‘please, don’t wake up anymore.’ I asked my body to give up because I couldn’t literally go on anymore,” Aguilera said. “I didn’t like to talk about it. I tried to hide it. Because I didn’t want my family to feel guilty.”

While she was ignoring her mental breakdown, she started volunteering at LBHS to help others in 2015. There, she said she met people with depression and those who have overcome their mental illnesses. Through being with them, she said she could finally acknowledge that she had to seek help.

“I met one of the founding members, Jacqueline [Gomez-Arias]. She was so open about her mental health issues. Through the conversation with her, she was like ‘you need help. You have depression. You have to seek help,’” Aguilera said. “Hearing from her, it was reassuring that it’s OK, I’ll be fine.”

With the help of Gomez-Arias and Aguilera’s sister, she was able to find a therapist and start fighting against her depression. At this point, health insurance is one of the main reasons that Latinx people cannot seek treatment. According to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one-third of Latinx immigrants are uninsured.

“I was really lucky and privileged that I had health insurance. Not everyone has health insurance. Not everyone can afford a therapist,” Aguilera said.

After several years of taking multiple medications and attending therapy, she said her mental health slowly but steadily recovered.

“Right now, I’m doing very well,” Aguilera said. “I don’t think that is a magic thing. It’s just a huge combination of everything.”

Aguilera also explained the importance of belonging in the community. “I’ve gone through therapy but that wasn’t super enough. For my recovery, I needed my community. Latino Behavioral has been my community. That was the most important thing for me.”

Like Aguilera, Carla Astorga had also suffered from mental breakdown for a few decades. Astorga was born and raised in Lima, Peru, which was a “corrupted” place for her to live. Through a lot of traumatic events from her childhood, Astorga said that her mind was broken. To escape from such a harsh environment, she said she decided to move to Utah in 2005.

“I didn’t recognize my symptoms at first. I felt sadness for whole days. So I didn’t know that it became a depression,” Astorga said.

Ten years had passed since she escaped from her country, but she said her symptoms reached such a level that she couldn’t stand them anymore.

“Anxiety, depression, panic attack, paranoid, fear — everything was starting to growing up and growing up,” Astorga said. “I started to see things that were not there. One day, I was driving to send my kids to school. After that, I went to the police station, because I smelled a bomb in my car. Police checked my car, but there was no bomb.”

At this moment, Astorga said she realized for the first time that she had a mental illness. She then decided to take treatment. As a first step, she came to visit LBHS to pull herself out of the darkness. She said she also took psychiatric medication, therapy, and some training provided by NAMI, which is the nation’s largest mental health organization. Over a couple of years going through hard times, she could finally overcome her mental disorder.

“The most successful part of my recovery was to be able to find one place with my own culture and language that I could feel like I was at home,” Astorga said.

Ever since her symptoms improved, she has been helping people at LBHS as a peer supporter and at NAMI as a Wasatch/Summit affiliate leader.

“I didn’t see enough sources with my own language in my area. Latino people need more sources for mental health,” Astorga said. “When I was getting recovered, I started to be aware that I had confidence and trusted myself. So I started thinking that I wanted to help other people.”

Astorga said a lack of knowledge is the main issue for Latinx people when they develop mental illnesses.

“In my culture, if you go to a psychologist or a doctor to take medicines, you are crazy,” Astorga said.

As Astorga pointed out, finding a peer mentor who has the same cultural background is really hard for underrepresented minorities.

Laiyan Bawadeen, a counseling intern for international students at the University of Utah, addressed this cultural difference issue from a counselor’s perspective.

“To address cultural differences in general, it is important that a counselor uses a multicultural viewpoint where they approach counseling through the context of the student’s world and culture while their own values or bias is not more important than that of the student,” Bawadeen said in an email interview.

Bawadeen is half Taiwanese and half Sri Lankan, and she is pursuing her master’s degree in clinical and mental health counseling at the U. As a member of the minority group, Bawadeen also suggested the importance of correct knowledge about mental treatment.

“I think demystifying what mental health [is], understanding what a counseling session looks like and what to expect can help demystify the counseling process, remove the stigma around mental health and make it easier for individuals to seek help,” Bawadeen said.

Seeking help is not easy for Latinx and other minority people. This might be because of the language barrier, not having health insurance, stigma, or caring so much about families or those who are closest to them. However, at some point, they need help.

Astorga said, “Latino[x] people are very strong. They were fighters or warriors. So they say they can do this alone, but they can’t.”

 

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Enhancing Utah’s mental health awareness among Latino(x) community

Story and photos by BRIANNA WINN

According to MentalHealth.gov, mental health is our emotional, psychological and social well-being. From childhood to adolescence, mental health affects how we think, feel and act. It affects every single human being.

Some factors that contribute to mental health are biological factors, life experiences and whether there is family history of mental health problems.

When people have positive mental health, they are able to realize their full potential, cope with the stresses of life, work productively and be a contributing member to society or their community, according to MentalHealth.gov.

The Latino Behavioral Health Services program is a nonprofit organization located at 3471 S. West Temple in Salt Lake City. This program is working to minimize the disparities Latinos are facing with regards to mental health in Utah.

According to the website, LBHS is a peer-run organization. It is used to enhance mental health awareness and the well-being of people with mental illness, their caregivers and loved ones through support, education, empowerment and facilitation of resources and services.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says common mental health disorders among Latinos are generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, post traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism.

Latinos are less likely to seek mental health treatment, according to NAMI. It cites many reasons for this, including lack of information and a misunderstanding about mental health, privacy concerns, language barriers, lack of health insurance, misdiagnosis, legal status, natural medicine and home remedies, and faith and spirituality

According to the Census Bureau, one of Utah’s most underserved populations is the Latino population. Between 2007 to 2011, 22.5 percent of Hispanics living in Utah were below the poverty line compared to the overall population.

Margarita Geraldo, a parent at LBHS teaching families about mental illness, said, “Depression is a mental illness. This illuminated my relationship with my daughter and taught me how to treat me daughter.” Geraldo’s daughter suffers from depression.

Unfortunately, Latinos face disparities that make it difficult for them to receive quality treatment.

Poverty and wage gaps are also contributing factors to mental health problems.

The Utah Department of Health, and Center for Multicultural Health report found that major depression in Hispanics is almost twice that of all Utahns.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latino youths attempt suicide at rates that are 8.2 percent higher than their white non-Hispanic peers.

Leticia Frias, cofounder of LBHS, said, “I have a child, a son, who is 22 years old. He is one of the things that motivated me the most to be here.”

She added, “The first thing I learned is how to be a better leader, how to have sympathy and understanding for people in the community.”

LBHS was created to change these statistics mentioned above, and the lives of the Latinos they represent.

While raising awareness about mental illness, staff strive to increase the number of Latinos in Utah who are maintaining recovery from mental illness.

LBHS also strives to empower Latinos in recovery to give back to their community and impact the mental health system in Utah to be more culturally and linguistically responsive.

Teresa Molina, a co-ounder of LBHS, has been in peer recovery since 1989. She became a clinician and researcher as part of her recovery process. She volunteers as an instructor at LBHS.

“When people have the opportunity to contribute, to be looked at as the solution rather than the problem, people will flourish and find solutions,” Molina said.

LBHS began in 2011 by community residents and was later founded in 2013 and given nonprofit status shortly after. It has grown with the support of their strong partners, one of the being the University of Utah. They currently serve over 600 Latinos annually, according to their website.

“Latino behavioral health services is an effort from the community to build its own structure and organization base so people can take turns, creating a body that exists and survives all the waves that people have in their lives,” Molina said.

The staff and all people involved in the program including teachers, therapists, and administrators, have been affected by both mental illness and minority status.

“The solutions are within the people. It’s almost like throwing a rock in the lake, you can’t stop the ripples,” Molina said.

LBHS states on the website, “We provide them with training, new skills, and opportunities to teach or engage in outreach. In this way our programs are sustainable and build capacity into families and communities. Through this process, we seek to increase knowledge about mental illness in the community, reduce stigma, and empower people to create change.”

By partnering with existing agencies, this organization hopes to bring diagnosis, treatment, information, and intervention for substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness to everyone in the community.

If you or someone you know is dealing with mental health issues, you can find contact information by calling the National Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).

 

 

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Hispanic belief system that the family is the heart and focus of life

Story and photo by EMMA JOHNSON

The family is the heart of the Hispanic culture. Children taking care of their parents as their parents took care of them in their childhood is a “circle of life” concept the Latinix communities value. Birth and death are interesting life experiences. Latinx people are viewed as family-centered with divine importance placed on caring for the young and elderly. Learning from family members’ wisdom that will benefit future generations is an honorable life adventure Hispanic families respect.

A 2014 poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Hispanics have a higher likelihood of caring for their elderly relatives and having it be a positive experience. The poll concluded that Hispanic families have reported a greater percentage of their caregiving being less financially stressful.

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, feels the opportunity to take care of his elders enhances his family centered beliefs. “In the Hispanic culture, they will take care of their parents because their parents took care of them.” For him and his family, the statement is as simple as it sounds. Guzman says assisted-living homes are a rarity in his home county of Guatemala. The family is the center. Whatever sacrifices need to be made to ensure fulfillment of the circle of life will be made.

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The Livas family represents the circle of life. Standing from left: Norma, Manny, and Ed. Sam is seated

Latinx communities are loyal to their heritage.  They are proud of who they are and willing to share their rich culture with others. Sam Livas is a Mexican-American who prides himself on his family-oriented lifestyle. Livas’ mother grew up in Cananera Sonora, Mexico, and his father in Tucson, Arizona. His mother migrated to the United States to marry his father. Livas was born in California but said he would not trade his Hispanic upbringing up for the world.

Growing up, Livas said he watched as his mother cared for her elderly parents. “Seeing my mother and her siblings take care of their mother is where I feel or saw the need to take care of my own parents.” The firsthand experience helped him to realize the cultural importance and value of caring for those he loved.

According to a study conducted by the University Of Austin, Texas, despite high levels of need, Hispanics shun nursing homes and remain where they are even with compromised health conditions. It isn’t uncommon for children caretakers to fail meeting the needs of their elderly relatives. Most family members aren’t medical professionals. The looming pressure of where family members with health complications will live daunts and alters cultural customs.

Livas said in an email interview that his Mexican-American values have given him a clearer understanding of why many Americans put their parents into nursing centers. “I don’t fault those that CAN provide better care for their loved ones.” He said he feels assisted and rehabilitation homes should not be a substitute for family, but used as a resource that benefits all. “Don’t forget to call and visit,” Livas added, there is no better emotional love than a family can provide.

Latinx communities rely on family units as human bodies rely on their heart. Family belonging and involvement is the foundation of their lives. Guzman, with the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, “If you have to work three jobs with the intention to provide for your children, you do.”

 

Bring the fire, bring the energy: The Nu Tribe

Story and slideshow by MCKENZIE YCMAT

At the edge of Salt Lake City in a small quiet neighborhood, a grocery store is closing for the night as the rest of the town gets ready for bed. It’s 10:00, the streets are dark and the parking lot is empty, except for a glowing light at the far end of the building. Music is blasting, laughs can be heard from the street, it sounds like a party. This is where the Nu Tribe gets together every Thursday night.

The energy in the Just Dance studio at 8087 W. 3500 South in Magna is contagious. The air is hot, the energy is high, everyone laughs but focuses on the teacher for the day when it’s time to dance. On that late night in early March, the teacher was a sassy but passionate man named Nate with a confident 9-year-old sidekick named Susie. The song of choice was “Oh” by Ciara.

Susie is the DJ and quickly runs back and forth between the plugged in iPhone and the front of the dance floor. The students yell and laugh when the music starts and follow the dance moves Nate taught them earlier in the night, with a mix of their own style.

“It’s the only time and place that we can practice for cheap,” Ofa Vahe said. “But we don’t mind. We’re just happy we get to teach dance.”

Vahe is one of the original founders of the Nu Tribe, alongside other dancers Moana Aiono and Teresa Kuma. The Nu Tribe is a Utah-based dance crew consisting of only Polynesian dancers who travel all over the state to teach others about their heritage. They also provide the younger generation of Polynesians a safe place to dance.

Each week a member of the Nu Tribe teaches a class of about 20 students, usually members of the Polynesian community, for an hour. The dance styles change every week so that the students learn different traditional dance routines.

“Our rule is that no matter what style the teacher brings that week, you have to fully submerge yourself in that style,” Vahe said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s hip hop, ballet, contemporary, or anything else the teacher wants to do that day, you have to do it.”

The Nu Tribe teachers mix up their styles of dance to teach the students about different forms of expressing themselves and getting that sense of love and family that the Polynesian community teaches.

Polynesian dancing started as a way of communication for most of the islands in the Pacific, including Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Hawaii. Traditional Polynesian dancing was used to tell a story and to convey a literal meaning that they carry with them after they leave.

After the first hour, the second teacher steps up to teach her choice of dance for the day. She’s a quiet, petite woman who quietly steps up to the front of the class. But once the music starts she becomes a confident and sexy hip-hop dancer.

“That’s Hannah Gagon,” Vahe said. “Growing up, she was always extremely shy and reserved but once she was introduced to the Nu Tribe, we realized she was this insanely talented dancer. Now she teaches her own classes throughout the week.”

The Nu Tribe brings together those in the Polynesian community and gets them to step outside of their comfort zones and enjoy the art of dance expression. Just like traditional Polynesian dances, they aim to tell a story.

Once everyone has learned the two different dances for the night, the teacher splits the class up by groups and has the students dance together. After that, they separate everyone one by one and eventually, a student will find themselves dancing alone.

This technique allows a student who stepped into the class for the first time, shy and hidden in the back of the room, to suddenly show confidence on their own as other members of the class cheer them on, chant their name, and even record them on their phones to share on social media so they can share the love with others not there.

“After I broke up with my fiancé, I was depressed and needed friends,” said Dook Kelsall, a member of the Nu Tribe. “I found the Nu Tribe through my friend Ofa and now we’re like family. He gave me a safe place to express myself and helped me through that tough time.”

By now, it’s midnight and it’s the end of the second hour. Everyone gathers around in a circle to share positivity and any news they have involving the class or news within the Polynesian community. They hold hands, introduce new people to the class, and say a prayer.

“Thank you for the gift of dance, amen,” says a member of the Nu Tribe giving the prayer after they all bow their heads and close their eyes.

Once the prayer is over, they gather closer together in a type of group hug and share more positive words and love with each other. Vahe proclaims, “Bring the fire, bring the energy!” and the entire group yells “Nu Tribe!” They give hugs and high fives and gather their things. Some even still dance around and laugh. It’s late at night and many of the students have to wake up early the next day for school, but they don’t care. They’re with family and they’re just there to have fun, learn and feel loved.

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