Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

May 20, 2014

No Longer Invisible: Va’eomatoka Kenneth Liueli Valu

This personal submission is a part of the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project, a story series established to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at the UW.

Va’eomatoka Kenneth Liueli Valu

Name: Va’eomatoka Kenneth Liueli Valu

Staff: Outreach & Recruitment Counselor, Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

Identity: Pacific Islander, Polynesian, Tongan American

“My language permeates multiple levels of what makes Tongan culture unique and I am grateful to have access to that wealth through the privilege of speaking Tongan fluently.  The history of the kingdom of Tonga is rich in oral traditions, legends, and customs.  I hope to share all that I have learned from my mother, my grandmother, and all of the others who helped me retain this knowledge with my future children and Tongan youth.”

“I am a first generation Tongan immigrant. My mother and I came to the United States when I was 14 years old, leaving behind life on the islands of the Kingdom of Tonga with a total population of about 110,000 people. It was during this time, I had my first exposure to the strong possibility of a life without higher education. It was only with the help of amazing mentors and constant motivation from my strongest source of support, my mother, that I was able to broaden what I perceived to be my options.”

“The existence of a singular and narrowly defined narrative about AAPI communities is the reason being visible is so important. The model minority myth, while widely viewed to benefit the perception of a people, often masks the larger disparities that exist within the AAPI label, particularly when discerning the needs of Native Hawai’ians & Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asian communities. The best way to start is with the disaggregation of AAPI data to highlight the unique needs of these smaller communities.”

“I would like to see more AAPI communities’ histories and cultures, particularly the less visible, represented in K-12 and the college curriculum. Additionally, more legislation for equitable health, education, and civil justice bills that support local and statewide grassroots efforts to advance our AA&NHPI communities.”

Located in Oceania, Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, directly south of Western Samoa and about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. Its 176 islands, 36 of them inhabited, are divided into three main groups, Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Tongatapu. -Wikipedia

View mores stories from the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project.