We are in what looks to be the last few weeks of a protracted ‘Indian Summer’ in the Bay. It’s been very dry. We’ve had a few ‘close to frost’ mornings which killed the tomatoes and put a pucker in the skins of the last valiant and not quite ripe grapes that run along the roof of the lean to. But in the main it’s been mild and I’m hoping for it to stay this way at least for another week so we can stage one last gig at Otatara – it’s on Mothers’ Day – we’ve called it ‘Mumday’ as part of the Joe Walsh series designed to help us gird our loins against methamphetamine.
Over Easter, the Hawke’s Bay Black Power held its 35th Anniversary at Moteo. The event followed a now familiar formula, more ‘hui-like’ than gang ‘run’ or ‘convention’. I can remember our aspirations for this cultural format back at the early marae based gatherings in 1977 at Taiwhakaia, and at Waiohiki in 1978. Nowadays many of the chapter speakers play the same role on the papepae at their own marae, and many of the leaders play significant and influential roles in tribal organisations. These are also family events, chapters now on one hand being intergenerational within, and linked by whakapapa, one chapter with another, on the other. So in these times at such events the young women provide waiata ringa, action songs, for the welcome, and the young warriors hone their haka and select their best for the wero, the challenge, wherein the unexpected can happen if it is taken too lightly.
I’m just reflecting on a conversation I was privy to on the eve of the Hawke’s Bay event. Kath Hawaikirangi was checking with Munz about the sequence of the powhiri. Kath is highly qualified both in mainstream academic terms and in the sphere of matauranga Maori, Maori knowledge. The Hawaikirangi whanau, led by the kaumtaua Te Repia (‘Labour’), are the font of culture for our home hapu of Ngati Paarau. In any case was seeking clarity on the process of the welcome. Kath’s daughter Sharla was to be the kaia for the culture group. “I just want to make sure she’s safe” said Kath. Munz assured her that everything would be alright, she was amongst whanau, there’s no hassle at these events, plenty of security, Maori Wardens are present, and in any case the local guys would look after her like the sister she is. “No” said Kath,” I don’t mean physically safe – of course she’ll be alright, no worries there – I mean culturally safe”. These things aren’t for show. And so it went, ‘uncle Whetu’ (Whetu Tipiwai) taking the role of kaumatua, myself and Munz as support speakers for the home side, and presidents and other chapter leaders responding on behalf of the manuhiri, and representing the motu at large.
The first night featured an innovation. Three chapters had prepared performances of action songs and kapa haka. It was fantastic. The guys from Frasertown had written their own haka – fearsome, with words I shall not repeat. Damn, if you want confrontational theatre then kapa haka is the artform for it. On the Saturday night there was a formal period where leaders and representatives from around the country paid tribute to the host chapter. I had been given the role of MC. As we spoke it was against a backdrop of digital images from the Chapter’s past. I kicked the show off with a few recollections of my own. About how a determined roopu of young warrior leaders formed a chapter of the Black Power in Kahungunu, in what was up till then the motherland of the Mongrel Mob, how that Hawke’s Bay Black Power Chapter developed and grew, and became to be known nationally for uncompromising courage, loyalty to the brotherhood of Mana Mangu Mangu Kaha, their celebrations of whanaungatanga, and their move to whanau ora from within. There have been a number of captains over time, starting with Tipu Tareha, followed by Chiefy Hungahunga, Tim Ngapera, Richard Turere, and, currently, Mane Adams.
The celebrations commemorated events that start in 1975, I was able to take the gathering back to a sort of pre-history, the summer of 1974 – December 14th in fact – when four patched members of the Wellington Black Power, Phil and Horace Mahauriki (elder brothers to Bungy and Bumper), Danny Makamaka, and I, stopped in at Waiohiki – oh yes there was one other, a little thirteen year old – Stephen James Mc Murtrie – in those days we called him Shorty – although I understand these days he prefers to be called “big Mac”. We were part of a travelling band called Storm – one of the other musicians was a guy called Ross France – another Pakeha brother who still stands beside us today, practicing as a lawyer in Auckland. We stayed at Waiohiki, sleeping in Te Huinga for two nights, and in that time built up friendships and relationships that stay true today. This was where and when I hooked up with Taape and, I swear, her tupuna Tareha stretched his arm out from the urupa, grabbed me by the back of the neck and said “hey white boy – if you are going to sleep with my mokopuna then I determine you shall work your arse off for her and her whanau until the end of your days” and that’s pretty much been the way it’s been ever since.
Anyway, early in 1975 Tipu and his mates and whanau came down to Welly and met Harris and a little later in the year when Wellington hosted what has become known as the first convention of the Black Power, (at a wet and windy Makaara) Harris patched Tipu up and the Hawke’s Bay Chapter was born. In those days the Bay was a sea of red, from Wairoa to the Manawatu Gorge, except for this one beautiful patch of blue at Waiohiki. The blue house – The Tareha homestead – and the walnut tree provided the focal point and the Mob would hit regardless of why or whatever. The bros were completely outnumbered but what they lacked in numbers they more than compensated for in balls, and their ability to scrap. The Grey brothers, Sam, Stu and the legendary Charlie; the Crawfords, PC, Gary, Yap, and Pig. Just about every local had a whanau member as part of the bros. And, for the locals, if Tipu was the rangatira, it didn’t matter if you were patched or not, when the Mob hit the whole kainga rallied and defended. I might say it wasn’t just the men. There was a waahine toa group as well, and hell, on a dark night some of them may have been scarier to run into than the some of the blokes. In 1978 Waiohiki hosted the second only convention held on a marae – it was a huge event and it attracted national media attention. This was the event at which Abe Wharewaka and the Sindis joined the Blacks. It was also the event at which Knockers blatted a cop at Bayview and created a running battle along the Napier Taupo Road with a newly formed riot squad. It was also possibly the first time helicopters had been used to track Police suspects.
At that Convention Tipu formed a close relationship with Abe. At that time the numbers of Blacks in Auckland were pretty low, and the Sindis were under attack from the Headhunters who had big numbers and guns. It was the Bay who backed up, as they have done elsewhere ever since. Just like the cavalry, when the Bay arrives you know the odds have changed in your favour. In like turn, the rest of the motu also backed up the Bay in their hours of need. The 1970’s gave way to the 80’s and times got tough. The Works closed, unemployment rose, and the brothers developed survival tactics. Rugby League became strong and the Hawke’s Bay bros formed the backbone to the longest ever championship holding team ever in HB Rugby League history, the mighty Taradale Eagles. They won off the field too, Led in battle by the likes of Richard, Timmy Dixon and Munz they earned the grudging respect of other roopu, the 61’s, the bikers, and the Mob in their many clusters. Times change. Brother and sisters come and go, they make their commitments and give of their best, and then the circumstances change and new decisions and other commitments and affiliations follow. It is the stuff of simply being human. So, even though they may no longer be with us, we bring them to mind and salute their contributions. It has always been a tradition of the Black Power that whanau comes first, and long may it stay that way. In the 1990’s the brothers nationally went on the search for a unifying set of colours, the idea of one patch one structure. It didn’t seem to work and although that same commitment to back each other up come what may stays the same we don’t seem inclined as a group to go for national hierarchies. The trend has been to return to a more local flavor, a hapu based network with its feet firmly placed on the whenua, mana whenua, and its heart located within the practice of whakawhanaungatanga, and the achievement of whanau ora. As far as I can see this latter shift has been the movement of the Hawke’s Bay Black Power in recent years and I’m all for it.
My korero was followed by others; Whenu (Sarge) Mc Kinnon, Bert and Skunk from the Auckland brothers, Skip, notionally Waiwhetu, Ngapari representing Maunga Taranaki, Nana Boy from Tuwharetoa, Eugene speaking for Poneke. And then the former leaders spoke ending up with the current captain, Munz. The bro’s oratorical skills have increased immeasurably. The waananga in whaikorero held by uncle Whetu and the presentation training through CAYAD have all borne fruit and the bloke can hold a crowd.
But it’s not just the form of his talk but the substance in it, the content, what he has to say. I told Munz the following week that I thought he gave the best cautionary speech about methamphetamine that I had heard. It’s a difficult message to be charged with delivering when your audience contains people who are regular users and who might well take deep offence if they thought they were being dumped on, ridiculed, or criticised. Munz couched it somewhat like this. Whatever your views on methamphetamine are, and whatever your habits around it are, you are still my brother. However, in this chapter we have set a rule that we will not use it. This is because it seems to split us, cause arguments and hatred, and the resulting mental health problems of use are obvious. So please don’t bring it amongst us, and if you must use it, use it privately. Whatever, you are still my brother.
I found that profound, and I congratulate him for his leadership in this, a stance which is not always popular but is evidentially required. A week or so later one of the mums from another local chapter spoke to me about her concerns that a number of the young Blacks in chapters other than Hawke’s Bay were getting into use. Her son was one. She knew stuff all about methamphetamine and its effects. I was a bit surprised that anyone was unaware until I realised the anti-meth campaign is now around seven years old, and we face a new generation of actual and potential users. I’m going to work up a presentation directed at our Black Power families, just setting out the facts as I’ve come to know them, and putting forward the reasons why using methamphetamine is a counter-productive behavior for a member of the Black Power.
The Blacks’ national haka, ‘Rongo Toa’, sets out one reason, because in its opening lines it intimates that we are warriors who listen to the teachings of those who go before us. it’s obvious that we haven’t been promoting the lesson given to us by Hone Day, our late and much loved bro who’s death in 2003 catalysed the campaign documented in these columns. We’ve come to conclude that whanau ora and meth use are mutually exclusive. You can’t achieve whanau ora if you are involved with meth. You will note that I am going wider than just using it: I am saying even being involved with manufacture and distribution is incompatible with whanau good health and achievement. Somehow or other it seems to bring a whole pile of crap with it at any point of the chain of distribution and use. This is not some moral judgment from on high, just pragmatic feedback from a brother and former user. The challenge, whilst firm is given gently and in a spirit of love. If a bother is lost to prison, a mental institution or a graveyard the sense of grief is just the same, and these destinations are the likely eventuality of prolonged use of this substance. So, we will renew the campaign within.
In the meantime the broader drive to a methamphetamine free Hawke’s Bay continues to grow legs. Munz, Kevin Tamati , Kate O’Brien and I gave a presentation to Mike Williams and the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Stellar Trust on the first stage of the campaign we want to run across Hawke’s Bay based on the idea of providing help to those who want to beat their meth addiction. I’m trying to line up an action reflection approach and am building a coalition to help us define the “what” we need to do (and establish measures) and the best practice “how” to go about it. Watch this space.
Helen Mason (NZME) turned 95 last Friday. This grande dame of New Zealand potters continues to provide our arts village with the cogent wisdom of age – “isn’t it wonderful!” of the good and “oh we’ll get over it” of the not so good. Each day she takes her zimmer frame for a walk, pausing here and there to contemplate a flower or admire a new piece of art work placed around the Village Green. On Tuesdays she hooks up with some of the younger potters, women barely into their 70’s, and they chat away about recently fired work, glazes, and throwing technique. Ida invariably tells a story about her father, or a teacher, or some other authority figure now proven wrong by the life experience of the raconteur. When Helen gets tired of the chat she reaches for her frame and wriggles it around in front of her chair. The others rise to assist her and she says “No thank you, I need to keep my legs strong” and with Amazonian effort she slowly pulls herself up, steadies, and bids the gathered community farewell. Helen Mason is a living testimony to some of the more endearing aspects of the Kiwi psyche, our traits of creativity mixed with a degree of rebelliousness against the machine: she studied Japanese pottery in the 1950’s when anti-Japanese sentiment was still high; she mixed with artists and poets and gave voice to the spiritual and cultural needs of trapped women, imprisoned in Godzone’s neurotic suburbia and copped criticism for it. She knew Toss Woolston well, and the young Ralph Hotere and less young Hone Tuwhare. Hemi, James K Baxter became a good friend. She heard Syd Jackson speak at the Teachers College in Karori and this encouraged her to embrace the developing Maori renaissance, inspiring her to move to Tokomaru Bay where she livied in the old harbor master’s brick villa at Waima. Helen struck up a deep friendship with Ngoi Pewhairangi and they pioneered the little Tauira Crafts shop at Tokomaru Bay. Wherever Helen was became a centre for creative activity – the talented but tortured Theo Schoon moved in to her house and studios and wouldn’t move out. Potter Bay Riddell shifted in across the road and set up shop after he left the Otatara ‘stables’. Later Helen moved to Porongahau, making generous contributions of time, effort, and capital to that community. As age crept up on her the family decided that she should shift to Waipukurau where her son Tim practices as a doctor. The old lady complied for a while, but reckoned the lack of creative stimulation was killing her. On visiting the Waiohiki Creative Arts Village she declared that this was where she wanted to live. It took us a year to convert the front cottage into a home that was aged friendly. We named it “Helen Mason House” and she moved it to make it so. Long may our beloved older sister, living treasure of the nation, live with us to lighten up our hearts and minds. Happy Birthday Helen.
On birthdays, let me also note the huri tau (50th) of Martin Cooper. This son of Ngati Aamaru and committed supporter of the kaupapa Kingitanga, is also a member of the Black Power. Some might feel uneasy about linking the King Movement to Black Power but they are both movements, both have reference to notions drawn from the northern hemisphere, and both have incurred the wrath of the State, and have been demonised and criminalised.
I’d concede immediately that whilst I can recite similarities the differences are more profound. The Kingitanga has its feet firmly planted in the ancestral soils of Aotearoa whilst ‘gang’ continues to be a creature of the ether, the stuff of news stories, the imagination of the alienated young, and the self-serving Police beat ups about the international criminal conspiracy.
It is true that the Black Power have members, and hold staunch commitments each to the other, but the Black Power is more of an idea than an organisation – although the people who hold this idea are real enough, have whakapapa, and most hold jobs and pay taxes. In New Zealand the Black Power is 40 years old. Martin would have been ten or so when he first encountered this idea, voiced by the alienated young, the alienated brown young.
For sure in Aotearoa the Black Power, comprised mainly of freshly urbanised Maori youth, took on a North American guise, just as with the so-called ‘youth gangs’ of today, fuelled by media and music. Many reveled in being outsiders, rejecting a mainstream society that seemed to be determined to crush and suppress the free spirited aspirations of indigenous youth. But beneath the cosmetic styles and insignia were Maori hearts beating, young people full of potential and carrying the genes of their ancestors.
Meanwhile, as the State continued to label these youth and use public fear and apprehension to justify increasingly harsh laws, and build a criminal justice system that benefits no one but the oppressors, the young Martin Cooper was on his journey with the Black Power.
Like many other young Maori coping with adolescence Martin could be a handful. He was ‘whangaied out’ and moved around many families. He eventually found non-conditional acceptance amongst one, the family of the Black Power. It wasn’t all beer and skittles. There were tough and dangerous times. He encountered the criminal justice system.
But as he matured his leadership qualities became increasingly apparent. If the popular idea of what being a gang member meant had previously influenced him, he began to influence this thing called gang back, responding to that inner voice that told him that he was Maori, and redefining the loose idea of Black Power into something that had meaning in Aoteraoa, something that drew its values and beliefs from the teachings of the ancestors
Influenced by leaders like Martin aimless and often destructive ‘gang runs’ were replaced by marae-held hui. There were leadership waananga where the participants foreswore alcohol and drugs. Martin was instrumental in the Black Power taking a firm line against the then all too common practice of gang rape – it took courageous leadership.
The Blacks are going through a period of change. There is a desire for shift, a desire to transform, a desire for whanau ora. Gang is just a label, but it is a particularly destructive and disempowering one when applied in Aotearoa.
It’s entirely consistent too that Martin has been a driving force in the movement to sell prohibit the manufacture, distribution and use of methamphetamine. This is in fulfillment of a commitment, a promise made at the graveside of brother Hone Day. It is a stance taken with love for the user, “I’m on your side, I’m still your brother, but this stuff will prove to be poisonous.
When you are ready, I’m here to help you get off it, but, in the meantime, brother, please, keep it away from me and our people”. Martin’s involvement with Waka Huia brought the discipline of kapa haka in amongst the Black Power brothers. He worked at it, promoting waananga all around the motu. And he worked. He demonstrated the value of hard slog and earning a legitimate income. In time as he entered into Government employment he helped others. This employment within the belly of the beast perhaps raised his consciousness as to where the real decisions were made and how if you really want to influence the wealth and health of your people you need to be a policy maker rather than a taker.
He’s undertaken and been successful with tertiary study, modeling the value of education to our rangatahi and reminding us all that pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong obligation.
In recent years we have seen Martin’s commitment to iwi development expressed in his efforts for the Maori Party. The gang lifestyle has been described as being driven by misapplied intellects and exhibiting self defeating behaviours.
Again, Martin has demonstrated another route for young Maori warriors, another set of possibilities through his evident and demonstrated capacity to successfully politically organise and campaign.
When you look at Martin’s life trajectory, it is logical that Martin has ended up in politics, and as part of a Maori political machine. This is real Black Power, and Martin Cooper is an exceptional Black Power Leader. Happy Birthday to you also, brother.
In the week leading up to ANZAC Day we held the 20th annual Walk for Unity and on the day itself the Unity Dinner. It is all part of Unity Week, organised by the Pilot City Trust. and is the brainchild of my living conscience of Pakeha obligation, Pat Magill. The week features the annual Robson Address, which follows the theme of rehabilitative and restorative approaches to dealing with offending. This year the address was given by lawyer Moana Jackson. Another feature of the week is the Pilot City Awards, a formal acknowledgement of the contribution made by the unsung heroes and heroines of Napier and its surrounding communities. This year we saluted: Monica Stokedale who has a background in drug interventions based on Maori models. Monica is the manager of the Awhina Whanau Service in Hastings; Genesis Keefe a Mongrel Mob mum in Maraenui who is ceaseless in her efforts to uplift the young people of that suburb; Te Rangi Huata a wonderful creative genius at event management who seems to have almost single handedly brought Mataariki celebrations into fashion, and who is at the heart of the local “Festival of Lights” and is the event manager for Ngati Kahungunu; Mihi Rigby a long time worker in the field of mental health support currently working for Te Kupenga Hauora; Haami Hilton, a former serviceman (Royal NZ Navy) who plays a role as kaumatua across a number of organisations and schools including William Colenso College and Ngati Kahungunu Board; Edina Hilton, Haami’s partner who supports him personally and culturally in his many roles and engagements; and Toro Brown, a support teacher at Richmond School, sports coach and mentor, who has opened his home to many otherwise lost and lonely young people – including the young cricketing aspirant Jesse Ryder who lived with Toro and whanau for four and a half years. These then are our local unsung heroes for 2010. Kia kaha koutou! Another aspect to Unity Week is the annual Unity Dinner. The Pilot City Trust’s aims for the event are simple and clear.
“To honour the dead who died in wars, to meet together as a community to promote, peace, goodwill and companionship between all people.”
We set out to meet these objectives by sharing each other’s company, eating together, sharing stories, reading poems, and singing each other songs. We respect the past, celebrate the present and work towards a better for future. That old adage that peace is more than the absence of war is at front of mind. Our kaumatua Heitia Hiha (a Maori All Black who played against the Boks in that shameful game the Maori were told to throw – apologise you NZRFU rednecks!) set the tone of the evening in his welcoming address. We had the Deputy Head of Russian Diplomatic Mission, Counsellor Andrey Korniukhin and Lt Andy Dowling from the Royal Navy as our guests of honour and a virtual rainbow of races from around the globe, French, Irish, German, Greek and a big crew from Vanuatu – who sang to us after kai. With a sweet performance from the Hukarere College girls and lively music from an Irish group called Jiggery Pokery we were well blessed, and we had further offerings in the form of speeches and song from visitors and locals alike. It is a unique event and I love being part of it.
Whilst I’m at it, let me tell you about a little project through the Pilot City Trust that has borne fruit. About five or so years ago a number of Maori kids were suspended from a local High School. As I probed into it there seemed to be a clear pattern that once the ‘bums on seats’ count had been done by Ministry of Education and funding allocated the difficult to deal with kids got short shrift. In fact the reality is that the assessed 60,000 or so ‘missing’ children in the education system nationally are actually being funded at some school or other although they may not be receiving the benefits. With support from the School Trustees Association and others we ran a series of seminars on restorative justice at schools, and brought in speakers from schools that had successfully implemented alternatives to suspensions and exclusions. Without fail all of these schools had not only solved truancy and suspension problems but had increased the involvement of parents and had improved the achievement rates of the pupils overall. Two of the Pilot City Trust team, Roger Mc Neil and Kerry Kitione, took on the task of interviewing truancy officers, Police youth aid, school principals and teachers and counselors to probe deeper into the issue. They figured that rather than focusing on the problems they’d look for schools that were making a go of this approach. That led them to four Hawke’s Bay Schools, Flaxmere Primary, Camberley Primary, St John’s College, and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Ara Hou. Over two years Roger and Kerry sat down with pupils and teachers and listened to what they had to say.
The result is an uplifting document, a book entitled “Listening to Voices in Four Hawke’s Bay Schools – Transformative Values in Cultural Context”. I commend it to you. Buy one for your local school and help the nation. Copies can be purchased through Sharing the Caring Press PO Box 264, Hastings or through www.sharingthecaring.org.nz
I’m having good fun with the politics of the moment noting the significant gains that the Maori Party are making with the Government endorsing the UN’s “Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ , the raising of the tariff on tobacco, and the appointment of Tariana as Minister for Whanau Ora. The media whipped themselves into lather over trying to decipher what Whanau ora means and how you’d know if you had it. I’ll spend a bit of time on this in my next blog. In the meantime I see that the Police have raided the Dunedin Mongrel Mob and seized ‘tainted’ property under the new laws pertaining to organised criminal groups and their unexplained income. When I see raids on palatial homes on Paritai Drive and other similar addresses of those involved in finance sector rip-offs I’ll acknowledge a fairer hand being played than at present. I’m excited . There’s lots on, and much more to tell, but apparently these blogs become a bit too much for people to handle in one burst so I’ll leave it for the moment. Keep up the good fight. Aroha will always win the day because good is stronger than evil. And hey, don’t forget Mumday! Mum ‘s the word! Arohanui. D