50 years later, Polynesian panthers tell their story in their own words
“Long before we risked our freedom as Polynesian panthers, we were just Polynesians. It was time to be heard. It was time to mobilize. It was time to fight. “
Stuff released today
Once a panther, a podcast series about the group of New Zealand-born Pacific Islanders who stood up to institutionalized racism and helped change the course of Aotearoa history.
The six-part series marks the 50th anniversary of the Polynesian Panthers, a movement born in response to the systemic racism experienced by Pasifika in the 1970s.
Writers and producers Brad Flahive and Alex Liu have spent the past six months creating rich, emotionally charged audio documentaries that provide an in-depth look at how this group of young activists started a local revolution.
“The intimacy of a podcast allows Panthers stories to contextualize issues that have plagued the Pasifika community in Aotearoa since the 1950s – and continue to have ramifications today,” says Flahive.
“No journalist voices are included in the series. This is their story, in their own words.”
The podcast features members of the Polynesian Panthers Will ‘Ilolahia, Melani Anae, Alec Toleafoa, Wayne Toleafoa and Tigilau Ness, alongside other influential people of the time like Jean Minto, Trevor Richards, Roger fowler and Joris De Bres.
“Examining the themes of identity, activism, racial division and sacrifice provides powerful commentary on events such as the Dawn Raids, Bastion Point, the 1981 Springbok Tour and, in fact, race relations in New Zealand today, ”says Liu.
“Our history is relatively recent, but many New Zealanders still do not know the stories of the people who now contribute to the rich tapestry of Aotearoa.”
Once a panther was produced with funding from NZ On Air and is available at stuff.co.nz/onceapanther. The first five episodes were released today, with the sixth being released on Friday, June 25.
Once a panther episode preview
Identity | Polynesian immigration and life in Ponsonby and Gray Lynn in the 60s and 70s.
To defend oneself | Organized opposition to a government intending to marginalize Polynesians with policies such as the Police Task Force and Dawn Raids.
Family | Elders disagree that vocal opposition is the right course until Bastion Point reveals Indigenous land grievances.
Division | The need to intensify opposition sparked a battle between a bitterly divided country on the 1981 Springbok tour.
Sacrifice | Trial, prison, exile. Post-traumatic stress disorder is taking its toll despite the international recognition of leaders such as Nelson Mandela.
Always a panther | How race relations in New Zealand today reflect 50 years ago, and how young people can be heard.
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