Weeklong Samoan celebration unites community

OCEANSIDE — The weeklong Samoan Cultural Celebration that began July 5 brought the community together through sports, worship, entertainment and food.
“Fellowship with other Samoans gives identity, a sense of belonging, a purpose,” said Grant Muagututia, a volleyball player and master’s degree candidate at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
“Culture is an advantage,” he said. “Keep your faith and value yourself as an individual.”
The city, the Oceanside Samoan Cultural Committee, Wheel of Golden Spokes community group and the Council of Samoan Ministries were among the groups that organized the festival.
“Pacific Island culture is family,” Kathy Muagututia, of Oceanside, said. “I tell my brothers. They tell their friends.”
Performers and Samoan church groups from California, Nevada and New Mexico participated throughout the week.
David Toloumu, former NFL player for the Atlanta Falcons, organized the week of sporting events at the festival. Many of the sports activities were geared for youth.
Cup stacking was a favorite with young children.
High school students played recreational basketball games, and volleyball tournaments drew top college players who created teams for the festival.
“We’re leading by example,” Garrett Muagututia, a volleyball player and sociology major at UCLA, said. “You can use your talent to get a good education.”
“It (the Samoan Cultural Celebration) shows people a positive side of the community, what good young people we have,” Wayne Godinet, event organizer and Save Our Streets community support group volunteer, said.
Many of the tournament playoff games were held at the Melba Bishop Center in the Oceanside back-gate community, which has endured gang activity and fatal shootings. Save Our Streets, organized in 2007 in response to the violence, had a strong presence at the festival.
“We’re looking for solutions and moving forward,” Godinet said.
Worship was an important component in the festival. An opening prayer service was held July 5 at the Melba Bishop Center and Samoan church groups performed July 11 at the Pier Amphitheater.
“It’s an opportunity to change, spread gossip and turn around from gangs and alcohol,” Samoan Pastor Mageo said.
“There will always be a percentage involved in gangs,” Godinet said. “We (community support groups) can offer a resource, a job, a mentor, and make a connection with them.”

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