Response: February 2014 Issue

Mahina Movement Comes to Assembly

Mahina Movement Comes to Assembly

The powerhouse trio Mahina Movement will bring a message of justice, peace and women’s empowerment to United Methodist Women’s “Make It Happen!” Assembly in Louisville, Ky., April 25-27. Combining poetry, dance and music, the group takes its audience on a spiritual journey that challenges and offers a different take on the world we all share.

Group member Vaimoana “Moana” Litia Makakaufaki Niumeitolu is a painter born in Nukuialofa, Tonga, and reared in Utah, while singer-songwriter Gabriella Callender grew up in Queens, N.Y. The group’s newest member, songstress-organizer Lah Tere, hails from Chicago’s Humboldt Park, home of the largest Puerto Rican community in the Midwest. They incorporate English, Spanish, Tongan and their indigenous roots into their work, which counters a culture of silence that too often smothers women’s voices and mainstream media’s penchant for ignoring them, group members say.

“Where is there a place for our voices?” Ms. Niumeitolu said, sharing the question she asked herself when the original members of what became Mahinia Movement met on the campus of New York University in that city. “This question was the bridge that cause us to connect with other women who were also seeking a place for their voice.”

Thus was the dawn of the Mahina Movement.

“Mahina comes from the Tongan word moon. In the Pacific, and many other cultures, it is the movement of the moon that is the force of the creation,” explained Ms. Callender, who came to the group from Bluestockings Bookstore, a local shop that specialized in women’s titles. “When Moana, the founding member of Mahina Movement, came to New York, she brought the moon with her in one hand and a dream in the other.”

The dream became reality in 2000, when Mahina Movement’s five original members came together, and Ms. Callender join them just a few months later. Together, through their music and arts, they commenced a journey to answer Ms. Niumeitolu’s question.

“There is a place for our voices, women’s voices, girls’ voices,” Ms. Callender said. “We are the not the voice of the voiceless, we are the ones to inspire the voiceless to speak for themselves! We are a stand that dreams can be fulfilled. We stand for the possibility of a world where women are fully self-expressed, safe and free from violence.”

Group members are lifting the voices of women by keeping theirs in the mix and encouraging other women to speak up too. For Mahina Movement, a successful performance means a new audience is inspired to live their best lives and feel empowered to use their God-given voice. “Dreams. Fulfilled. Now,” Ms. Callender says of the group’s life-coaching work for the spirit.


In one spoken-word piece, Mahina Movement expresses it this way: If I am not who I’ve been told I am,
That means you are not who you think you are either!
So let’s be who we want to be now!”
We want to be the women who move out who move up who move on.
We want to be the men who are gentle and strong!
We want to be the 10-year-old Fijian girl who has no limits.
We want to be the revolution that happens every 15 minutes!...
We want to be the indigenous actress who never has to play the maid or the Asian actor who never has to kung fu fights
We want to be the beautiful dark-skinned sister who never wishes she were light…
We want to be!
Mahina Movement!


The group’s quest to raise and answer questions as well as fulfill dreams is still in progress—and Assembly participants will be sure to travel a part of the road with them.

Quiana Nicole Stokes is a freelance writer living in New York City.

Posted or updated: 1/31/2014 11:00:00 PM
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