Provo • Utah’s strong and well-established communities of Tongans, Samoans and others of Pacific Island descent are not immune from the horrors of domestic abuse and violence, BYU football coach Kalani Sitake said Friday.
That’s why Sitake, the first college football coach of Tongan descent in the country, and his father, Tom Sitake, have agreed to speak at the third annual KAVA Talks Dinner and Silent Auction from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.
“My dad is actually the keynote speaker,” Kalani Sitake said. “He asked me to be a part of it with him, and the cause is a good one, so I agreed. This should be far more about him and the job he’s done as a parent than about me.”
Kava is a nonalcoholic beverage made from the root of the kava plant and popular in the Pacific Islands, but in this case the acronym KAVA stands for Kommitment Against Violence Altogether. KAVA Talks is a group co-founded and directed by Utahn Simi Poteki as a way to stand against and prevent domestic violence and abuse in the Polynesian community.
“I think domestic violence and abuse is a problem everywhere,” Kalani Sitake said. “Even if it is one incident, it is a problem. The only way to combat the problem is to address it and bring it out and call people into action. That’s what we hope to do here.”
Sitake said he will talk about overcoming obstacles in life, using his father as an example as well as his own struggles.
“I don’t have an agenda other than to just make sure I try to make the world a better place in whatever role I have,” he said. “I just try to do my best.”
Approximately 40,000 Pacific Islanders live in Utah, which also is home to the largest Tongan and fourth-largest Samoan community in the United States.
“It is time for domestic violence to stop in our community, and we men are doing most of the abusing,” Poteki said in a news release. “Violence is not part of Pacific Island culture, [but] somewhere along [the way] we have allowed others to define our traditions as violent.”
KAVA Talks is a program directed by Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR). The group’s mission is to “build a strength-based ecosystem of programs and events that eliminates violence, empowers, gives dignity and hope, improves health by increasing personal and financial growth into ethnic and underserved households that promotes and perpetuates all Pacific Island cultures creating alliances and bridging across all communities for resources, education, opportunities and support,” according to its website.
More than 100 women have attended KAVA Talks’ weekly women’s empowerment workshops, and at least 50 men have attended at least one men’s group for violence prevention, intervention, healing, education, resources and opportunities.
The KAVA Talks event is held annually to raise funds for the aforementioned groups. A new empowerment group will start in Provo in April.
To register and purchase tickets to the event, go to kavatalks2018.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $25 per couple, $15 per person and $10 for students.