"So What?" by Yoshiko Yamaguchi, RMI
Iakwe, a beautiful Marshallese word
Tied into many stories that were told
A beautiful place with tropical seas
Warm white sand and coconut trees
The people are friend with open arms
Welcoming strangers with joyous songs
Shells to decorate your walls and body
Kind Christians who fear the Lord almighty
Once a girl in an isolated place
Living day by day hoping for change
"Change in what? What is so wrong with you?"
"Can't you follow the manit? Can't you e true?"
Live like a Marshallese and smile through it all
Pretend its all perfect; stand proud and tall
So what if you uncle gets drunk everyday?
So what if the community thinks its ok?
So what if as soon as aunty raises her voice
She is ignored by the family and not given a choice
So what if the neighborhood kids go hungry and cry?
So what if there was a fight and someone almost died?
It's none of your business just stay in school
Yoshiko, you'll be fine, just follow the rules
Go to church and pray and pray
Its all God's plan that's what the bible says
Don't do anything that will make you look silly
Just go to college and earn a degree
Learn how to cook, clean and be humble
That's what husbands like, wives who are fragile
The pastor says premarital sex is a sin
Satan is testing, temptations will begin
So what if you're going through a serious relationship?
Ignore it, you cannot afford your parents to flip
Ignore the educational aspect; its not an important toolkit
If you know about SRHR you are encouraging 'it'
Let's hide our seriousness and pretend we're not in love
Let's pretend its something we are not proud of
"you do not talk about sex at home"
"it is against our manit, that is set in stone"
"Why are you so eager to learn?"
"Don't even think about doing it or you will burn!"
But what about the young mothers I see?
"That's what happens when parents let them run around free"
You come straight home after school
Don't lie to me about stuff, I am not a fool
So what if the teen pregnancy rates keep rising each day?
So what if the violence is considered 'fore'play?
So what if the poverty level continues to grow?
So what if the shorelines persist to erode?
So what if the illiteracy rates are still shooting?
So what if the government keeps on corrupting?
So what if a family member stills suffers?
So what if no one else thinks change still matters?
We will always continue to sing and dance
But lets not let the injustice last
Be proud to be a Pacific Islander, kindness is embedded in your roots
But when you influence change I will stand and salute!
About the Authoress: Yoshiko Yamaguchi was born and raise on the island of Majuro, RMI to a Japanese father and Marshallese mother. At the age of 4, she attended Rita Christian School and was fluent in both English and Marshallese by the age of 5. After 8 years in RCS, she was transferred to Assumption High School where she graduated with top honors 4 years later. During her senior year, she fell pregnant and with the support of her family and partner, she gave birth and moved to Hawaii with her little family to further her education. In 2012, she graduated with a bachelor of arts from the University of Hawaii at Hilo and returned home with her husband and two children, where she worked for WUTMI and then transitioned to UNDP/GEF SGP. She continues to advocate for many issues such as SRHR, Domestic Violence and Human Rights within the community, nationally and regionally as well.