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Polynesian Panthers mark 35 years

Published: 8:54PM Saturday June 17, 2006 Source: One News

A book has just been launched to mark the 35th anniversary of the Polynesian Panther movement.
It might sound like a bikie gang, but the Panthers were actually social activists, out to fight inequality in New Zealand. And they say the fight is not yet over.

Ponsonby in the early 1970s was the heart of Polynesian Auckland and it was the birthplace of the movement that would change the lives of Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand.

"We still hold on fast to those ideals we had as 17- and 19-year-olds and that was to be proud of being Pacific, don't stand for any crap from the establishment and to expose any kind of racism," Polynesian Panther Melani Anae says.

The Polynesian Panthers drew inspiration from the African American Black Panthers, standing for awareness and equality.

They introduced homework centres and food banks, marched against Apartheid and fought for legal and social rights during the dawn raids.

Thirty-five years on a book has been written to celebrate the group, but former Panthers concede there is still a battle to win.

"We still haven't got it right, we're still filling the hospitals and we're still failing educationally," Anae says.

But today's young Polynesians credit the Panthers with forging a path that has enabled them to break through.

Hip hop artist Scribe's father was a Panther.

"It very well couldn't have been possible if it wasn't for a movement like that, for my Dad, I might not be able to be living the dreams I'm living today," Scribe says.

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