People all over the world have taken to social networking sites to express outrage over the U.S. military’s plans to house a live-fire training location in the Mariana Islands.
According to a proposal by the U.S. military, the location would be on the island of Pagan, which has been uninhabited since 1981 after a volcanic eruption. Activities in the testing facility would include the use of a wide range of weaponry and bombs, which according to protestors would endanger the integrity of the island.
Residents of the Mariana archipelago have posted on sites like Facebook and Twitter in protest and a campaign has been launched in response to the news; it is called “Our Islands Are Sacred.”
Local activist and artist Dåko’ta Alcantara-Camacho, who goes by dåko’ta as an artist, learned of the campaign and became involved; many of his family members and friends are campaign organizers back on the island. A hip-hop artist, he explained that “pretty much all of the music I make is about the Marianas, [and] is about my relationship to the Marianas, so it’s really easy to do a performance that is grounded in the ‘Our Islands Are Sacred’ campaign.”
dåko’ta works with the arts collective Arkiology Edutainment, which does performances and workshops in the Seattle community to bring attention to the movement.
An ‘Our Islands Are Sacred’ Facebook page was made on October 25 and currently has 1,378 “likes.” It states in its description: “The Our Islands Are Sacred campaign aims to empower all the people of the Mariana Islands and the world to come together to learn more about our islands, and to prevent the exploitation of our sacred paradise.”
Supporters of the movement have been signing petitions online on sites like change.org as well as taking photos of people holding homemade signs and posting them on the campaign’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as other networking sites like Instagram and Tumblr.
Jaynina Prince said she became inspired by the Our Islands Are Sacred campaign after learning about it on Facebook, and submitted a picture of her young son holding a sign that her daughter helped create.
“For me [the campaign] kind of woke me up,” said Prince, who explained she was passionate about militarism and studied its effects while in graduate school at the University of Washington, but found less and less time to focus on the topic after “life hit me; I had a baby, started working and [after hearing about the campaign this year, thought] where did those last three years go?”
From her photo and a poem she also posted, Prince and dåko’ta connected and are currently working together along with other community members to shed light on the movement locally, which the artist has already been doing around the United States.
“In the last three months I’ve been on tour … in the Midwest [visiting cities like] Detroit, Milwaukee, Madison, [and] Chicago,” he said. “I did workshops and performances there, raising awareness about the campaign and getting people to sign the petitions online, submit comments to the [U.S. Department of Defense] and pass the word [along].”
Prince said it felt good to be connected to something so important and that she hopes other people become aware and involved.
“It’s good to have a balance of people from all different backgrounds who can bring their unique talents to this [campaign] and help contribute in whatever way they can,” she said, adding: “I know because we are not right there [on the island], it’s easy to forget what’s going on, but you have to maintain that connection and it’s our home so we have to be the ones who fight for it.”
For more information to support the Our Islands Are Sacred Campaign, visit www.facebook.com/ourislandsaresacred or Twitter (@OIASMarianas).
Margery Cercado is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.