The Polynesian Panthers are 50 years old today.
Founded on June 16, 1971, the Polynesian Panther Party is celebrating 50 years of activism, advocacy for the fair and equal treatment of indigenous minorities and protecting the Pasifika peoples of New Zealand.
A three-day celebration is set to kick off on Friday at central Auckland's Fale Pasifika.
It will include a panel discussion with Polynesian Panthers and members of the US Black Panther Party which inspired the PPP's establishment.
The organisations have maintained a bond since the 1970s when both were undergoing racial targeting and state-sponsored attacks which in New Zealand are being recognised as the dawn raids.
The event will also include an art exhibition and an appearance of members of the 1970s Māori activist group Ngā Tamatoa which led the te reo Māori petition in 1972 – amid the dawn raids – in the hope it would become a recognised language of New Zealand.
Although once labelled a gang, the Panthers were community activists, running food co-ops and homework centres.
They were advocates for tenants and pushed for the teaching of Pacific languages.
Popularly known for their political activism during the raids, this was only one element of who they were.
The Panthers worked effortlessly to combat the oppression of Pasifika and continue to do so today.
Remaining members of the PPP include Dr Melani Anae, Rev Alec Toleafoa, Tigilau Ness, Norman Tuiasau and Pauline Smith, all of whom have toured various high schools to "educate to liberate".
While the dawn raids are yet to be implemented into the education curriculum, the Panthers have taken it on themselves to share their truths and lived experiences, which they say are only a fraction of stories yet to be told.
A mural in Auckland's central suburb Ponsonby marks the relationship between Black Panthers and Polynesian Panthers. It also remembers the late activist Miriama Rauhihi-Ness who died earlier this year from cancer.
The mural was created last year ahead of the 50th anniversary and in solidarity with the global Black Lives Matter movement.
A TV series is set to air this year in honour of the Polynesian Panthers and recognising the racial injustices of the 1970s.
Today's anniversary marks a significant milestone, with a formal apology for the dawn raids to be made by the Prime Minister on June 26 in the Auckland Town Hall.
The Dawn Raids
As today's Pasifika generation reflects on the dawn raids, inter-generational trauma is often the topic of discussion: the stigma faced by Pacific Islanders has sewn itself into the fabric of their identity.
Pacific Islanders were invited to New Zealand in the early 1970s to assist with the labour shortage and the nation's economic welfare. It was a winning situation for families who wanted to start a new life, but that dream soon became a nightmare for many.
As the decade unfolded, Pacific communities were subjected to early-morning raids by police and immigration authorities on homes of people suspected of over-staying the terms of their visas.
Police were armed with batons and megaphones, disrupting children asleep in their beds, shining torches in their faces and demanding the identification and residency credentials of the families they found.
The policy eventually led to people being stopped on the streets including Māori who looked like Pacific Islanders.
While the government at the time said it was targeting overstayers, a study later showed Polynesians had made up only a third of overstayers.
The majority were from Europe and Britain, none of whom were subjected to dawn raids.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced earlier this week a formal apology to address the dawn raids, standing alongside colleague Aupito William Sio who moved the crowd with a description of his own experiences.
"My own story, we were dawn raided," he told the public. He was visibly emotional and wiped tears from his eyes as he recalled that time of his life.
"In the early hours of the morning, etched into my memory is my father being helpless."