Māori-Black American whānau say being inclusive is key

By Aroha Mane

A Ngāti Wai woman married to a Black American man is concerned for the safety of her husband who's right in the thick of the unrest in the United States.

Amelia and husband Demetrius describe how recent events have directly affected their whānau.

“It's heavy, it's really heavy right now, and it’s just a heavy time!”

“With George Floyd, that murder that was recorded and then sent out to the world. It was a big one for a lot of reasons, we're inside quarantine so there’s no hiding, running and forgetting about it. It was a very slow murder, slow death, it was senseless, and the cop was cold and casual about it. It's a big one and just given there are so many factors, it has opened up a lot of conversations,” says Demetrius Butler.

Amelia and Demetrius are the proud parents of three tamariki.

During the pandemic, Amelia and the girls returned to the safety of Aotearoa.

“My business is Learn Māori Abroad, I teach haka and poi workshops around the United States. I lost all of my haka and poi workshops, so that was a bit of a tohu for us,” says Amelia.

“I'm a business owner so we decided I would stay here and build the business here and make sure that the girls still had an opportunity to live their lives and not be so inundated with the quarantine business over here in the United States,” says Demetrius.

Demetrius says a restriction has been imposed in LA.

“I just got a notification on my phone right before we got on this call that we have a city-wide curfew lockdown. There has been a lot of rioting, a lot of damage downtown, that damage has spread and gone out to Beverly Hills to the most affluent areas of the city.”

Many are calling for a review of the justice system. The Butlers believe being inclusive could be the solution.

“I'm very vocal about my stance which is #BlackLivesDoMatter, so today I'll be joining everyone in Aotea Square to do the protest march. I share a lot on Facebook and I create safe spaces for kids of colour, like my kids. so they can be fully self-expressed in the space that they're in,” says Amelia.

“The idea of an influx of Black Americans into the Police force, the court system, and the legal system. There are some in there but they are a minority," says Demetrius.

But right now, the virtues of peace are yet to be discovered.