Being surrounded by scary looking people with shaggy beards, dark glasses, helmets, heavy boots and black leathers with “gang patches” can be intimidating.
Taken though the less than sparkling rear window of a police patrol car, this shot doesn’t convey the sound of so many big bikes
Not these guys. Though they had all the trappings of gang culture, and huge noisy motorbikes, they were mostly people of deep religious conviction on a mission. They were participating in a “white ribbon day” observance to share their belief that violence against women is wrong. The ride had come down the length of the North Island from Whangarei to Upper Hutt. They were visiting schools (by pre-arrangement) and would arrive en-masse with much thundering of engines.
The police facilitated all intersections and access points
The format of the event was a “rolling haka” … at each school, the pupils would welcome the riders with a haka. The riders would speak about their abhorrence of violence against women, and invite the children to join them in promising not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence to women. They would conclude each visit with a return haka and then depart with more thundering.
Varying degrees of cultural competence on display here
The police were heavily involved as part of their own support for the anti-violence message. They ensured the smooth flow of the procession through the morning traffic. As one of the two photographers involved, I got to ride in a patrol car as we each leap-frogged the other to get to the next venue to record the proceedings.
“I promise not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women”
Sports commentators, especially English ones whose rugby team has just been beaten by the All Blacks, tend to dislike the performance of a haka, probably because they regard it as a sporting ritual designed to confer mystique on the team and to intimidate the opposition. It’s true that sports teams use it that way.
A rousing haka from Hutt International Boys School to welcome the visitors
In the Maori culture, a haka is about giving and receiving respect. There would be few New Zealand schools where the pupils did not know at least one haka (and there are many of them, so please don’t buy into the notion of “the haka”)
As visitors, the bikers always did their haka in return
The kids were fascinated by the bikers and their huge rumbling machines, and after the ceremonies mingled happily with them.
iPads everywhere in schools now
An aspect of the school visits that fascinated me was the nearly universal habit of using the classroom iPads to record proceedings.
Another group joins the bikers in promising to abstain from violence
There was a great turnout at each of the four schools visited in the upper valley, and the kids seemed appreciative of their visitors.
Though I am not in the same spiritual place as these bikers, I was very happy to be a part of their journey yesterday. Who, after all, can be opposed to campaigns to eliminate violence?
And that’s it for today.