Bubu Shine shares oral storytelling tradition

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Bubu Shine shares oral storytelling tradition with students at Sonora Middle School. The middle school featured a Marshallese storytelling event May 10 with a respected member of Springdale's Marshallese community.

Bubu Shine shared two traditional Marshallese stories from the Marshall Islands to educate students on Marshallese oral storytelling traditions and culture, said Chelsea Jennings, Sonora Middle School principal. The event was held in the school library to emphasize oral storytelling’s connection to language arts and literacy.

Shine Bolkeim was born on Jaluit Marshall Islands and has a close-knit family of nine children and 30 grandchildren, said Stephanie Andi Takamaru, Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese project manager.

“She is affectionately called ‘Bubu, Grandma, Shine’ amongst the younger generation, related or not,” Takamaru said.

Bubu Shine has been a pillar in the Marshallese community since moving to the United States in 2013, she said.

“Shine has been determined to help preserve the Marshallese traditions and cultures by getting involved with the community whenever she is needed, whether it’s by storytelling or teaching the younger generation about the importance of preserving our heritage,” Takamaru said. “The NWA Marshallese community is blessed to have Bubu Shine and will have her legacy for future generations to reflect on.”

The event served as an opportunity for Sonora Middle School to partner with the Marshallese community to educate students, Jennings said.

“The Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese, who recommended Grandma Shine, has been a great resource and support for us as we seek ways to honor and celebrate the Marshallese community we serve,” she said.

May is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Jennings said.

“Twenty-seven percent of our student population is Pacific Islander,” she said. “This event helps us to recognize and appreciate their rich heritage and culture.”

About 50 fifth- and sixth-graders participated in the event, Jennings said, some of whom dressed in traditional Marshallese clothing.

The stories featured animals that may be found in the Marshall Islands and included moral lessons, similar to the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare," Takamaru said.

Amare Bungitak, sixth-grader, said he enjoyed the stories and participated in asking questions when students were encouraged to do so.

“I learned that you should respect your parents, your grandparents and your family,” Amare said, adding it's important to respect others and not make fun of them.

Bubu Shine used an interpreter to share how pleased she was with the students' participation and attentiveness.

It’s meaningful for the Marshallese community to preserve its culture and history, Bubu Shine said, adding it was important for the students to be observant and interactive when she was telling the stories.

The stories were communicated in Marshallese and will be captioned in English and shared in the future so others can view the event and use it as a learning opportunity, Jennings said.

“I was very impressed with how all the kids understood the story that was being told, instead of having it being translated to English, ” Takamaru said.

Students even asked Bubu Shine questions in Marshallese, she said.

“That was very exciting to see," Takamaru said. "I'm hoping that my children and their children, the future, will be able to preserve the language as well, not just the culture, but the language.”

Bubu Shine will participate in a special event from noon to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Takamaru said. She will teach how to make traditional Marshallese coconut candy, called ametama, which helped keep many alive when the Marshall Islands were occupied by the Japanese during World War II, she said.

Bubu Shine shared the traditional candy with students during the storytelling event as well.