Paris Brown (Ngāti Kahungunu) is a Māori advocate for takatāpui on the East Coast and Hawke's Bay regions.
Earlier this year in June she organised the Twin Cities Pride Hīkoi from Napier to Hastings to draw attention to discrimination against takatāpui. Starting off with just six of her close friends joining her on the hikoi, it turned into a huge event supported by local community businesses and politicians and now she plans to hold it annually.
The idea came about after she and her friends joined in on the Sweat for Pride challenge earlier this year, which was aimed at raising funds for the rainbow community and getting people active, and wanted to finish off the challenge “with a bang” – the hīkoi from Napier’s Soundshell to Hastings town centre.
What started with 60 people ended up being a hīkoi party of over 200, and on that day it changed Brown’s life.
“For the first month or so after the hīkoi I was getting a lot of PMs [personal messages] from mums, dads, nans, papas of our rangatahi in Hawke’s Bay thanking us for being able to have a space where they can come in and really embrace and understand who they are.
“For us in Heretaunga in Hawke’s Bay, takatāpui is not a subject that is very much celebrated but we are in full force in the community.”
Another event, Real Talk. Real People. Real Stories fort rangatahi saw Brown become one of six guest speakers from Hawke's Bay, where she shared her experiences about how she found herself.
“My cup, honestly, was so full after that event.
“Afterwards I had so many rangatahi come up to me, who said ‘hey, I really resonated with your kōrero’. I told them at the end ‘if you guys need anything, just holler at me,’ because I’m very much someone that can provide a voice for those that don’t.”
Brown plans to have more events where she can help the takatāpui community, whether it be housing, mahi or community conferences where takatāpui are included and supported.
“There just isn’t anything for our takatāpui here so they tend to have to leave the nest and find routes elsewhere.
“I want to be able to bring a space where they can find themselves here in Hawke’s Bay, in their own home.”