Meet Manufou Liaiga Anoa'i

Manufou Liaiga-Anoa'i is a celebrated Samoan activist, revolutionary leader and visionary whose representation as a courageous advocate and public elected has opened doors not just for her Pacific Islander people, but for many marginalized, voiceless communities.

 

A native San Franciscan, warmly known as “Fou” to friends and family has made Daly City home for the past twenty five years. She is a mother of six - Anthony, Heavenley, Hamilton, Hiramoreno, Hope and Harmony and wife to Samoan High Chief Muagututi’a Le’apai Ryan T. Anoa’i.

 

Manufou is an alumni University of San Francisco, American Samoa Community College and Lowell High School.

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Manufou currently serves as the Regional Vice President for Innovate Public Schools in San Jose, an education equity and was recently the Health and Nutrition Services Manager for Izzi Early Education (formerly IHSD - Institute for Human and Social Development) the Head Start and Early Head Start - Early Childhood Education provider of San Mateo County.

 

This past November 2021, Manufou was re-elected to serve her third term on the Jefferson Elementary School District Governing Board in Daly City, garnering the highest vote in the history of this district election. Manufou has served as President, Vice President and Clerk of the School Board.

As a Board Trustee, she has taken on the lead of authoring a Climate Change Resolution being the first San Mateo County school district to do so. Along with her fellow board colleagues, they were the first San Mateo County elementary school district to kick off a Work Force Housing development as well as facilitate the Youth Cinema Project that has recognized our students talents in Hollywood. Lastly, they are the only San Mateo County elementary school district to offer an ethnic studies model curriculum.

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In May of 2019, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond appointed her as Co-Chair to the Closing the Gap Initiative where she continues to advocate for equity, inclusion

and access. Manufou was at the forefront of advocating for authentic Ethnic Studies program curriculum, alongside Pacific Islander voices of leadership and support of the State Superintendent the Pacific Islander curriculum was revised to be reflective of the communities feedback. 

 

Manufou recognizes the importance of developing youth employment programs and Career Technical Education-CTE pathways. Through the advocacy of North San Mateo County partners and community stakeholders collaboration with the San Mateo County Office of Education a $2 million dollars commitment was secured from the City of Daly City.

In 2018, Head Start was losing their space in Daly City. Manufou rallied the support of parents and staff to take to the mic at the Planning Commission meeting while also advocating to Daly City Council and the Board of Supervisors. The communities voices were heard and the new Serramonte del Rey development will not only provide affordable housing, but will also ensure Head Start would continue to have a home.

 

In 2017, she organized hundreds of community members to protest against the Jefferson Unified High School District Governing Board due to an unfortunate incident involving a Terra Nova High School Student. This call to action led to hours of public comment and successfully led to a unanimous School Board’s approval; the community voices were heard that evening.

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In 2015, Assemblymember Mark Leno honored her as Woman of the Year in recognition for her numerous accomplishments as an advocate and leader. She was also honored by Santa Clara County’s Women in Faith where her servant leadership was highlighted.

In 2014, Congresswoman Jackie Speier honored her as a member of her AAPI-Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus and celebrated her efforts in elevating the Pacific Islander community and her representation as a San Mateo County Commissioner on the Status of Women.

In 2013, the White House Initiative on Asian American & Pacific Islanders honored her program Camp Unity for their incredible work in serving thousands of students and providing free,

quality and accessible summer enrichment programs for all students.

In 2012, she was the first Pacific Islander to be appointed on the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women and served for ten years as a Commissioner and Past Vice President.

She will be inducted this May 2022 as on of the first Pacific Islanders to the San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame in recognition of her thirty five years of service and advocacy.

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In 2011, Congressman Mike Honda awarded Manufou as a Pacific Islander Advocate and Community Leader.

In 2010, Manufou and a group of families successfully organized protests at SSF Unified School District to overturn a policy that was found discriminatory against students of color. Soon after the Superintendent resigned and the reward was mobilizing parents and students whose voices were traditionally ignored.

There was a group of mothers desperately seeking free, affordable quality summer programming and reached out to Manufou for help. She immediately got to work to meet the need and in 2011 created Camp Unity - Polynesian Pacific Islander Summer Enrichment Program which has served 8,000 Bay Area students. This program has provided a snapshot of the value of Ethnic Studies and building a pipeline for educators of color as the Camp Staff was a reflection of the participants. With referrals from local and state agencies which included Juvenile Probation and Child Welfare - Child Protective Services, Camp Unity has had a 98% success rate in program retention and successfully following them through the K-12 and onto college.

 

In 2009, she founded Pacific Islander Community Partnership whose mission is to “Engage, Educate & Empower Our Pacific Communities” this was a direct response to the growing decline of student graduation rates, rising incarceration and the need for advocacy that was culturally appropriate. PICP continues to serve communities with a local, state and global reach.

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Manufou recognizes the importance of occupying spaces that allow her the opportunity to build and elevate marginalized communities. She continues to dedicate her time in volunteering on several non-profit organization boards which include Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, Regional Pacific Islander HealthTask Force, Peninsula Conflict

Resolution Center Board, Lowell High School Alumni Board of Directors, REACH Board of Directors, P.I.E.F.E.S.T - Pacific Islanders Encouraging, Fun, Engineering, Science & Technology and San Francisco Pacific Islander Maternal Advisory Board - SF PI MAB.

 

She has also served on the San Mateo County Arts Commission as District 5 Representative, City of Daly City Personnel Board and Daly City Arts and Culture Commission.

She had the rare opportunity to be the the first Pacific Islander Liaison and serve as Special Assistant to District 11 under Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr.’s administration. Her vast community experience coupled with her extensive understanding of government systems and the political landscape in San Francisco has built a solid foundation for her in the public service arena.

In 1996, Manufou returned to the Bay Area and found herself entrenched in efforts with San Francisco State University students who stood in solidarity against Prop 209. Despite the outcome, her ties in the community expanded and she joined a newly established organization

in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley - Samoan Community Development Center. There she served as a Youth Coordinator and founded the Pacific Islander Youth Alliance program under the leadership of the inaugural Executive Director Robert Uhrle. This program continues to widely serve San Francisco youth.

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While attending American Samoa Community College, she was elected the Student Government President in 1995 where she led an island wide protest against the government of French Polynesia due to the ongoing bombing in the Pacific which to date continues to devastate these island nations. Her leadership led to numerous efforts to organize and demand that the government join in the opposition with neighboring island nations. Her efforts were successful and was featured in the media throughout the Pacific walking side by side with the Lt. Governor Sunia leading the march.

 

She also was inducted in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and served as Secretary.

As a student at Lowell High School she was the first and only Samoan Pacific Islander elected as Student Government President to serve in this role in the hundred plus years of its existence. She was also voted Senior Prom Queen and Junior Class Winter Ball Princess.

Her call to community and public service in her words came naturally. At the young age of 9, she accompanied her mother and a busload of Samoan women who headed to Sacramento the State capitol to advocate that Samoans be included in government forms, specifically at that

time in relation to the Census and City and County of San Francisco forms. As an immigrant daughter, she took on the role as a translator to her mother.

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Outside of her professional roles, Manufou continues to be a core resource to the community. Her phone is constantly busy with requests for help and in many instances people have found their way to the doorsteps of her home, seeking a place to stay, asking for help with law enforcement and when facing injustices in the school systems.

Her passion for servant leadership was always met with a desire to do more. While raising her family, working a day to day job she was always prioritized serving the community.

 

Manufou equally loves the arts and her love for music has afforded opportunities to perform at California Governor’s Command Performances, San Francisco Giants, Miss American Samoa and Miss South Pacific Pageants, Flag Raising Ceremonies to name a few, but for now she has taken on being her youngest son Reno’s #1 fan, former Top 40 American Idol.

Her voice has been heard on hundreds of panels and interviews sharing her lived experiences of societal injustices while raising awareness of need to inclusion an reflective representation. Manufou has been lauded as the first Pacific Islander to sit in numerous seats during her 35

years of servant leadership and as a public elected. While she is grateful for the opportunity, her mission is to ensure she is not the last and embrace the motto of leaving the door open and the ladder down.

Manufou is currently running for a seat on the Daly City Council and if elected this November 2022, she will be the first Pacific Islander to serve in this capacity in the State of California.

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Recognitions:

  • 2022 California AAPI Legislative Caucus Civil Rights Leader

  • 2022 San Mateo County Women’s Hall of Fame Inductee

  • 2015 California State Assembly Woman of the Year (Assemblymember Mark Leno)

  • City & County of San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee Certificate of Honor - Pacific Islander Leader

  • ABC 7 AAPI Leaders

  • City of Daly City - Recognition for AAPI Heritage Month

  • San Mateo County Board of Supervisors - Recognition as Pacific Islander Leader

  • Congresswoman Jackie Speier AAPI Community Leader

  • Congressman Mike Honda AAPI - Pacific Islander Advocate & Leader

  • White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders

  • City of South San Francisco Women’s History Month Pacific Islander Leader

  • Santa Clara County Women In Faith

  • Comcast Change Makers 

Community
Initiatives

  • Founder, Polynesian Heritage Celebration & Awards

  • Co-Founder, San Mateo County Pacific Islander Democratic Club

  • Founder, Camp Unity Polynesian Cultural Enrichment Program

  • Founder, Pacific Islander Community Partnership

  • Founder, Miss Samoa Golden Gate Scholarship Pageant

  • Co-Founder with Muagututi’a Ryan T. Anoa’i - Samoan Heritage Week in San Francisco Samoan Flag Day Committee

  • Founder - Pacific Islander Youth Alliance (PIYA) at Samoan Community Development Center

  • Anchor - Poly Talk Live

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Manufou with fellow honorees and assembly members at the state capitol after receiving her medal from the State of California AAPI Legislative Caucus for Excellence in Civil Rights. 

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Manufou with fellow panelists and participants at the New American Leaders conference in Brooklyn, New York 2022.

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Manufou, sharing a smile while delivering her acceptance speech at the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame ceremony, 2022

Career &
Service
Highlights

  • Member - Big Lift San Mateo County

  • Member - San Mateo County Complete Count Committee Member 2020

  • Member - San Mateo County Pacific Islander Health Initiative

  • Ambassador - One Global Family Foundation supports children and orphans globally

  • Coordinator - Pacific Islander Read Aloud Day (San Francisco & San Mateo Counties)

  • Committee Member - Annual Samoan Language Week (Global - May)

  • Member - CCCAS-SF Mafutaga Tina; Women’s Foundation

  • President - CCCAS-SF Autalavou - Youth

  • Member - North San Mateo County Democratic Club

  • Task Force Member - Regional Pacific Islander Health Task Force (San Francisco, San Mateo County and Alameda County)

  • Host of Pacific Islander Speaker Series (Pacific Leaders in Education & Social Justice California Collaborative Health Educator

  • Parent Project Facilitator 

  • Board Advisory Member - San Mateo County Nurses Family Partnership

  • San Francisco District Attorney Gascon - Youth Task Force

  • Founder - Pacific Islander Youth Alliance (PIYA) at Samoan Community Development Center

  • Anchor - Poly Talk Live

  • Liaison to District 11 & Pacific Islander Community - Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services - Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. - City and County of San Francisco

  • Board Member & Treasurer - Bay Area Benefit

  • Committee Member - SF Police Department Youth Service Providers Forum

  • Member - SF District Attorney Youth Violence Committee

  • Committee Member - SF Asian Pacific Heritage Foundation Committee - Mayor’s Office

  • Committee Member - SF Community Challenge Grant

  • Committee Member - JESD Daly City Health & Literacy Faire

  • Founding Member - Asian Pacific Islander Circle

  • Project Manager/ Mayor Liaison for San Francisco Projects

    • Ocean Avenue Rebuilding

    • Golden State Warriors Excelsior Playground Basketball Courts

    • Crocker Amazon Kaboom Playground Project

    • Excelsior Youth Center - Columbia Boys & Girls Club

    • Minnie & Lovie Ward Oceanview Recreation Center

    • Shields Park Improvement Project

    • Geneva Car Barn - Balboa Park BART Station

    • 5199 Mission Street Senior Housing Development

    • Excelsior Library Rebuild

    • Ingleside Library Renovation

    • San Francisco Giants Baseball Fields - Crocker Amazon Park

    • San Francisco 49ers Football Fields - Crocker Amazon Park

    • Brotherhood Way Park

    • District 11 Mission Street Repavement Project

    • Opening of Goodwill in Excelsior District

    • Mixed Used Housing Project with Lucky’s Supermarket OMI

“Public service and advocacy are in my blood. I believe it is an innate quality of many Samoans and Polynesians alike as our culture emulates the complex infrastructures that mimic local governments such as our Matai - chief system. Its level of hierarchical order promotes communal practices derived from foundational history, guided by alofa - love and with a level of respect - fa’aaloalo which is deeply embedded in our Fa’asamoa. I love my brown skin and my heritage, I would be incomplete without it. I believe in servant leadership as it is reciprocal- it’s what our people are all about, it’s natural, it’s pure...

it’s LOVE.”