Posts Tagged ‘Hawaii’

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Presenting the past to preserve our future

February 13, 2009

Our last post, “How Do You See Yourself?” provoked an amazing response. Nearly a month later, we continue to receive emails and tweets from diametrically opposed camps. Some say we are helping to perpetuate stereotypes by ignoring gross prejudices. Others believe that we as a people must move beyond past grievances and take control of how we see ourselves as well as how others perceive us.

While I won’t go as far as to say we’re perpetuating stereotypes, I will agree that I am more likely than not to excuse political incorrectness from kūpuna. The understanding and wisdom they hold is far greater than any bias they may carry.

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With each passing of a hulu makua (literally feather parent – elder who is precious like beautiful feathers), we lose more of our foundational knowledge. Over the course of millennia, our kūpuna learned from their ancestors and environment, thereby forging an incredible culture that continues to thrive today.

However, for the Hawaiian culture to endure that knowledge must be transmitted and we must be the willing recipients of our kūpuna’s insight.

Nāna i wawaele i ke ala, ma hope aku kākou – He cleared the way, we came later

With this in mind, Kamehameha Schools’ Hawaiian Cultural Center Ka‘iwakīloumoku thankfully put together a program that provides our entire community with the opportunity to hear and honor the voices of our kūpuna.

Jamie Fong Coordinator of Ka‘iwakīloumoku and Nā Momi Ho‘oheno – the oral Hawaiian history series –shares, “In this fast changing world, the cherished mo‘olelo [stories] of our kūpuna and cultural practitioners can easily be lost and forgotten. Our goal is to capture some of these precious stories and to share them with current and future generations.”

jkaThe series began in January with the incredible story and music of Johnny Kameaaloha Almeida, one of Hawai‘i’s greatest composers. Called of the “Dean of Hawaiian music,” Almeida’s remarkable use of the Hawaiian language and “pure Hawaiian” melodies continue to move us more than a century after his birth.

marylou1.jpgOn Wednesday, February 18th on the Kapālama Campus, Nā Momi Ho‘oheno will present a short film on two master feather artists, the late Mary Lou Kekuewa and her daughter Paulette Kahalepuna. Known as the “Queen of Feathers,” Aunty Mary Lou and her protégé Paulette have shared the artistry of Hawaiian featherwork with generations of limahana hulu. Paulette will also be on hand with a demonstration of the artform to which she and her mother have dedicated their lives. The public is welcome and admission is FREE.

In the coming months Ka‘iwakīloumoku will host other events promoting Nohona Hawai‘i, Hawaiian ways of living and learning. In March, the oral history series will continue with a short film on Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, the famous eatery located at the Ala Moana fish market. Founded more than 60 years ago by Peter and Rachel Haili, today their daughters carry on the family’s rich Hawaiian culinary traditions. In coming months, we can look forward to programs such as Nā Lani ‘Ehā – the music of the four ali‘i Kalākaua, Lili’uokalani, Leleiohoku and Likelike – and an offering from our Māori cousins called “He Reo Aroha.”

For more information, please contact Ka‘iwakīloumoku at 842-8655 or email them at jafong@ksbe.edu.

As Jamie so eloquently put it, “I’m humbled that kūpuna would entrust Ka‘iwakīloumoku with their precious life stories. We owe it to them to portray their mo‘olelo with accuracy and integrity, so that their stories will live on for generations to come.”

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Newspapers – A Boon or Bust

November 30, 2008

When I was little, my mother would gather me upon her knee to read the newspaper with her. Not just the comics, but the whole paper. Hard news, features, recipes, the entire thing.

I learned to read this way. But, more importantly, I learned to think. Many of the beliefs I hold today were formed then – discussing with my mother the meaning of the words we sounded out. As we read about the gas crisis, she explained why it was important to care for our resources and how our actions impact not only ourselves but those around us. She spelled out for me that we live on a small island, and therefore need to be even more considerate of our ‘āina so that it can continue to provide food, clean water and shelter. I am an environmentalist today because of discussions we had when I was five.

As I grew older I learned that our practice of using the newspaper as a learning tool is a family tradition, dating back five generations to a time when Hawai‘i was the most literate nation in the world.

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In the late 1800s nearly every Hawai‘i adult could read and write. And, they were encouraged to write down everything – stories, myths, blessings and curses, as well as news – and to send them to one of the myriad of Hawaiian language newspapers. These papers were literally the nation’s history.

It was during this heyday of people’s journalism that one of my kupuna began assembling his children to discuss news items. Understanding that the Hawaiian culture and nation were under attack, he used the newspapers to teach his keiki who they were as Hawaiians and how they fit in both the ancient and modern worlds.

Therefore, it is with pride that I carry on this tradition with my child. Just as my mother did before me, I gather my son on my lap and we pour over the day’s news. Recently, we discussed what it means to vote, how to decide which candidate to support, what election topics are important to us and why.

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Imagine my satisfaction as my son made his own decisions on significant issues. When he learned that his teacher and I stood on different sides of the Honolulu rail transit debate, he questioned each of us on why we believe as we do. Taking the gathered input, he made up his own mind.

I couldn’t be more proud. My seven year-old has shown that he will not be a mindless voter. Instead, he will seek out information and deliberate upon it before deciding what is right for him.

If only every voter would follow his example.

Yes, the newspaper has been a wonderful tool, introducing my child to the broader world. But, it has also had its drawbacks.

Now that my son knows how to read, we can no longer skip over unpleasant stories. This weekend’s paper detailing the horrors of Mumbai and the senseless holiday shopping deaths have left both of us with larger questions of life and death and of right and wrong.

I’ve tried to teach my son that people are not bad, but sometimes they do bad things. We can hate actions, but not each other. These distinctions are becoming much harder to preserve as he reads and learns more. And, I’m wondering if I’m doing him a disservice by introducing him to too much too soon.

While I am grateful to my mother and kupuna for giving me the gift of loving newspapers, will my son see this as a gift or a curse?

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To Tweet or Not To Tweet

November 21, 2008

A few months back, some friends and I were having an email conversation. As messages flew through cyberspace, someone asked “Why aren’t we using Twitter for this? After all, that’s what it’s for…”

I fully admit that I’ve been more than a little reluctant to join the throngs of mini-bloggers. I just couldn’t see the point. Does anyone really care what I’m doing right now? And, isn’t this just one more thing to track?

“What, you’re not on Twitter?”

“What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know all the cool kids tweet?”

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Well, I’ve never been one of the cool kids and I’ve always been slightly lazy. My email and IM accounts deliver messages just fine, thank you very much.

With the vehemence of their response, you would have thought that I kicked a dog. My friends were sure I was holding up my torch, ready to set fire to their virtual community. It’s as if I said, “I rebuke you Twitter in the name of the 19th century. I will not forsake my quill nor abandon my manual typewriter.”

Of course, their reactions made me dig my heels in further – or at least appear to. I don’t really have anything against Twitter or those who tweet. It was just fun to rile them up. Can’t you just talk with me? Have you entirely lost your ability to interact with people in the real world? How sad that you’ve become a virtual slave!

So, it’s with hat in hand, that I now admit that I have succumbed. Friends Melissa Chang and Nathan Kam played to my Pake side.

“Isn’t it your JOB to know what’s going on? To talk with people?”

“You can talk with an entire community of influential people at once. And, they’ll pass the word on to their friends, who will pass the word on to their friends. Isn’t this the definition of grassroots marketing?”

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With that, I stuck my toe into the Twitter waters.

As the Hawai‘i publicist for Cirque du Soleil, I was handed a challenge – how to get people talking about my show when the only thing on people’s mind at the time was the now historic presidential campaign.

Nathan, as always carrying the banner for social networking, said, “put it on Twitter.”

He cheerfully spread the word through his Twitterverse (I kid you not, there is an entire lexicon of Twitterese) that Cirque du Soleil’s Hawai‘i show was not to be missed. He even proposed (and got) a Twitter specific discount. While I was grateful for the help, I still watched from the shore as this virtual community began rallying around my show.

The final push came as Melissa and I had lunch – she sat there tweeting away. “So and so says you should do this… so and so says you should do that.” How could anyone withstand such an assault? I caved and opened my Twtitter account.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised. When Melissa introduced me to her Tweeps, many sent kind messages of welcome. It’s somehow reassuring to know that the niceties continue – even in cyberspace.

I still question if anyone really cares what I’m doing right now and if this is just another tool to which I’ll become addicted. But, it has been fun and informative – and it definitely did help my show.

I don’t think I’ll ever be as social as Melissa and Nathan. However, maybe with a little coaxing I’ll put down my quill. Just don’t ask me to give up my typewriter.

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Guilty Pleasure

November 21, 2008

At this very moment I’m supposed to be crafting pithy sales pitches, little gems of engagement designed to get you to spend your hard earned cash on a plane ticket to an oh so lovely vacation spot. But, how can I – or anyone for that matter – fashion believable justifications for irrational behavior when I have the best distraction in the world right here on my desk. Hulu.com.

For what more could a work-avoiding girl ask than mediocre television at the touch of a button? It’s absolutely addictive! Granted few shows that I would actually watch if I were at home are posted, but that’s its charm. Where else can you find Land of the Giants, 30 Rock and Arrested Development all in one glorious place?

While such greats as The Partridge Family and The Riches beckon, by far my most insistent work nemesis is Ghost Hunters.

Following the antics of our favorite paranormal investigative plumbers, Jason and Grant (how I wish I came up with this one), Ghost Hunters come to the rescue of poor scared souls living and working in ghostly haunts. With reality cameras in hand, they use a battery of “scientific” techniques to prove or debunk an entity’s presence. Classic!

Each time I watch, the same gnawing questions arise. Why do ghosts only come out at night? Can’t the TAPS (Trans Atlantic Paranormal Society) team turn on the lights? Why do ghost hunters whisper – can’t ghosts hear whispers? Do ghosts only show up on low-quality grainy video?

But, none of this really matters. It’s still the perfect waste of time. Scanning, rewinding, pouring over frame after frame of infrared footage trying to catch a glimpse of the irrefutable “evidence” that Jay and Grant find so easily. No one can deny its appeal.

So, as my workmates think I’m toiling away writing meaningless copy, here I sit with ear buds in trying to pick up on disembodied EVPs (electronic voice phenomena). It’s the perfect work day.

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‘Tis the Season to Be Green

November 17, 2008

Now that the holidays are officially bearing down, here are a few tips on how we can enjoy a more sustainable season courtesy of Kōkua Hawai‘i and Kanu Hawai‘i. Check out their websites for more tips and to make a simple declaration of your intent to green your holidays.

– When buying a Christmas tree, consider a live potted one. If you do get a cut tree, find one that’s locally grown. Don’t forget to recycle with your green waste after the holidays.
– Give teachers, coworkers, and friends edible gifts, plants, or gift certificates instead of “stuff” that will get stuck in a drawer somewhere.
– Start eco-friendly traditions. For example, when you go out caroling in your neighborhood, take an empty trash bag and pick up any litter you see along the way.
– Reuse wrapping paper and bows or try repurposing newspapers, brown paper bags, maps, or art work to make your own unique, eco-friendly packages. Reusable grocery bags are also a good gift-wrapping option, and then it’s a gift inside a gift. (If you don’t have reusable grocery bags, here’s a great place to get them and the proceeds go to charity).

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– Give reusable or homemade gifts. Shop for gently used gifts at thrift shops or on-line at www.Craigslist.org or www.Freecycle.org. Give gifts of time like certificates for a massage or a car wash. Treat a loved one to ‘ukulele lessons or tickets to a sporting or cultural event.
– When shopping for holiday food and gifts, try to plan ahead and consolidate trips in order to save fuel and reduce pollution. Also, don’t forget to take along your reusable cloth grocery bags to use instead of the disposable ones!
– During the holiday season the most rewarding gift of all is giving back to your community. Make it a family tradition to donate to or volunteer for charitable causes during the holidays.

Here are few more sites that may give you some green ideas this season.
Green Holiday Tips from the Sierra Club
Green Guide from National Geographic
Earth Easy’s Green Christmas
The Guardian’s A-Z Tips for a Green Christmas
Oliver Heath’s Tips for a Green Christmas
Newsweek’s How to Have a Green Christmas
Green Expander’s 10 Tips for a Green Christmas

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Kids Lead the Way to a Greener Hawai‘i

November 17, 2008

We’ve all heard it before. Out of the mouth of babes. Yet, never before had this struck me as so true as when I visited a small dual-language school in urban Honolulu, HI.

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Each day the keiki (children) of Kawaiaha‘o School, aged 18-months to 10-years-old, gather to begin their day with what they call their piko (literally umbilical cord or that which ties them back to their foundation). This daily assembly is a time to gather, greet each other and start the day in the spirit of aloha (love) and lōkahi (unity).

An important part of their piko is a pledge. Not just to one people or one place, but to the entire Earth.

“I pledge allegiance to the earth and to all life that it nourishes – all growing things, all species of animals, and all races of people. I promise to protect all life on our planet, to live in harmony with nature and to share our resources justly – so that all people can live with dignity, in good health and in peace.”

Knowing that reciting and understanding are not necessarily the same thing, their kumu (teachers) work daily with the keiki to deeply instill Aloha ‘Āina – love for the land.

Several years ago, the keiki themselves began re-landscaping their urban campus, planting mainly native plants that encourage the return of native wildlife. Their efforts were recognized when the nation’s largest member-supported conservation group, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), named them the first school in Hawai‘i to achieve certification as a NWF Schoolyard Habitat.

NWF story

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Click to see full article

Following upon the success of their native garden, the keiki instituted a full school recycling and composting program. The children began collecting and recycling paper, glass, aluminum, plastic and used ink cartridges. Today, their collections go far beyond the school campus. Families, friends and neighboring businesses are all encouraged to work with the keiki to ensure recyclables do not go to the landfill. The children also enlisted teachers and parents to help build composting bins so that biodegradable refuse could be used in their native garden. Their goal is to create a zero-waste school.

Moanalua Garden Award

Click to see full article

These and other efforts brought them to the attention of one of Hawaii’s best known education non-profits, The Moanalua Gardens Foundation. In 2008, the Foundation awarded the school with their 2007 Hawai‘i Needs Care Award.

However, even with such praise, the keiki felt their efforts needed to expand beyond their immediate sphere. “We do a lot for ourselves, but we need to help other people, too,” shared second-grader Kealoha Garvin.

Taking this to heart, the children found that even small actions can help in big ways. After learning about suffering children in the Azawak in Niger – the world’s most drought ridden area – the Kawaiaha‘o keiki chose to create a program called Ka Wai Ola – the water of life. As a part of this project, the keiki sell green products with 100% of the proceeds going to dig deepwater wells in Africa. Their first item, a reusable grocery bag, sold out in less than a month. Their second item, a larger reusable bag, will be available in a few days.

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Click to see full story

The keiki also created an earth-friendly cleanser and bug spray. Using only natural, non-toxic materials, the children researched how to create products that are both green and effective. They also researched how to market their products – from branding and packaging to sales, they are using their gained knowledge to better our community.

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Another effort the keiki have undertaken is to help other children become environmental leaders. They wrote and produced a public service announcement encouraging other schools to establish recycling programs. The resulting PSA was created in conjunction with a local non-profit, The Lex Brodie Foundation and the City & County of Honolulu.

Indeed, the children of Kawaiaha‘o School are proof that from small things, big things come.

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Death knell for a newspaper?

November 12, 2008

As a long-time newspaper junkie, it was with a sense of dread that I heard of the latest round of buyouts at my local paper, The Honolulu Advertiser.

Not privy to Gannett’s (parent company of the Advertiser) business plans, from the outside their actions seem wholly incomprehensible. After a year that has included mass layoffs, Gannett has chosen to buyout many of the paper’s experienced journalists and editors to bring in employees from the mainland. Can it be that it’s cheaper to relocate employees who are used to higher salaries than are paid here in the islands?

It goes without saying that journalistic experience is imperative to the life of any paper. Knowing what questions to ask. Understanding how to weave the answers into compelling stories. Realizing that both inclusions and exclusions may lead to either greater understanding or increased confusion of issues. Yes, journalistic experience is essential.

However, with the forced retirements at the Advertiser and the shipping in of mainland Gannett employees, the paper is losing something just as valuable – local experience.

While every community revels in its own distinctiveness, Hawaii’s uniqueness is not just a part of hometown pride. Stemming from two centuries of Native Hawaiians, Polynesians, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese and various European groups coalescing to form a united culture, our values and language have evolved in a very specific island way.

By removing those who have not only known, but have been a part of this culture, the Advertiser is effectively positioning itself as the “outsider,” literally as the much maligned haole.

In a community that’s notoriously wary of outsiders, how will this new crop of reporters and editors be able to cover anything but in the most superficial way? Citizens will be polite and say what they think the reporter wants to hear. But, chances are they will not invite the reporter into their homes or behind closed doors. This is where the truth of our community lies. Not with the vocal minority who are longing to see their name in print.

Advertiser newcomers will have to cope with absent subtexts while dealing with a new language filled with words borrowed from a myriad of languages. Will they understand why a political initiative’s fate may lay with tūtū’s centuries old kuleana to mālama kekahi i kekahi? Why the fishing industry wants to know about one blalah hui pounding choke poke aku Ewa? Why it’s important to report which Hangwanji has the best grinds come Obon?

Without a sense of history, without a sense of culture, and without the ability to uncover local kaona, I fear the Advertiser’s usefulness as a paper for Hawai‘i has finally come to an end.

Try wait, bumbai da Star-Bulletin wen stay local.