Posts Tagged ‘Native Hawaiians’

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How Do You See Yourself?

January 16, 2009

Recently, having lunch with friends, I was struck by how much Native Hawaiian self-image has changed over the years.

There was nothing particularly unusual about this lunch – a typical get-together of the cronies gathering for a highly anticipated talk story session. However, on this occasion we were lucky to be joined by one of our hui’s Grandpa Joe.

A distinguished gentleman in his eighties, Grandpa Joe is one of those wonderful people you want at all of your parties. A raconteur at heart, his lifetime of experiences and wry wit combined to have us all rolling with laughter. Drawing us in as confidants, he would lean forward conspiratorially. His shock of white hair edging ever nearer and his eyes dancing, he wove amazing tales of the “old days.”

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During the course of the lunch, the conversation turned toward us. “What do you do?” he asked. A physicist, a lawyer, a writer, a professor and a flack (yes, I’m the underachiever of the bunch) were the answers.

“Wow, a group of smart Hawaiians,” he said completely devoid of irony.

“Grandpa!” his namesake mo‘opuna squawked. But, Grandpa Joe was nonplused. He had no idea why his grandson was upset.

Grandpa Joe wasn’t being racist though; he was simply reiterating what he’d heard for a lifetime. Graduating from Kamehameha Schools nearly 70 years ago, his was a world in which native opportunities were few. What we now consider commonplace – a group of college educated Native Hawaiian professionals from ordinary backgrounds – was unheard of in his day.

But more interesting to me, he did not see the very incongruity of his thinking. Here was a man – a Hawaiian man – who without the benefit of higher education used his intellect and will to forge a highly successful international career. There is absolutely no question that Grandpa Joe is an extremely “smart Hawaiian.” Yet, he was unable to place his own life example above the stereotypes embedded within him decades before. He continues to carry the century old bias that Hawaiians are somehow inadequate.

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A generation later, my father followed along the same path of self-deprecation. A recurring conversation in our house went something like this.

Dad: “Hawaiians are lazy.”
Child: “Dad, aren’t we Hawaiians?”
Dad: “Yes.”
Child: “Is anyone in our family lazy?”
Dad: “No.”
Child: “So what Hawaiians are you talking about?”
Dad: Silence

Coming from a household of incurable workaholics, I never understood how my father could make such an outrageous statement. However, in speaking with Grandpa Joe, I began to better understand my own history. My father, like Grandpa, could not reconcile the gulf between his own experiences and the prejudices of long ago.

Yet – even though they could not see it within themselves – both of these smart, hardworking men are part of changing how Native Hawaiians are perceived. Amazing examples like theirs are the lens through which my friends and I view ourselves and our people.

Now, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that others of our generation, as well as the next, deliver on the potential we so clearly see.

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Book Review: Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me

December 11, 2008

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Update – 12/17/08: Kekoa Enomoto wrote a very cogent review of Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me for the Maui News. Additionally, the Hawaiian language newscast ‘Aha‘i ‘Ōlelo Ola (CBS affiliate KGMB-TV) covered the launch of this debut novel.

In the voice of darkness, birds stirred with anticipation. The approaching daylight separated sky from earth. By the time the first rays of the sun reached the top of the Ko‘olau Mountains, the birds were already in full chorus, celebrating the arrival of a new day.

On the leeward coast of O‘ahu, a Hawaiian woman, ageless as the ocean, stood in the mystery, ready to carry out her role in the morning ceremony. Water lapped as the tide rose. Into the darkness, facing the intense calm of the water, she began to chant. The primal sound of her voice was filled with the power of those who came before her. Her song carried out to sea.

So begins award-winning filmmaker Lurline McGregor’s first novel, Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me.

Turning her cinematic eye to a story that inherently resonates with so many of us, McGregor delves into what makes a native person native. Expanding upon the question of nature versus nurture, she tells the tale of a woman – Native Hawaiian by birth, western by upbringing – who is forced to confront the dichotomy of her indigenous past with the realities of the 21st century.

book-coverWithin this riveting story we follow the protagonist Moana Kawelo on her quest to reconnect with her kū‘auhau (heritage) and understand what it means to be a Native Hawaiian in the modern world.

The exploration of cultural consciousness in Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me has received enthusiastic reviews from around the native world. The Chairman of the Board of the national Native Arts and Culture Foundation, Walter Echo-Hawk, raved, “Wow! What a moving story about the spiritual side of Native life in modern-day Hawai’i.”

potiki“It is an intriguing story of modern Hawai‘i, its legacies and therefore its concerns,” shared Patricia Grace, Māori author and winner of the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature. “It is a story contextualized by the connectedness between generations, land, culture and spiritual guardianship – all drawn together in a ‘now’ time.”

Author Lurline McGregor continued, “Just as the movie Whale Rider was able to present an authentic Māori experience while speaking to a broader global audience, our Hawaiian stories can also be used to inspire people worldwide.”

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Daviana McGregor at the launch of Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me

At the book’s launch party, Muscogee poet and author Joy Harjo eloquently reflected on the power of the native voice presented in Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me. “We are all indigenous peoples, we can all trace our lineages to a time when our ancestors listened to the earth.” Native Hawaiian activist and author Davianna McGregor (and Lurline’s cousin) continued, “Lurline gives us a story that articulates the past and the present – land, repatriation, and spirit are forged together to create an engrossing tale of modern and ancient Hawai‘i.”

Lurline McGregor autographs copies of her new book, Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me

Lurline McGregor signs copies of her new book


Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me is published by Kamehameha Publishing. For more information, click here.

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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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Just because it’s funny

November 18, 2008

There’s absolutely no reason to post this on the Mana‘o Ulu Wale blog, other than I think it’s funny. Laugh out loud funny.

I’ve always been a big fan of David Sedaris. From the first time I heard Santaland Diaries, I was hooked. His writing often combines humor and a pathos with which we all can relate.

This linked story is a little long (about 24 minutes), but nonetheless worth the listen. This clip is from the NPR show This American Life.

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And, because more is more. Here are a few more David Sedaris clips.

The next video is from a reading he did in Brazil. So, in case your Portuguese isn’t muito bom you can fast forward past Mr. Sedaris’ introdução (about 50 seconds in).

And, because I’m still going through election news withdrawal, here’s a piece on the undecided masses.

Click to see full article

Click to see full article

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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.

Piko

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.