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On Sharing The Struggle

on Jan 20, 2014

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and reflect on his legacy, I thought it'd be fitting to share a few Native Hawai'ian voices continuing in the struggle for equality.

Listening to these voices is especially fitting since Friday, January 17th was the 121st anniversary of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Twenty-eight years after the abolition of slavery, United States forces invaded Honolulu to protect the interests of wealthy business owners from Queen Lili‘uokalani's attempts to undo the Bayonet Constitution of 1887.

Injustice is injustice, regardless of the people forced to live in its legacy. By sharing our stories, we share in the struggle against injustice and discrimination. I'm still figuring out my own story, so while I continue with that difficult work, here are a few things that I think are worth mentioning:

Hawaiian Activism - History

Answering the call of the civil rights movement, Native Hawai'ians organized marches and demonstrations with a demand to be heard. This video, mostly in Hawai'ian with English subtitles, is the first in a series on Hawai'ian activism. The entire series is fantastic, and has been very educational for me.

Not only was activism never mentioned in my immediate family, but my parents subtly ridiculed my cousins who did grab hold of the activist flag. It's not surprising, considering my father's career with the city and my mother's work in the tourism industry. They didn't just think, but they believed that the best way to survive was to work within the system. There were a lot of extenuating circumstances of course, but the end result is the same: I was raised to not make trouble, so activism always seemed so scary.

Maybe it's time for me to quit being so damn afraid.



Tears Streaming Down the Face of the Nation

This powerful hula by the Kamehameha Schools Hula Ensemble is a dirge for the stolen kingdom. Accompanied by a narration of historical events, the somber faces of the women dancing in honor of their ancestral kingdom, is a sobering reminder that the people of Hawai'i did not celebrate the United States occupation.



Jamaica Osorio - "1893"

Visionary poet Jamaica Osorio pulls no punches in this pain-filled spoken word piece. She tackles the long-lasting effects of the overthrow and issues a call to arms for all Hawai'ians. I love her passion as well as her powerful voice. I don't share her assertion that any of us should be ashamed for not speaking out; for not crying out or singing the lamentations of our people. Yes, we should rectify. But shame is a barrier to strength and if we hold ourselves accountable for the success of things as invasive and oppressive as ideals of racial or social supremacy, then we are doing the work of these evils for them. It would be like blaming our ancestors for their inability to fight off the diseases brought to their islands by explorers.

But still. She is absolutely right about our need to sing. To chant. To speak. And, more importantly, to listen to one another and find strength in all of our voices.




Kaulana Na Pua

This is the song Osorio references in and uses to begin her spoken word piece. Written in 1893 by Ellen Keho'ohiwoakalani Wright Pendergast in opposition to the United States Occupation, it is presented here as a stunning collaboration between Native musicians across the islands. There is a wide array of artists here in an even wider array of settings, yet all of them Native. All of them singing for their ʻāina and their people.

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I didn't know much about Hawaii's political history until I began reading about it as an adult. Colonization and it's evils are rarely discussed in school, especially if the US is the perpetrator, so I simply didn't know about Hawaii's history beyond it's addition to the country as a state (well, and the Pearl Harbor attack).
We went to Maui on our honeymoon, which prompted the reading. Though I had been to Oahu for soccer tournaments as a girl, Maui was the first time I had seen the Hawaiian flag and learned about the occupation, which is when I first started reading about it. Just as ugly and tragic as any colonization story I have read. :(
Commemoration is vital to a culture's survival, and I appreciate the rich history of Hawaiian song and dance.

I would LOVE to hear more about those soccer tournaments? Have you written about them on your blog yet? I'll go check it out, but if you haven't I would like to very enthusiastically suggest that you share some of your experiences.

And my greatest hope is that as more of these colonization stories are shared and ingested as a part of the truth of the world we have inherited rather than a dirty or lesser known and respected secret, that we as human beings can just kind of....cut it out. Lol, I'm very precious I know.

You know, I haven't written about playing soccer. It was a lifetime ago, and injury took me out at a pretty young age, which took me years to get over. Now you've got me thinking that I should mine that territory a little; I have some pretty good stories about those experiences.
And I agree. I hope we can cut it out, too. I am just as precious. ;)

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