Here for Each Other: A Play-List for Feelin’ Upful and Right

All drawings by Wayne Tanaka

This post was inspired by conversations with our friends and fellow activists, poets, writers, doers, thinkers. Some of them (some of us) are just so ground down, so tired. We grieve for each other when we see our friends and family like this. Too often we feel like soft, fragile bodies flinging ourselves against entire razor-toothed systems and histories of oppression. Systems of oppression, colonialism, racism, anti-blackness, heteropatriarchy, anti-indigeneity that never take a day off. And that’s what the forces arrayed against us count on. That they can outlast, that they can outlive. But they are mistaken. They are working from five-year strategic plans and bottom-line decisions, while we are working on generational implementation, planting seeds for the cycles of abundance and famine.

Though their forces often bring death and destruction and repression, everything about us is life. Our words, our actions, our traditions, our love, our land, our ancestors, our very bodies. Those forces are always arrayed against us, and while we must remain ever vigilant, it is even more important that we take the necessary time to rest, recuperate, and heal.

We must not forget what we are fighting for. Not forget how good it is to share nourishment with our community. To see hōʻailona in each other’s faces. To envision what a beautiful life we have and are creating.  This is also what it means to be an activist. To feel so alive together. To celebrate life and how beautiful it is. To be so grateful to each other and the land. To know that we are always going to be here. Even if we have to fight and be brave to do so.

What we wanted to do was to create a community document that would serve as a reminder that we are all here for each other. To allow us all to feel the rolling waves of joy and refreshment that break against our shores every single day. All twelve of the folks who write for Ke Kaʻupu Hehi ʻAle contributed (generally) practical suggestions about what we can do to heal ourselves and each other. Some are poetic, some are solemn, some are just silly. All will make you feel better. It made us feel better just to write and read them. We had only asked for 2-3 suggestions from each person, but you’ll see how many each person sent in an hour-long flurry of emails and attachments and jokes. We even asked a friend to illustrate the suggestions, and he got carried away doing rough drafts and conceptual sketches and putting cats into whichever pictures he could.

We also have a set of songs on YouTube that we listen to to cheer us on. And while we don’t necessarily condone laying in front of the tv all day, some of us also suggested some of our favorite tv shows for binge-watching.

And most importantly, we invite you not only to read our play-lists, but to submit your own as well. Let’s all put energy into helping us heal. Just email your name and your suggestions to (or write them in the comments) and we’ll add them to the list, so we can show everyone that we are here for each other:) wayne-room Aiko Yamashiro

  • Bryan brought back this quote for me from the 2015 Critical Ethnic Studies Association conference: “the opposite of violence is creation.” Also, the act of creating is a way of reconnecting to our sacredness. Grab a friend and make some time to create together: collect bits of flowers and leaves to make a collage of your neighborhood. Write a poem together on a bar napkin of overheard conversation and song lyrics. Cook something new that you make up, that might not go well but oh well (okra fried rice might not be a thing). Draw a picture instead of pressing the camera button on your phone. Play with a little kid playing with watercolors and invisible ink. Write important words on a lamppost or sidewalk at night in chalk, one friend as a lookout. Etc.
  • Handwrite a love letter to yourself. You don’t need to show it to anyone else.
  • Be in the ocean long enough to remember how important it is to breathe deeply through your whole body. Look at the mountains long enough to stretch your capacity to see. Let home carve you as deeply as possible.
  • Give away sweet-smelling flowers to friends and strangers.

Anjoli Roy

  • Haunt a place you love that makes you feel strong. Go when no one else is around.
  • Take your slippers off.
  • Put your feet in cool water.
  • Go for a run, even if you run slow now. Feel the air pulling in and out of your lungs. Thank your legs. Thank your swinging arms. If you’re too tired to run, slide down a smooth, grassy slope on a cardboard box. Listen to the aunties who are nearby and have been helping their kiddies slide down safely. Choose a cereal-box-sized piece of cardboard, or a refrigerator box—whatever’s around. Ride the slope sidesaddle if you like. Ride down with a friend and try not to crush her when you both fling off into long, smudging blades of soft grass.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you laugh hard and love hard too.
  • Call your sisters and tell them you love them. Do this with your parents too. Light candles for each of your grandparents.
  • Sit under a mango tree, heavy with fruit. Feel all these promises come true.

Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada 

  • if your dining table fits you and three friends comfortably, invite four friends over for dinner. then crowd around the table and share food that you eat with your hands. tear, bite, crunch, slurp, grin, tease, and tell stories.
  • invite friends over, make fancy popcorn (curry brown butter? popped in bacon fat? tossed in homemade salted caramel?), and rewatch a favorite movie from your childhood. just not neverending story. because even though we all remember it as a magical part of our childhood, somehow that movie is actually terrible in real life. artax dies in the swamp of sadness in like the first five minutes of the movie and falcor is an unmagical puppet with diseased scales and a mouth that doesn’t move to the words. trust me. watch anything else.
  • go and sit some place just because the breeze is nice. it can be a particular corner of a parking garage or a cement planter in front of your building, even just the one window at the end of your hallway.
  • swim freestyle even if you suck. learn to control your breath while you’re in the water. give in to the hypnosis of it. the water is always more powerful than you, so focus on what you’re doing. don’t worry about anything except stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe.
  • make a playlist to trade with a friend and buy yourself a good pair of headphones. actual good headphones, not just Beats. then rediscover how good your favorite songs sound and fall in love with new music.
  • speak your language into the wind, and listen as the entire world speaks it back to you.
  • get out your biggest, heaviest, most waterlogged longboard. when you catch a wave, crouch down, make sure no one is in front of you, and close your eyes. just feel the glide, smell the salt spray, and remember why you love all of this in the first place.
  • and my binge-watching shows are Friday Night Lights and whatever Aiko decides we want to watch:)

Craig Santos Perez

  • write an email, message, or letter to your favorite living writer and tell them how their work changed you
  • play with a baby, try to make her smile
  • read/listen to poetry by someone way younger than you and way older than you
  • devise a recipe using only local ingredients, cook and share with friends and loved ones
  • take a nap anywhere
  • wash your face, slowly and lovingly
  • walk with someone and together share your accomplishments and goals

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio

  • Make music. Play guitar til your fingers turn blue. Even if you forget all the words and chords— make your own. Let the melodies wash over you—let the rhythm heal you.
  • Cuddle 🙂
  • Go to the ocean. Let all the heaviness you’ve been carrying around fall off your skin with the salt.
  • Visit your family. Call your father. Let him hear your voice tremble. Do not hold back. Be vulnerable with those who will cherish your honesty.
  • Go to the forest. Cry. Laugh. Smile. Unapologetically.
  • Turn off the tech—including the lights. Light candles. Breathe slow and deep. Share the shadows with someone you love and trust.
  • Make love. Create with someone you trust. Collaborate. Share and make poetry.
  • Run. Lift. Sprint. Swim. Shed salt and loose skin. Watch for progress. Make your body strong—make your spirit stronger. Give yourself to discipline and commitment to the body.
  • And then feed what you’ve lost in sweat.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

  • walk with baby and her bucket outside. watch as she discovers the world around her.
  • go to church. just to listen to the singing, the words, and the ocean in the background
  • journal
  • drive to ajeltake and laura
  • go to aunty kaka’s house to take a swim
  • drink coconut water
  • make a smoothie
  • buy yourself a coffee treat from island cafe
  • definitely netflix/tv shows: orphan black, game of thrones
  • read a novel that’s just for fun
  • try a new recipe
  • gym, tennis, fishing, walking—anything with movement
  • draw, with pastels, the world around you
  • skype with friends who are far away
  • pick someone’s brain who you admire
  • grab lunch/dinner and/or a drink with friends and talk story

Lyz Soto

  • give yourself permission to be alone and do nothing productive and enjoy it
  • listen to your voices speaking of what you need, and respect them
  • ask for help when you need it
  • ask for company when you need it
  • when someone asks you for help, answer—even if it means admitting you don’t know what to do
  • work in the garden…sweat and get dirt under your nails
  • sit outside without anything electronic, without anything that makes noise, without anything that offers entertainment. Let your thoughts wander with the birds that sing to you.
  • have a regular workout date with a best friend
  • have regular check-ins when you know someone is in trouble. Tell them you will love them until the day you die.
  • vent, but know the difference between venting and talking shit
  • let someone else vent to you, but check them when they start talking shit
  • write a poem that opens your heart and then share it with someone who has asked for your love
  • read/listen to poems that make you say yes
  • imagine the world better, especially when you feel hopeless
  • clean the spaces where you live and think
  • recognize and accept when you are terrified and tell those who need to know. Understand there is a difference between vulnerability and weakness. Acknowledge that pretending you can do everything is not a sign of strength. Know that no one should have to do everything, nor should we want to.
  • ask “how are you?” and mean it.
  • when someone really speaks with you, listen to them with every ounce of your soul
  • Rajiv and I co-offer a final guilty pleasure of escape that I know nearly all of us do, but no one mentioned and that’s Netflix binge watching an entire season of a beloved show.

Noe Goodyear-Kaʻōpua

  • Go to a flowing stream. Immerse as much of your body as possible. With your face toward the sky, let the water flow over you. Lounge on a warm boulder as the sun dries you off.
  • Ask someone for a hug. A real hug that lasts long enough for you to release some of your weight and melt into the other person for a time.
  • Smile as you replay a carefree memory in your mind. Like the time you and your friends were driving down a highway in a convertible, blasting Hall & Oates “Private Eyes” and clapping at just the right moments for emphasis.
  • Admire your sleeping children.
  • Trade lomilomi or massages with someone you love. Talk about your dreams and hopes.
  • Watch Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.
  • Swim, run, walk or hike with someone who lets you win by just a few strokes or steps.
  • Listen to live music, throw your hands up in the air, and sway like you just don’t care.
  • My most recent Netflix show was Marco Polo, and my most anticipated is the new season of Orange is the New Black.

No‘ukahau‘oli Revilla

  • Visit your family. Laugh & listen with your whole body.
  • Watch a sunset on purpose.
  • Cook a meal close to your heart. With music floating through the kitchen. No TV. Then feed someone you love.
  • Shower by candlelight.
  • Read poetry to your lover in bed.
  • Take funky & beautiful photographs. Turn them into postcards. Write & send. To people in your life who need a surprise.

wayne-whale Rajiv Mohabir

  • Visit your friends and have an early afternoon beer.
  • Go to the water even if you feel like daylight’s fading fast, you will be glad you went.
  • Stay home all day and read the books you want to read, not the ones you should be reading.
  • Write a risky poem that you address to yourself as a lover.
  • Close your eyes and imagine your ancestors are at your back and that they can hear you breathing. Lean into them and let them hold/scold you with their love.
  • Say the oldest prayer you know, not to any god but to yourself as a child.

Serena Ngaio Simmons 

  • Writing all of that feeling out, while making sure that you aren’t editing or trying to perfect it while doing so. Just writing your feelings out for you and you only. And if you’re writing for other people, same thing. Just for them. With Sufjan Stevens or Iron and Wine playing. Just calming music.
  • Helps me collect all my thoughts, instead of the loud ska or Led Zeppelin I could be playing, but if that gets your writing going, that’s cool too…
  • Music in general, really. Saved me over and over.
  • I also like going outside, usually round sunset or, if I manage to get up at all round this time, at sunrise. This is when everything becomes that nice mellow shade in the sky and I can take a chance to sit and have a whakaaro. That shade of sun in particular has helped me heal quite a bit. Especially here.
  • I talk to my uncle and aunty. In Aotearoa, I visit mountains and beaches and other pieces of the whenua when I can, and acknowledge my tupuna as best as I can in the reo. I thank them for bringing me here, for calling me back.  I say a karakia. I spend a little time with them and take in all of where I am in that moment. This land and the wairua that still lingers does a lot to help me heal.
  • Call Joanna. Call Samson. Call Noa. They always have nothing but honesty and warmth to give me and just knowing they’re there is enough sometimes.

Tagi Qolouvaki

  • make art
  • go thrifting for a new dress
  • dye your new dress a color that suits your skin
  • get sunshine, and push bare toes into sand, surf, dirt, grass, stone, hot cement…
  • talk to/listen to trees
  • play with puppies, and kitties
  • play with babies, toddlers…all the children
  • let yourself be childlike
  • breathe, stretch, do yoga
  • walk everywhere—notice the fruit trees, the mo’o, flowers, birds, the breeze, the sun soaking into your skin…
  • write down your dreams, draw them, learn from them, think of them as messages from your ancestors/gods (let them know youʻre listening)
  • make an altar to your indigenous gods/ancestors
  • nurture all your relationships with family, friends, ʻāina
  • sing (preferably with friends), make music
  • write (love)poetry in response to all the trauma
  • cultivate community, gratitude, love
  • make playlists of music that make you feel, hope, love, sing
  • schedule quality time alone
  • read for fun, read aloud to yourself, to others
  • go camping, light fires, sing, enjoy the stars
  • practice fearlessness in your love
  • dance, and make love
  • tv shows: Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, and Orange is the New Black

3 thoughts on “Here for Each Other: A Play-List for Feelin’ Upful and Right

  1. Thank you so much for this <3. I've been feeling the battery. Been so bone-tired and soul-weary lately. Just reading this was breath. Selah.


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