“Rope” by George Jurgens used via CC BY-NC 2.0
Ko Kākou Struggle: 15 Voices on Where to Go Next
In 1852, Hawaiians added a provision to the kingdom’s constitution that outlawed slavery and decreed that any slave who made it to Hawaiʻi would be considered free. This was 11 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. I have not seen much to indicate that this had any major effect on the institution of slavery in the United States or that huge numbers of folks were able to make the 2,000 mile ocean journey to Hawaiʻi to gain their freedom. Yet I would like to think that a major port outlawing slavery would have at least disrupted the blackbirding and slave trading that was happening in the Pacific. I would like to think that at least some people made it to Hawaiʻi and felt safe and that we never knew who they were because they got to live out the rest of their lives without incident.
Maybe it is naive on my part to think such things, but the idea that we can create a safe space, a puʻuhonua, here in Hawaiʻi is still something worth imagining about. Puʻuhonua are places that are set aside as refuges, as shelters, a place where you would be protected. Traditionally, anyone who had made some sort of transgression or who was in trouble or trying to escape oppression would be safe within the bounds of a puʻuhonua. Two of the more well-known puʻuhonua are Kualoa and Hōnaunau, which is sometimes known as the City of Refuge. Even people could be puʻuhonua. When Kamehameha was mōʻī over the Hawaiian Kingdom, he declared the aliʻi wahine Kaʻahumanu to be a puʻuhonua herself, meaning that those who made it into her presence had found safety.
Instead of by sacred decree, however, we are going to have to fight to carve out these puʻuhonua. It will mean taking a very honest look at ourselves, our community, our values, and asking painful questions about what we truly believe. I have seen Hawaiians say the most racist things about people from Micronesia and use the sovereignty movement to justify it. So we have to ask ourselves if we want to be a part of a kingdom that is founded on the structural and individual disregard of any group, much less our Pacific cousins. Are we going to continue to contribute to the currents of anti-blackness that run throughout the world? I know that our kūpuna in 1852 didn’t want to. How does a sovereign Hawaiʻi treat women? Will it be a country where one in five women will be raped some time in their lives? Will it be a country where trans women made up the overwhelming majority of victims of fatal hate crimes?
It is not enough for us to want sovereignty so that a historical wrong can be righted. We have the chance to build a different kind of nation, one where we can freely practice aloha as we understand it, one that isn’t founded on the theft of indigenous land and the enslavement and murder of black people. One that is centered on ʻāina and kai and caring for the piko that connect us all. Maybe we have to create something different than a nation. Truly a puʻuhonua for those who need it the most. Because, honestly, if we’re not going to push for real change, we should just give up fighting for sovereignty and stay a part of the United States.
We have been struggling for this puʻuhonua for generations, and it’s not like the new oppressor-in-chief we just elected is the beginning or end of this fight, but there is a lot of dark smoke on the horizon. So now is a perfect time for us to recommit to our struggle. And to recognize that our struggle is linked to the struggles of others. Our understanding of pono has never allowed us to feel safe and satisfied while those we care about are in danger. And some of our most vulnerable loved ones are in mortal danger, whether it is because they will be denied access to necessary medication and health care, or because bigots feel that they now have free license, or because people care more about their oil than their survival, or because it is clear that money is more valuable than drinking water, or because the tide is washing away their land, or the million other reasons that will become clear as time goes on. So we must recommit. Their struggles are our struggles. Ko kākou.
This is why we asked artists and activists and organizers from across Hawaiʻi, the Pacific, and the United States to share their thoughts and concrete steps that people can take moving forward. Our connections run deeper into the ʻāina than just this election, but we did feel like this would be a good time to hear from other folks and share our aloha with them, because aloha is one of our greatest strengths right now. I have seen posts on Facebook critiquing the idea that love can overcome hate, and maybe this is a translation issue, but those posts have been equating love to docility, to being meek, and I have never seen those things in aloha. Our aloha is why we are outspoken. Why we are powerful. Why we fight. Why we lay down our lives for this ʻāina. Why we survive. Why we will win. So it is aloha that I share with all of you, and all of the activists, organizers, poets, and artists who have lent their voices to this reconnection, to the creation of puʻuhonua. These are the people we must raise our voices alongside with as the struggle continues:
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a theoretical physicist and Editor in Chief of The Offing, a literary journal committed to pushing beyond boundaries. She tweets @IBJIYONGI:
I want us to plan to win, which means we must be willing to fight on our feet rather than live on our knees. I want us to have Nazi Germany in the back of our minds, not to terrorize ourselves but because that will help us stay vigilant about meaning “never again” when we say it. I believe we can. I believe we can even do it peacefully, if we work together. Working together doesn’t mean we ignore our white supremacist divides, though. Over half of white women and white men voted for Donald Trump. People will make a lot of excuses for this, but at the end of the day, the majority of white Americans decided that threatening the lives of people of color was an acceptable approach to community and governance.
Our plans to win must be multifaceted. Here are just some of the things folks need to do:
- White people need to work on their internalized white supremacy. Yes you white liberals.
- Non-Black people of color need to work on their anti-Blackness. Read Blackness is the fulcrum by Scot Nakagawa to get yourself started. Start a reading group to talk about about race and racism.
- We cannot walk around saying, “This is our country!” in the midst of the Dakota Access Pipeline human rights crisis that the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is facing. Our plan to win absolutely cannot be at the expense of Native and Indigenous peoples.
- But this is our community. We must be willing to do the work together. Some of us will go into the streets. Some of us will write. Some of us will make magnificent visual art and music. I encourage you to submit writing and art to The Offing.
- Some of us have got to work on the legislative picture. We must retake state legislatures and governorships so that we can un-fux0r our gerrymandered districts. We must plan for 2018.
- We must be hopeful and optimistic enough to keep going. The moment we stop, the terrorism of white supremacy has won.
- You may think that the adults got what they asked for, but we have a responsibility to the children. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a queer Wahine ʻAi Pōhaku from Pālolo, Oʻahu.
The night of the 2016 election, I made a joke on Facebook that I immediately regretted: “So are we gonna have a bunch of new members in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement tomorrow?”
The first reason I regretted this statement was because it oversimplified the necessity and depth of our modern movement for Hawaiian sovereignty. While our lāhui will (and should) accept new citizens as our people, and our allies come to consciousness, we should not simply build a movement rooted in fear of this “new” American imperialist/white supremacist regime. I am for an independent, nuclear free, and generative Lāhui, not because I prefer it to the apocalyptic Trump era, but because I believe Kānaka Maoli should have the right to determine for ourselves the kind of governance that honors the kuleana we have to our place and our people. Since people don’t understand my sarcasm on Facebook all the time, Iʻll spell it out: if you only support a free Hawaiʻi as a means to create a Hawaiian nation state that mirrors America, just without Trump, we don’t need you—not until you’ve joined us in realizing that we need to create a new reality, beyond this nation state structure.
The second, and more important, reason I regretted the joke was because it played into a growing narrative of having the privilege to abandon ship. I take issue with the instinct to flee. I particularly take issue with this instinct when it comes from those of us with the privilege and capital to leave, abandoning those without such privileges and opportunities.
I can’t say that I know everything about our kūpuna, but I do know that they never ran from a fight. Our kūpuna never abandoned their home, lāhui, or their people for more peaceful pastures. Every bit of Hawaiian history demonstrates that our kūpuna were invested Kānaka who fought for human rights, stood up to unjust leaders, and fought always for the right to noho aupuni.
Will all this in mind, I have a few hopes:
- I hope Kānaka Maoli see beyond the bait of celebrating a Trump presidency in the faint hope that it may somehow, in the end, support our movement for sovereignty. I hope that instead we see the way such a celebration ignores the increase of violence that our POC/ Queer/ Wāhine ʻohana will be confronted with because of Trump.
- I hope we Kānaka Maoli continue to give voice to the fact that these violences have existed far before Trump was elected, and are actually an inherent part of the American experience; and in doing so, push Americans who have had the privilege to ignore such violences in the past to come to terms with their ignorance.
- I hope that Kānaka Maoli build a movement for Ea that invests in the breath of all people, including Americans—especially our Black, Latinx, Indigenous, brown, queer, women, disabled, poor, etc. who have for too long fought for their right to breathe.
- I hope that Kānaka Maoli have the fortitude to both fight for our ea & lāhui while fighting to also stand hand in hand with Americans to make America safe and just (for the first time since 1492).
- I hope that Kānaka Maoli stand up for our fellow people, not merely stand aside and celebrate the fall of an empire that has wronged us. To do so would be to celebrate the devastation of people whose experiences are very much like our own, peoples who have too been wronged by the “great” imperial force.
- I hope that we find ways to have hope again. To see beyond our materials fears, to stand together, to sacrifice, and to speak our truth to power for ourselves and for others. And ultimately, imagine new futures that are unintelligible to our current experiences.
I am not asking my fellow Hawaiians to care about the millions of Americans who now fear for their lives because we share some intimate connection as Americans… We are not Americans. I am asking my fellow Hawaiians to look into their history, into their naʻau, and see all the many things that we have in common with so many Americans at the hands of the American elite: dispossession, violence, displacement, poverty, poor healthcare, fear, environmental racism, extractive capitalism, description of our sacred sites, and cultural appropriation.
This is a time for true solidarity, which is not at all the same thing as the unity many conservatives are calling for. Solidarity is the active coming together and sacrificing, where unity, in this case, asks us to sit quietly and accept our current “reality.” From Hawaiʻi, solidarity means recognizing the ways that we are/ will be, by virtue of our geographic “isolation” and general liberal society, shielded from a tremendous amount of physical violence. Solidarity means not sitting idly in comfort in the privilege of this distance. Solidarity means we must instead continue to fight these injustices. Solidarity means seeing the protection of targeted peoples in the same way we see the necessity of protecting our targeted lands. If Mauna Kea and Haleakalā deserves to be unmolested by telescopes, then so do our women. If Pōhakuloa deserves to be free from attack, then so do our Black, Brown and Queer ʻohana. If our wai deserves to live freely without fear of extraction and displacement, then so do the many people (including immigrants) who live in America. Simply, we MUST protect peoples from desecration as vigilantly as we fight to protect our sacred sites. To fail to do so, would fundamentally undermine the values our kupuna passed down to us; and to turn away from our values and our kuleana is to turn away from what truly makes us Kānaka Maoli. Ultimately, we must act in the faith that no privilege of comfort is worth losing who we truly are.
Joy Enomoto is a visual artist and scholar, who is currently pursuing a dual degree in Library Information Science and Pacific Island Studies.
My name is Joy Lehuanani Enomoto. I believe in sovereignty and liberation. I will never stop believing in sovereignty and liberation. I am a descendant of the slave trade, the trail of tears, and the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. I am the child of resilient ancestors who faced atrocities I can only imagine. It is because they stand with me, that I refuse to be afraid. But that does not mean I did not cry. I cried in front my ancestors until I was shaking. That was the first thing that I needed to do, because each drop of salt water returned to the earth to stiffen my resolve and the path became clear.
BLACK LIVES MATTER IN THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM. We are all targets for aggression right now, but the consistently unchecked violence that has been unleashed on African Americans will most likely increase. We need each other more than ever, to deny this only gives consent to more violence.
Hawaiians and those of African descent have always informed each other’s struggles. Read 10 Reasons Why Black Lives Matter in the Hawaiian Kingdom to learn more about our shared histories and ways to be an ally.
Lanita Ririnui-Ryan is a creative native storyteller of Maori & Cook Islands decent and company director of Through The Fire Ltd.:
MESSAGE ALERT from LANITA RIRINUI-RYAN
(Ngati Ranginui, Ngaiterangi, Ngapuhi, Kuki Airani)
Beeps of messages in cellphone reception is an interesting thing.
In Aotearoa, New Zealand, the tranquil spaces of remote beaches is a peace that removes all the digital noise of this world and reminds me of who I am.
On the day of the US election, I was one of only a few of my friends not watching the world ‘end’. The arrival back into the city and digital landscape of cellphone reception really only meant one thing to me; the United States of America had decided one of two bad choices.
America probably doesn’t care what we think in our end of the world, but the repercussions of its effects were only too blatant on facebook status updates, tweets and tagged memes that hit my phone like a bad mixtape.
Despite Beyonce and the rest of our ‘girls who run the world’ backing Hillary Clinton, the greatest meme that explained it all was that Donald Trump and his win wasn’t the ‘Orange Is the New Black’ that everyone was hoping for.
As a creative native of Māori & Cook Island descent living in Aotearoa, NZ, my concern for the indigenous struggle is always at the forefront of any political decision made that always has repercussions for us in this world of globalization. And the election on the other side of the world totally reinforced that.
Who are we, if we are not ourselves. And who can we be, if we are led by those who vocally don’t care about us.
That’s a pretty big statement, I know. All people spend their lifetime finding themselves. But as an indigenous person, I feel like we are not only finding ourselves but finding ways to allow us to be ourselves. Because everyone is someones brother or sister, or daughter or son. And everyone matters.
I worry about the brothers and sisters who dont ‘fit’ the societal construct of those in power. I am saddened by the digital beeps of social media commenting with sad faces because our two spirits are taking their own lives out of rejection and fear, abuse and isolation.
I get that social media is warped and full of keyboard warriors with no filter but beyond the noise of worry and anger and angst – death is an absolute.
Death to voice. Death to support. Death to acknowledgement. Death to Life.
We need to turn these beeps of messages around.
Beep support. Beep for check-ins at Standing Rock. Beep for Love comments on facebook.
Ideally, we need to be beyond the beep. We need to remove the digital noise and remind ourselves of who we are. Find those tranquil spaces to reset. Support those who are struggling to find themselves.
Not all of us are that lucky. Yet. I understand that.
But if we can beep positive messages to someones brother or sister, or daughter or son without even knowing if they need it, it could be the one beep that breaks the digital noise and helps open a door to being themselves.
Remind ourselves who we are and create new tranquil spaces to celebrate that.
We are all someones brother or sister, or daughter or son.
Give life to voice. Life to support. Life to acknowledgement. Life to Life.
Make our beeps of messages an interesting thing.
Extended bio: Lanita Ririnui-Ryan is a freelance producer/director/writer/presenter across multi-platforms in screen production. A television major with a Bachelor of Communication Studies from Auckland University of Technology, she has always been driven by the indigenous perspective and the voice of culture and youth.
Lanita is a creative native storyteller of Maori & Cook Islands decent and company director of Through The Fire Ltd. Poi360 is the very first indigenous interactive documentary to be made in Aotearoa, NZ. Funded by NZ On Air, the challenge of moving traditional artforms into a modern platform is one we all face in the preservation of our culture.
A longstanding contributor to indigenous stories, Poi360 is her first foray into the transmedia and VR world. She is a working director for various Maori & Pacific programmes and contributor to the Pacific digital platform http://www.thecoconet.tv. She has over fifteen years experience across the television/film/digital industry, has been a board member of Nga Aho Whakaari – Maori in Screen Production and is an ambassador for The Outlook for Someday Filmmaking Competition.
Nancy Aleck moved to Hawaii in 1974 from California and has worked with a number of peace, justice and social change organizations since that time. She recently retired from Hawaii People’s Fund:
An Opportunity for Public Health
I was so fortunate to have been able to learn from many teachers beginning in the late 1980s as the Hawaiian Sovereignty movement took root. As a haole, I never felt unwelcome. But I saw that many around me did not think this movement had anything to do with them. Working with others, including a number of Kanaka Maoli, we created educational workshops. These were geared for non-Hawaiians, who were scared and felt threatened, although plenty Hawaiians came, too. Creating safe spaces for people to open their hearts and minds was so important. We need to foster health while working for change.
In the last 15 years I have again been so blessed to be able to connect to, observe and learn from the most diverse and amazing grassroots organizations throughout the islands (and beyond). They are not all focused on sovereignty or Hawaiian independence. But the work they do is critical for this. Because every single one of them are working for the common good, for the health of the land and the people.
I have learned that nation building must include the creation of alternative structures. This takes time, experimentation, and lots of collective will. But, we cannot tear down what doesn’t work for us without developing new models ready to replace them. It’s too easy to replicate the very oppressions we fought to eliminate.
The election of Donald Trump is serving as a wake-up call. People are not only taking to the streets in anger and self-expression, they are calling for mobilization. They are caring for each other, recognizing historical and new trauma, and calling for healing. Small intimate groups and larger strategic formations are already organizing, and this is just the beginning!
We can model for the rest of the world sustainable living that embraces culture, diversity, human rights, and public health. A friend wrote that “Hawaii will be the kipuka.” Now is our time!
Dean Saranillio grew up on the island of Maui. He teaches in New York City trying to raise awareness about Hawaiʻi’s occupation by the United States:
@SonofBaldwin “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” Now that an explicit hate group is in the White House, how do we oppose the increase in physical violence that many of us are threatened with, while holding each other close to build for collective change? How can our organizing, teaching, and everyday life leave room for the possibilities of everyone to make mistakes in the present (including Trump supporters)? How can we imagine criticism not simply as dismissal, but an embrace of the possibility of mutual respect? How does a non-Hawaiian community build on the actions of those who have actively supported Hawaiians, and also engage in a constant revisioning of politics that further a collective sense of pono?
Collective learning and transformation sometimes requires sitting in healthy discomfort. Critical trans politics activist and legal scholar Dean Spade argues to consider how the logics of the prison industrial complex works itself into our everyday. Where in activist groups, for instance, our first impulse when someone says something racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, is to marginalize this person, to replicate the logics of prisons, which is to argue that this person must be removed otherwise they could potentially ruin the collective group. Instead, Spade argues to use these opportunities as pedagogical moments, to not marginalize this person, because all of us do and will say things that are offensive, even when we are attempting to be actively careful thinkers. And while being called out sucks, it is also a space of growth and could be of value to larger communities.
I have long thought that settler colonialism and occupation requires being modified, stretched, and wrestled with in order for it to account for the specificity of other historical systems of power that diminish life chances via white supremacy, climate crisis, labor exploitation, debt and poverty, able-bodied and able-minded supremacy, militarism and war, the undocumented and immigrant detention centers, incarcerated peoples, discrimination and violence against gender nonconforming people, and heteropatriarchy, that are each interconnected and actively renewed, many times, by other marginalized community’s strategies for resistance. I currently live and teach in New York City—Lenape Territory—and in my work, I question how we might challenge ourselves to learn the complex languages of other struggles, how different histories carry different words that are distinct ways of knowing forged in different traditions of resistance. Such aims to be multilingual in each other’s histories aim to prevent our strategies of resistance in colluding in the subjugation of other communities by becoming humble to hear and connect with each other’s critiques. Excusing oneself from self-critique because of one’s distance from white heteropatriarchal normativity is a defining characteristic of our particular neoliberal moment, when movements and forms of resistance are not only coopted but actively structured to facilitate forms of domination against other differently vulnerable communities.
Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and writer. She is currently an Assistant Professor at George Mason University. She has taught International Human Rights Law and the Middle East at Georgetown University since Spring 2009:
The Path to Palestinian Freedom Flows through Racial, Economic, Social, and Indigenous Struggles
In the past two years, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israeli settler-colonialism, occupation, and apartheid has made tremendous strides. They have been so successful that Hilary Clinton pledged to combat the movement as part of her presidential tenure and the Democratic Party formally included dismantling the movement as a Platform policy. Still, these strides have had little to no impact on the ground and on the Palestinian reality of living in legal subordination and in various zones of death.
In the face of a Trump Presidency, the work of the U.S.-based Palestine solidarity movement remains the same: agitate, create controversy that makes room in mainstream media for debate; and more than anything deepen and entrench the entwinements with and between progressive movements. The road to justice in Palestine should be paved on a road of advocacy for racial, economic, social, and indigenous justice in the United States.
Two examples and opportunities for doing that are the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s stand-off against the Dakota Access Pipeline and another is in the Movement for Black Lives. Involvement in these movements is above all the moral thing we must do but it is also an opportunity to teach and learn about the ways that settler-colonialism and institutionalized racism function.
Standing Rock Sioux Struggle Against the DAPL Pipeline
In South Dakota, a corporation wants to build a 1,170-mile oil pipeline across the Missouri River to transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day across four states as well as the river. This is a $3.7 billion dollar project. It will also desecrate sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and threaten their water supplies. This is an environmental catastrophe but it’s more than that it animates what so many of us take for granted because of the success of American settler-colonialism. We live on stolen lands, we all of us here are settlers relative to the native nations even if our journey here was also forced and includes stories of exile- in terms of settlers and native and that simple binary – Palestinians are not the natives in North America. We never paid for this land and we don’t recognize the sovereignty of the nations that were here before us.
In South Dakota, the Sioux Nation has signed treaties in 1851 and 1868 and according to David Archambault II, the chairman of the standing rock Sioux tribe, the “US government broke those treaties before the ink was dry.”
In 1958 when the Army Corps of Engineers damned the Missouri Rivers it took the riverfront forests, fruit orchards, and most fertile farmland to create an artificial lake. What the Army Corps is doing today is not new as much as it is old, a continuation of land theft, dispossession, removal, displacement, desecration. This should all sound very familiar because it is.
Palestine is not unique- it is not the only settler-colony in the world – we live in a settler-colony, Canada is one, Australia, Hawaiʻi- where the kingdom is under a US military occupation since 1893. But how many Americans know that? How many of us know that?
How brilliant that we can all learn about settler-colonialism in an ongoing struggle today, one we are all apart of as residents in this country and as people. As told by a Mohawk elder to Nadya Tannous, a young Palestinian writer and activist from California who spent a week with the Sioux Nation in solidarity and who represented Palestine along with the Palestinian Youth Movement there- this isn’t just a fight for indigenous sovereignty and dignity, this is a fight for the source of life, for water. It’s a fight for all of us.
For us to participate in it is imperative even for selfish reasons to educate the people around us that settler-colonialism isn’t one event that annihilates millions of people and is over, it is an ongoing process and one that is alive and well in North America today.
Black Lives Matter and Black Palestinian Solidarity
Another opportunity for struggle and education is the Movement for Black Lives that has been animated once again by the brutal murder of black men and women and transgendered folk with the color of law. As the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement found, every 28 hours a black life is stolen by police or vigilantes. And though animated by the precarity of black life and the swiftness with which it can be taken- it is also about the systems erected to diminish black life and their horizons- these include:
School to prison pipeline, which preys on young black children in underserved schools where they have to walk through security gates and have police on campus rather than counselors and after school programs and free meals.
Or the fact that the criminal justice system and the war on drugs doesn’t criminalize behavior but criminalizes people – much the same way that the war on terror doesn’t prosecute the use of force against civilians for political purposes but criminalizes muslims and arabs and brown folk who look like them.
Today, 1 out of every 3 black men is in prison. In her groundbreaking work, the New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander explained that the number of African Americans in prison today is greater the number of African Americans held in bondage or slavery in 1850, 10 years before the U.S. Civil war.
And what do we hear in the media? A concern that none of these victims are perfect, that police are the ones in danger, that all lives matter and to say otherwise is reverse racism – all this in an effort to obfuscate the role of the state, of institutionalized violence, and the fact that racism is constitutive of nearly all of our legal institutions and even our modes of knowledge production. But because we’ve been taught the myth that racism is just judging someone or calling them a name or explicitly differentiating between them, we don’t have the analytical tools to see how the most violent manifestations of racism are invisible to us and embedded in institutions that regulate our lives.
This should be very familiar to Palestinians as well – because Israel has similarly institutionalized its apartheid system in a series of administrative laws, myths, in ways that criminalize our existence, that blames Palestinians for their own death in Gaza, in Ramallah, in Nablus, and in Jerusalem.
How brilliant, that we can work with this movement and help educate and learn ourselves the ways that racism works, the ways that violence is naturalized, the ways that a people are dehumanized and through that work we are teaching a lesson about Palestine as well.
Either you are selfless and you care about everyone so you work on these issues. Or you are deeply selfish and you care about your own interests in which case, even from a strategic point of view you work on these issues. These are two sides of the same coin in the movement for emancipation. When MLK Jr. tells us that no one is free when not every one of us is free- this isn’t a cliché soundbyte, this is real life, as the exiled Assata Shakur of the Black panthers has put it, it’s either all of us, or none of us.
The triumph for Palestinian children in Gaza, in the West Bank, in the 58 refugee camps in the Arab world, and in our diaspora is the triumph of principle- of dignity, the restraint on state force, rejecting the sanctity of state sovereignty, learning to trust the victims first, and not equivocating between two sides without scrutinizing the balance or more likely imbalance of power between them, – Palestine teaches us all of those lessons and we should apply them here at home so that the struggle for Palestinian freedom is also the gateway and the journey and the key for freedom of all peoples.
Extended bio: Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and writer. She is currently an Assistant Professor at George Mason University. She has taught International Human Rights Law and the Middle East at Georgetown University since Spring 2009. Prior to joining GMU’s faculty, Noura was a Freedman Teaching Fellow at Temple University, Beasley School of Law. She is a member of the Legal Support Network for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights. She served as Legal Counsel for a Congressional Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, chaired by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich. Noura has helped to initiate and organize several national formations including Arab Women Arising for Justice (AMWAJ) and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN). She is a board member of the Institute for Policy Studies, the Arab Studies Institute, Trans-Arab Research Institute (TARI); a Policy Advisor of Al-Shabaka; a founding member of the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival; the development consultant for Legal Agenda; and a contributor to IntLawGrrls. Noura has appeared on MSNBC’s “Up With Chris Hayes,” Fox’s “The O’ Reilly Factor,” NBC’s “Politically Incorrect,” Democracy Now, BBC World Service, PBS News Hour, NPR, and Al-Jazeera Arabic and English and published extensively in mainstream press media. Her scholarly publications include: “Overlapping Refugee Legal Regimes: Closing the Protection Gap During Secondary Forced Displacement,” in the Oxford International Journal of Refugee Law; “New Imminence in the Time of Obama: The Impact of Targeted Killing on the Law of Self-Defense,” in the Arizona Law Review; and “Whiteness as Property in Israel: Revival, Rehabilitation, and Removal,” forthcoming in the Harvard Journal of Ethnic and Racial Justice. She is a Co-Editor of Jadaliyya.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @4noura.
Annie Koh is a Ph.D. Student in Urban & Regional Planning at UH Manoa with a background in community arts organizing. I think the Black Panthers were the original “diy urbanist” movement, organizing free health clinics, safe pedestrian crossings at schools, community ambulances, and anti-eviction protests:
The terrain for action for me has been the city and the neighborhood. I can care and worry from a distance but I act in immediate proximity. Housing. Homelessness. Policing. Public space. These are everyday issues that are decided daily at city council, at a bank, in the mayor’s office, or in a patrol car. I am terrified about what will be decided at the White House and in Congress. But it is women, local Asians, Native Hawaiians, Democrats and self-proclaimed progressives who have voted to criminalize homelessness in Honolulu, who passed legislation against healthcare for Micronesian immigrants in Hawai’i. So how do we achieve justice here?
The space for politics is also an imaginative space where we tell stories about what is possible and desirable and essential.
The housing conversation here on Oʻahu has been dominated by how to lower costs to increase building. But more critically, we also need to talk about keeping people housed — through tenant rights protection against no-cause evictions — and preserving affordable units — through rent stabilization, community land trusts and anti-speculation taxes. We should talk about how Honolulu had rent control during World War II and figure out ways to incentivize affordable rentals over speculative investments.
Media coverage around the expansion of Oʻahu Community Correctional Center has centered on overcrowding and the need for more beds. But we also need to talk about the problems with money bail and how the majority of people in jail are awaiting trial, innocent until proven guilty but imprisoned because they can’t afford to pay bail. How we don’t fund community mental health or teen crisis outreach and instead expect that calling 911 will address family emergencies even when the logic of policing puts our youth into a prison pipeline. And we can also talk about how communities in Chicago and Bronx and elsewhere have pooled together donations to create a community bond fund that pays bail so people can go home to their families, return to their jobs, and keep their kids housed and safe while awaiting trial.
We need to talk about multiple ways of claiming space and holding place. In my six years living in Honolulu, I have learned so much about aloha ‘āina and ways to malama ‘āina. But it is not just the green valleys and ancestral bones we need to find strength in and fight for and love fiercely. We can also gain a sense of connection in 5 minute ‘ohana formed at the bus stop packed with aunties getting off of work and high school students going home. Learn from uncles who still live off the land, even when that means fishing from the Ala Wai Canal and building a lean-to along a muddy embankment. And root our struggles in the right now, in our city.
Some places to start learning about possibility and struggles
eri kiyoko is a nisei genderqueer unicorn gardener for the revolution currently based in Oakland, CA:
We are nearing the end of 2016 and, frighteningly, racism (also known as White Supremacy, xenophobia, and anti-Blackness) is thriving, as is Heteropatriarchy (better understood as sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny). The number of targeted acts of violence towards immigrant communities, communities of color and folks who identify with the LGBTQI experience are higher than ever. With Trump about to become the POTUS, it is important to remember and be proud of who we are and where we come from, and navigate the world with a sense of aloha, pono and resilience.
As a nisei, second generation Japanese, genderqueer person born and raised on Oʻahu to a working class family, I am hyperaware of the many intersections of identity I hold and the vulnerability that comes with it. I am also aware of the privileges I have as a non-Black, non-Indigenous person living on stolen lands, and I work to decolonize my own behaviors and habits everyday. This looks like spending my money to support local practitioners and artisans (and, frankly, anyone who is bold enough to ask for support), and spending my time organizing and holding safer spaces for folks in my neighborhood and larger communities. I do these things because it is important to me that folks stay connected in times of struggle and devastation.
Although I have not lived in Hawaiʻi for over 3 years now, I know that the people in the islands are just as susceptible to the fuckery of colonized Amerikkka as anyone else living under this occupation. My advice to folks back home is to do your research, remember your his-stories and her-stories, show up with aloha and keep the movement moving!
understanding White Supremacy:http://collectiveliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/What_Is_White_Supremacy_Martinez.pdf
Transgender 101: http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/transgender-101/
a reminder of recent waves of (actual) racism in Hawaiʻi, against Micronesian folks: http://hawaiiindependent.net/story/racism-in-hawaii-is-alive-and-well
Lyz Soto is a performance poet of Tagalog, Ilocano, Hakka, German, English, French, Cherokee, and possibly Spanish descent. She is a co-founder of Pacific Tongues and a long time mentor and coach with its award winning youth poetry program, Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi:
I think some of us
born with their own fists
stuffed in their mouths
their first taken meal
an undeveloped lump
Their first breath
a brawling squall
to tame the world,
dreaming of eating
in their tender path.
Clear cutting a path
becomes a mantra:
We must level mountains,
swap forests for fields,
occupy oceans with all
our ravished pulp,
and build fences
around our plunder.
We consume believing
we will not be devoured.
So they have taken back
their country, this bawling
infant nation, founded
on ripping apart the fabric
of ancient cultures, built
on black backs and chains,
living on stolen lands,
for progress and development
into beautiful synonyms
for rape and greed.
The last week has left me in grief. So I write poetry. This helps me open the door in the morning and walk outside. How can we have come so far and so little all at the same time? What can we do to make this world not just safe, but joyful? After all, so much of us is magnificent.
From my small corner, I encourage everyone to speak with the young people in their lives. Give them the histories that have been muted. Do not rest with just the telling of our oppressions. Remind them of our resilience and our beauty. Ask for their stories of our future. Dare us to imagine better than where we have been.
Support the arts. We are not practical. We will not grow the economy. We will give you a reason for living. We will be the food beyond the table. We could be the imagination . . . that moves us beyond the brawling gluttonous infant . . . that sees the possibility of a world not built on the principle of expendable people . . .
Dig in the dirt and grow. In this environment, I think one of the most revolutionary things you can do is grow some of your own food. They will have less power over us, if we can feed ourselves.
Extended bio: Lyz Soto is a performance poet of Tagalog, Ilocano, Hakka, German, English, French, Cherokee, and possibly Spanish descent. She is a co-founder of Pacific Tongues and a long time mentor and coach with its award winning youth poetry program, Youth Speaks Hawaiʻi. Her collaborative work with visual artist Joy Enomoto and her fellow poets in Pacific Tongues sustain her. She is the proud mother of Jakob, who always shows her the best stairway to climb. Her poetry theater show “Her Bodies of Stories”, exploring themes of diaspora, settler colonialism, and growing up in Hawaiʻi. will be premiering in December 2016 at Doris Duke Theater.
Prentis Hemphill currently works as Director of Healing Justice at Black Lives Matter where along with supporting the brilliance of the healing justice working group, they help to lift up healing justice analysis and interventions within chapters and the broader network. As a member of Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity’s (BOLD) teaching team, Prentis works to teach a somatics practice relevant to Black movement leaders and organizers:
I fight for Black Liberation and the liberation of all people and the Earth and I do that through the Black Lives Matter organization and network. We’re a global network of 45 chapters organizing in local communities and in coordinated action to end state violence against Black people and ensure that we can live vibrant, full and resilient lives. It’s clear that what we’re experiencing now is both a sickness festering at the core of US ideology and a backlash to the organizing and might of oppressed people. It feels critical that every nation, especially those fighting colonization, figure out how to deeply heal from white supremacy, which is always and without exception, an inheritance of European colonization, imperialism, and the racialized class systems they impose. Our work in ending white supremacy begins in rooting out how it lives inside each of us, how we see and understand Blackness, and it moves us to take action in our relationships, in how we govern and articulating values that actively resist dehumanization.
It’s time to have hard conversations. To my Native Hawaiian and local people struggling for justice, I ask you to look at how anti-Blackness has permeated Hawaiʻi, how it shows up in day-to-day interactions. Explore how communities here to relate to Black culture. In how it’s commodified, is it honored? And how new immigrants are made Black through the ongoing work of colonization.
Host conversations with your ‘ohana, your organization on anti-Blackness and commit to uprooting it and struggling through with your loved ones to end it.
Black Americans living in Hawaiʻi, we have to come together to heal, and to organize against imperialism done in the name of America and to find our right role in the fight for indigenous self-determination as peoples with no land, but a rich culture of resistance despite displacement.
Explore the complexities and contradictions of US based anti-Blackness that brings primarily poor and Southern Black people into the military through a system of disenfranchisement to bases in Hawaiʻi with little to no context on history or sense of responsibility to present day struggles.
Learn together about the expansion of the prison system currently being decided on in Hawaiʻi legislature. The current American jailing system was created for the capture of enslaved Black people and has been exported throughout the US and Hawaiʻi. So too has the privatization and expansion of prisons been structured and experimented on for years with Black communities. We have things to share and learn.
And organize! Turn our learning into brave action. I deeply believe that our solidarity is the only chance we have for survival. Solidarity that feels uncomfortable, at times, solidarity that brings us closer into struggle and understanding. Each of our communities holds a critical piece in our collective liberation. Listen to each other closely. Show up for each other.
Extended bio: Prentis Hemphill currently works as Director of Healing Justice at Black Lives Matter where along with supporting the brilliance of the healing justice working group, they help to lift up healing justice analysis and interventions within chapters and the broader network. As a member of Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity’s (BOLD) teaching team, Prentis works to teach a somatics practice relevant to Black movement leaders and organizers. Trained as a therapist and Somatic practitioner and brought up through prison justice and anti-violence organizing, Prentis has spent the last several years working to articulate the connection between liberation and personal transformation through teaching and hands on healing and counseling work with groups and individuals. Guiding and grounding their work is a reverent relationship to nature, the gift of interdependence found in healing and movement, and a personal commitment to the embodiment of rigorous and unconditional love.
Kim Compoc is a graduate student in the English department at UH Mānoa. In both her activism and scholarship, she is interested in how the story of empire becomes more evident through continued engagement with each other stories of resistance.
Thank you for taking time to learn about more ways to get involved. This is a very painful time and like many others I have been overwhelmed with grief and fear. At the same time, I am inspired by the passion and creativity of the protests here in Hawaiʻi and around the world. Trump and his supporters are saying “Build that Wall!” but millions have responded by saying “Build that Movement!” As we raise our voices together, we advance irresistible visions of a sane, just and peaceful world. We welcome your participation.
Women’s Voices, Women Speak – We are a women-led collective in Hawaiʻi working toward a demilitarized, peaceful and non-violent world. As the Hawaiʻi chapter of the International Women’s Network Against Militarism, we address both local and international issues related to demilitarization, peace and non-violence. We are an organization that stands for “genuine security” as opposed to the “national security” that promises only endless war, death and destruction. We work to educate the public about the gendered and environmental impacts of U.S. and other imperialisms. We have had an art and information (“Art-i-vism”) tent at Lā Ho‘iho‘i Ea for the last two years to promote the connectedness of all our sovereignty struggles. Currently we are preparing for our international gathering in Okinawa in Summer 2017. Like us on Facebook or check out or blog http://wvws808.blogspot.com/ and the website of our international affiliates: http://iwnam.org/
Decolonial Pin@ys is a group of diasporic Filipin@s in Hawaiʻi committed to demilitarization, decolonization, healing and creative liberation. We believe that Filipin@s can tap into their lakas ng loob (inner strength) to build allyship for a free and independent Hawaiʻi. Like the banyan tree with multiple roots, Filipin@s in the diaspora remember our own resistance traditions in the Philippines to globalize love, liberation and connection. We have worked in partnership with Aikea/Local 5 to connect workers’ rights with movements for aloha ʻāina in our “Respect Land, Respect Labor” campaign. We have also worked on a solidarity campaign after thousands of Lumad (indigenous people) in Han-Ayan, Mindanao were displaced by militarized mining interests last year. We seek to provide connections between the sovereignty efforts in the Philippines with the movement in Hawaiʻi. Contact DecolonialP (at) gmail.com.
Oceania Rising is a student organization at UH Mānoa concerned with issues of peace, self-determination and independence, social, economic, cultural and environmental justice in Oceania and Asia. We advance these issues through educational events, advocacy, arts, community organizing and building solidarity between different communities within the University and between the campus and the community. We seek to engage members of the UH community in shaping a more just and peaceful future for our region. Our first event, “Bikini Day Remembrance,” was held on March 1, 2013 to honor those killed and displaced through U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands. On Friday, November 18 from 2-3:30 we will be hosting “Ban the Bomb: A-Bomb Survivors Speak Out” at Dean Hall, ACCESS Room 5 and 6, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Our motto is “Remember, Recommit, Resist!” Contact us through Facebook to get involved.
Kenneth Gofigan Kuper is a Chamorro Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa from Guåhan. He serves as the co-chair of the Media committee and as a core member for the Educational Development and Research committee for Independent Guåhan. He also co-founded the social justice activism group, Oceania Rising, dedicated to demilitarization and independence work in Oceania. He is a staunch language revitalization activist and has a two-year old daughter whom he speaks to exclusively in the Chamorro language:
With all the chaos surrounding Trump’s election to the office of the President of the United States, many people on social media made comments suggesting independence as a way to escape Trump’s future administration. For some in Guåhan, this is a future worth fighting for. The independence movement in Guåhan has had a resurgence with the formation of the group, Independent Guåhan, and the reconvening of the Independence For Guam Task Force. By holding monthly community meetings, creating educational materials, having a vibrant presence in the media, conducting small-pocket family meetings, and organizing art events, Independent Guåhan takes concrete steps towards creating an independent Guåhan. As our mission statement reflects, “Independent Guåhan empowers the Chamorro people to reclaim our sovereignty as a nation. Inspired by the strength of our ancestors and with love for future generations, we educate and unify all who call our island home to build a sustainable and prosperous independent future.” We truly believe that in order to have a sustainable independent Guåhan, the rest of the Pacific should also be independent. This is why we whole-heartedly support the Kanaka Maoli independence movement and look forward to working with Kanaka Maoli to support our shared cause of independence for our people, lands, and minds.
If you would like to support the independence movement in Guåhan or contact us, we have various social media outlets. We can be found on Facebook under “Independence For Guam Task Force” and on Instagram at “independence_for_guahan” You can also check out our website, www.independentguahan.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can help us spread the word about independence. We can collaborate together on various projects/campaigns, or share resources that may help our respective movements. Si Yu’os Ma’åse’!
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a Marshall Islander poet, spoken word artist, and teacher. She has used her poetry to highlight the struggles of her people including social justice issues such as the threat of climate change for her islands, the American legacy of nuclear testing in her country, and racism against Micronesians in Hawaii.
I was in the Marshall Islands when I found out about Donald Trump’s win. In my world, I am First Daughter to President of the Marshall Islands Hilda Heine, and so I was having dinner with the Taiwan Ambassador in his home when he clicked on CNN to find the latest election results to find Trump’s win emblazoned in red across the screen.
I think of the red across American streets, the red in our ocean and the sky.
I’m now here in Morocco for COP22, a conference where countries from all over the world are convening to discuss climate change. To say that this has shifted the mood and the atmosphere is an understatement. I was told in multiple emails that I needed to be “inspirational” for the climate movement. But where could I find inspiration? After I watched Trump’s win, I imagined our islands sinking below the waves. How could we fight for our islands now? I knew I needed to find inspiration to fight somewhere. But where?
I searched. And searched.
And found Limayo Abon. Limayo Abon is an elderly woman from Rongelap Atoll, who witnessed the nuclear testing as a young girl. She has spoken at multiple nuclear events, describing the trauma of multiple miscarriages. She bears the burden of storytelling, as two of her sisters who were also activists passed away from cancer. She is one of the handful of survivors left. She can never return to her island, due to the radiation.
And yet. She continues to tell her story. Despite her loss. The loss of her island, the islands incinerated, the trauma, a non-existent movement, no swell of support, not even a conference like this COP here.
I realized, again, as I have before how privileged I am. How necessary it is to continue to tell stories, not just in support of the climate change movement, but also the nuclear movement, also support for Guahan independence, for Hawaiian sovereignty, for the black lives matter movement, for queer and brown bodies that have not been heard.
I encourage everyone to look to your elders to find that strength. To our youth as well. To continuously connect. This election will affect everyone across boundaries.
Extended bio: Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner is a Marshall Islander poet, spoken word artist, and teacher. She has used her poetry to highlight the struggles of her people including social justice issues such as the threat of climate change for her islands, the American legacy of nuclear testing in her country, and racism against Micronesians in Hawaii. She received international acclaim after performing at the United Nations Climate Summit last September where she performed a poem to her daughter entitled, “Dear Matafele Peinam,” which moved hundreds of world leaders to tears and has since launched her into global conversations on climate change. She also co-founded the youth environmentalist ngo Jo-Jikum based in the Marshall Islands, and is currently the Pacific Studies faculty instructor at the College of the Marshall Islands.
Kathy tweets from @kathykijiner
Aiko Yamashiro is a teacher and student of decolonial literatures of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific:
This election taught me how courageous and beautiful my friends and teachers are. I witnessed them raging and crying and then putting their heads down, gritting their teeth, recommitting to the trenches. I am swimming in two lessons.
One, how can we orient ourselves first around the love and trust we have built among us over generations, around ‘āina and kai. How can we turn to these alternative structures and genealogies of resistance to feed us and hold us when we are exhausted.
Two, it feels even more important to think really hard about solidarity and who we are not including in our community organizing. Who are the voices and bodies we have forgotten about? I know this election has driven fault lines through families. Right now, I am feeling hopeful about the leadership of organizations on Oʻahu that have been consciously practicing and experimenting with solidarity for decades. The ones that come to mind first are the social justice convening of Hawaiʻi People’s Fund; and the demilitarization work of DMZ Hawaiʻi & Womenʻs Voices Women Speak. These organizations have taught me how to connect our stories and struggles, look for the roots of violence and oppression, and also to care for the differences in each other’s lives.
As a poet and literature teacher, I think writing and creating can do a lot to disrupt narratives of fear and hate, and nourish stories of ea and pono. Two projects that are giving me a lot of hope right now are
- the poetry manifesto of Jahra Rager, “We Singing Stigmata.” She writes:
CREATE. CONJURE. FACILITATE. PRODUCE.
ART AS ACTIVISM. ART AS PROTECTION. ART AS CONNECTION.
WE MUST START CREATING WORK AT AN EXCEPTIONAL
STANDARD THAT IS ENTIRELY ACCESSIBLE.
- The #GetFreeWrites prompts put together by The Dark Noise Collective. Their beautiful jumping off points include “self-care warfare,” “imagine your heaven,” and creating shields and armor. In their intro, they write:
“We asked how we could leverage our position as a group of young artists of color to strengthen the fight to create a world in which our communities can live free of fear and state violence. We drew on our experiences as teaching artists, and our emphasis as educators on making our classrooms spaces where students can openly discuss issues of inequality and social injustice.”
Mahalo to all the artists helping us imagine and live pono futures.
One thought on “Ko Kākou Struggle: 15 Voices on Where to Go Next”