We haven’t digitized the video taping of the event yet, and I’m happy to report that the May 4th event was lively, engaging, and more than met our high expectations. Rather than summarize what Julian Aguon, Kekuni Blaisdell, Jon Osorio, Kuhio Vogeler, Randy Kaulana Chang or myself presented and discussed in the Ho’opunipuni: Myth of Statehood panel, I thought it best to let the video/transcripts speak for itself as we aim towards finishing it within the month.
I would say, however, that both the audience and the panelists were engaged in discussion, and one thing that came across was that many had come to the event expecting to hear a unified approach on the issues of the Akaka Bill, “ceded” lands, or what Hawai’i independence might look like. What they found was that there are many approaches and that the unity that exists, exists only in the consensus of the facts. For example, the fact that in 1893, there was an illegal overthrow; the fact that in 1894 a republic was established without the consent of the United States; the fact that in 1898, there was a resolution proclaiming Hawaii’s annexation without a legal annexation treaty. Regarding statehood, there is the fact that in 1959, there was a plebiscite taken in which 96% of the people who voted, voted for statehood, but that less than 35% of eligible voters participated in the plebiscite, and there is also the fact that Hawaii was placed on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, slated for independence, and that we were improperly removed from that list.
What the panel suggests is that agreeing upon these facts, there are many approaches towards sovereignty and independence and there is work being done by many to uncover the myth– the misinformation, lies, misinterpretations– that have been promoted in Hawaii and abroad over the last century. The panel also encouraged all to participate in this discussion, not only those residing in Hawaii, but those residing on the continent as well. The struggle for independence, justice and dignity, is not one that is defined by the geographical boundaries of Hawaii, rather the struggle should be defined by all who are willing to engage in further public dialogue and social discourse.
Jeff Liu and the entire staff from Visual Communications was accommodating, encouraging and supportive, and considering how many films were being screened throughout the festival, I was continually amazed by how available they were to the stresses of putting this event together: stresses big and small. Jeff’s concern throughout this process was for this panel to present a standard of rigor and authority and despite him breaking his hand in a freak biking accident, he was present and always available to make sure that the event stayed on course.
Lono Kollars, the president of KA HA (Kaleponi Advocates of Hawaiian Affairs) was leading this event’s wonderful and hospitable pre-reception. He worked with Auntie Sharon Ku’uipo Paulo preparing and organizing the food, arranging for the musicians, and setting the mood and proper protocol for greetings, introductions and mahalo for the film and forum to come, even though his co-sponsor’s program kept changing!
Earlier, during the morning of our big event, Eseel Borlasa with publicists David Magdael and Associates arranged for Jon Osorio and Kuhio Vogeler to be interviewed by Sonali Kolhatkar on KPFK’s Uprising Radio.
Christian Dautresme, was assisting me with the details of shuttling and hosting our panelists, and he offered to drive us to the radio station at 7 in the morning. Jon’s flight to LA the night before had been delayed by several hours and by the time we got back to the house, it was nearly 2 am. We were pretty tired the next morning when we were traveling north on the 101 towards Studio City where the KPFK studio was, and just under a mile from the freeway exit, we heard a loud “POP!” a horrible scraping from under his car.
Christian pulled off the side of the freeway and the spring from his rear suspension had popped. He immediately set off to work on fixing his car. A police car pulled up and called road side assistance as I left messages on voicemail after voicemail. After a few minutes, and no one answering my calls at 7:30 am, I asked the officer if he could give us a ride to the station.
The officer willingly gave us a ride. He put Jon and Kuhio in the back of the squad car and I sat shotgun next to his shotgun as he raced to the radio station in time for the interview (No, he didn’t turn his siren on).
The irony was pulling into the parking lot of the most progressive radio station in Southern California in a squad car and having the officer let them out of the back. I hope he tuned in and listened to the show!
It was a fantastic interview, and the story of how we got to the radio station got quite a buzz at the forum later that evening.
Here is page one of the program:
and page two of the progam:
and a used ticket from the event:
I think Jon Osorio publicly thanked the officer and LAPD for getting us to KPFK in time!
It anyone wants to take the lead to sponsor a transcription of the two-hour event or the video, please contact me.
The Thursday before the event everything was going smoothly. I was finishing up the edit reel that was being screened at the beginning of the forum. I was advised to cut the edit reel down to under 30 minutes if possible, and I shaved off a good 15 minutes.
Then Friday, the hurricane hit with Maivan calling to inform me of her cancellation. Her new puppy, Gobi, who Otto and I met in New York a week earlier had scratched her eye and was not healing well, and she had to go in for treatment. When I last spoke with her, she was recovering well.
Then Paul Kealoha Blake, the moderator called to tell me that he had woken up with a fever and there was some concern over whether he may possibly have swine flu and thought it best that he cancel.
Scrambling, I quickly called the first person to come to mind to replace Maivan, and that was Julian Aguon who was at that time cramming for law school finals. Thankfully, after much thought and a healthful dose of persuasion from Kekuni and Maivan, he postponed his studies for an overnight Los Angeles detour. His parents drove up from Long Beach to watch the event. They must’ve been so proud because he electrified the discussion.
Jon Osorio was not without mishap either. He was supposed to be arriving around 11:15 and his flight was delayed for two hours. After picking him up from the airport we didn’t get to sleep until after 2 am and I sensed some apprehension about him getting up at 6:30 for the KPFK interview, jump into the panel, and then get up at 6 am again the next morning to catch his flight to Ireland where he was meeting Kamana Beamer. I assured him he would have time to nap.
On Sunday, I received notice from Richard Falk, that he too had to cancel. He got called to go to Europe to prepare for an investigation into human rights abuses in Palestine by the Israeli occupation.
Thankfully, Kuhio Vogeler arrived on time! In fact he offered to help mow the lawn, wash the dishes and encouraged me to sit on panel to present my research on the June 27th 1959 plebiscite. He was generous enough to help me organize my presentation right up to the pule, the chant/prayer blessing the panel given by Randy Kaulana Chang, KA HA’s recommendation for moderator to replace Kealoha Blake.
Kekuni was supposed to arrive on Saturday with Kuhio, but unfortunately he had to postpone his trip until Monday, the day of the panel, and he arrived with Julian, two hours before the start of the event.
Robert Scott, another friend offered to pick them up at 3:30 when their flight was scheduled to arrive. They were on curbside half-an-hour early and so they took a bus to Union Station. Robert, stuck in 110 traffic turned around to pick me up so that we could meet them at the station and take them to the event, which was about three blocks from Union Station.
When we got there, Roger Park, another friend who offered his services was there. He arrived at 3:30 and was the first one there. He helped Auntie Sharon unload the food from the car and assisted with communicating to the other panelists where we were when. Roger was there even before the documentarians arrived. Masayo Sodeyama volunteered her time to assist with the making of the documentary, and filmmakers Joseph Kamiya and Robyn Tofukuji also volunteered their time to assist with camera.
As I think about the details and preparation of this program, I am continually astonished by how well everyone pitched in and supported each other. It was truly a community-organized event and I believe that whatever success was achieved by this panel is a result of aloha and things being pono all around, and with that I extend my mahalo to everyone who came, asked questions, listened, and offered their assistance and mana’o, to which none of this would’ve been possible.
Most importantly, we all have to give credit to the panelists who participated for taking the time out to deliver a presentation that engaged everyone there for three hours, and the audience who engaged the panelists with thoughtful and pertinent questions!
It was so engaging that my wife Ruth went home to relieve Annika, a woman from church who agreed to be Otto’s sitter and prepare the house for the several guests who came over to carry on discussions around our own round-table until 2 am over beer and tacos from the El Sereno taco trucks.
Jon Osorio and Julian woke at the crack of dawn to catch their respective early morning flights, Kekuni and Kuhio both left in the afternoon and for me, the event closed with the rise of an early moon and ended with a long and exhaustive sigh.
Missing in the credits are also five organizations without whom this presentation would’ve been impossible: the early contributions of Hawaii Council for the Humanities for the creation and maintenance of this website; Mineral Studio who’ve donated their time and resources to host and stream content; Kanaka Maoli Independence Working Group, Ka Pakaukau, and Kanaka Maoil Tribunal Komike for their collective inspiration, motivation, and will to persevere in the struggle for Hawaiian independence.