ANNIE PAU and I first met at the Farrington Highway Starbucks on the Waianae Coast of Oahu. I was working on a story for Al Jazeera and needed a Hawaiian who was willing to be interviewed about what life is like for thousands who can’t afford rent. Parts of Waianae resemble refugee camps, so it felt wrong, meeting with a homeless person inside the mother ship of gentrification.
But nothing else was open at 6am on Sunday near Lualualei Beach Park, where Annie and her husband, John, were living in a tent with their two dogs. That beach is nicknamed “Sewers,” for the stench from a sewage treatment facility wafting across the road.
Hawaiian names are often derived from an event or legend. Sometimes they’re metaphors, other times they describe something literal. But they always have meaning, although many have ended up on the sacrificial altar of tragic irony. Given its name millennia before the sewage, Lualualei means, “Beloved one spared.”
When I arrived at Starbucks that morning, Sinatra’s voice crooned over the din of hissing spigots and grinding beans. Those in need of stimulus lined up dutifully, awaiting their single soy this and double whipped that. And there was Annie, wearing frayed coveralls, perched uneasy on the corner of a sienna toned sofa, ready to bolt if the manager looked askance in her direction. Though her life, her story began not far from here, she was incongruous with the newly built Starbucks narrative.
Annie had a short, shocking white mane, and skin so darkened by the sun she looked more black than brown. She rose when I approached and smiled apprehensively. The last of her teeth sat side by side on the bottom front row, like two moviegoers staying behind to read all the credits. Somehow the lack of enamel took nothing away from the warmth of her smile. Her face was kind and expressive. There was nothing hidden or deceitful about her.
People like Annie, ragged and anonymous, are insurgents in the war of politics and culture, their marginalized lives embodying resistance to assimilation. To quote Hawaiian activist and folk-singer, Skippy Ioane, “‘Dem get democracy, us get survive.”
I asked her what she’d like to eat and drink and she declined, saying, with a tobacco-scorched voice, “When we’re done talking-story I’d like a large Coke from Burger King and a pack-a-smokes from Longs, if that’s okay.” The most she’d let me buy her from Starbucks was a croissant for her husband.
Standing beside me at the register, she was flanked on the other side by a row of plastic “Ethos” water bottles, shipped from 2,500 miles away and destined to spend eternity in a Waianae landfill. A placard in front boasted that a nickel of the dollar-eighty price goes to a clean water cause in a developing country. I guess it takes the other buck seventy-five to get that nickel from here to there.
We sat down at a table and I imbibed sweet Chai Latte and Annie’s fierceness. During the 40-minute drive to Starbucks, I’d prepared myself for meeting someone who was possibly drug addicted or a little crazy. No doubt a projection of what I figured I’d become if I lived on that razor’s edge. Annie was neither. However hopeless her situation appeared to be, she was what Hawaiians call koa, a warrior. She had righteous anger without being self-righteous and the courage to speak it.
Ask her about being homeless and she takes you and your paradigm to school: “You mean houseless. How can a Hawaiian be homeless in Hawaii?” she says. “Even if I have to sleep on the ground, Hawaii’s my home.”
I interviewed Annie twice and shared a meal with her several times, but rife with paradox and contrast, the Starbucks meeting is seared in my memory.
After the police swept everyone off Lualualei, she, her husband and their dogs relocated several more times, eventually ending up at the Haleiwa Boat Harbor on the North Shore. That was where I saw her last. She looked unwell, had a cut on her foot and wore a sock on it in a futile attempt to keep it clean.
She talked about wanting to find a house, but in the same breath refused to consider living in a homeless shelter because it would mean giving up the dogs. “And besides,” she said, “in the [homeless shelter] system, you go into lockdown… they gotta lock us up to help us?”
One night, 4 months later, Annie’s husband found her collapsed in the dirt outside their van. She’d suffered a stroke. This beloved one, spared none of the ravages of poverty, died the next day, in a nice, clean hospital bed.
Annie’s last name, Pau, it means done, finished, complete. It also means consumed, destroyed.
A book launch for LIMBO, an environmental novel by Jamaican filmmaker and author, Esther Figueroa, is taking place Friday, September 4th, at UH Manoa’s English Dept, 5:30PM. Figgy, as she’s called by friends, is a brilliant writer and artist whose works are fast becoming the archive of environmental destruction and resistance in Jamaica.
Here’s the event flyer:
Join us for the Hawaii launch of ESTHER FIGUEROA’s novel Limbo, also featuring the powerful poetic voices of RAJIV MOHABIR and RAIN WRIGHT-CANNON, as well as novelist SHAWNA YANG RYAN reading from her forthcoming novel Green Island.
Praise for Limbo:
“In this brave and witty new novel, Esther Figueroa takes us into the dark side of tourism’s uncontrolled development. The work is intelligent, clear-eyed and unforgiving; Figueroa does not avert her gaze – the devastation of land and wildlife is harrowing. Esther’s passionate concern for the future of Jamaica and the Caribbean, and ultimately for the future of our planet makes Limbo a landmark work of extraordinary importance.”
—Patricia Powell, author of The Pagoda and The Fullness of Everything
The reading will be followed by a book signing.
Since my last post on this site, I’ve been working on a new project, Why The Mountain. Long story short, after participating in stopping the so-called “Hawaiian blessing and ground-breaking ceremony” for the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea on October 7th, that mauna has been on my mind and in my heart more than usual. In December, after returning from a couple of weeks in the Bay Area, I began piecing together fundraising material and reaching out in hopes of making a film before construction began on the summit.
But I was unable to get it together in time, as the TMT work started almost 3 weeks ago. However, while this film’s fundraising has been slow going, the consciousness of Hawaiians and anyone else who is now aware of Hawaiian resistance to the TMT being built on the summit, has moved like wildfire.
Largely, this is due to the protective presence of hundreds of people on the mountain since work began on the site. And their devotion to saving that mauna has inspired thousands of people across Hawaii Nei and throughout the world.
“Noho Hewa” is going to be available free on Vimeo for one- week in part to support the mass education taking place right now about Hawaii. It’s also a fundraiser for this new project. You can get information about the film at whythemountain.blogspot.com or www.gofundme.com/whythemountain. There’s also a FB page at https://www.facebook.com/TheMakingOfWhyTheMountain.
My twitter handle is KealaKelly.
I will be on a panel with Jeanette Armstrong and Chief Caleen Sisk (moderated by Derrick Jensen) at the Earth at Risk Social Justice and Sustainability Conference this weekend in San Francisco. It’s sponsored by the Fertile Ground Environmental Institute. Go to Fertile Ground Institute for information on how to watch the conference online.
The day before the conference there will be two screenings of Noho Hewa in Berkeley. One at the university from noon-2:30 in Anthony Hall, the other in the evening at Berkeley Community College auditorium at 6:30.
And on Tuesday, November 25th, I will be a guest on KPFK’s “Uprising” with host Sonali Kolhatkar. The show can be watched online at Uprising and Free Speech TV.
*Here is a link (Maui Screening talk-story) to part of the talk-story that took place after the screening event mentioned below. Over 100 people attended. Mahalo nui to John Kaia for taping and uploading this. Keanu and Kaleikoa are discussing the differences between “decolonization” and “de-occupation.” It’s really important to clarify this right now because there appears to be a lot of confusion about what our options are.
CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION…
6:15 pm Friday, Aug 1, 2014 Kaunoa Center
Please join us for a screening of
“Noho Hewa: The Wrongful Occupation of Hawai‘i”
Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center
Saturday, August 2nd at 10AM with Keala. We will be discussing Hawaiian representation in media and how to use it to create powerful, political messages. During the workshop we will view recently produced pro-de-occupation PSAs and write and edit workshop participants’ PSAs. Time and equipment permitting, we will also produce a PSA. Call Clare at 214-4411 to register. This event is free. Bring lunch and drinks.
“Annexation” Scene from Noho Hewa
This is a link to a scene from “Noho Hewa.” It speaks to the confusion over annexation and makes the case for Hawaii as an independent, occupied nation state on par with all other nation states, despite 120 years of the uninvited presence of Americans who have settled on top of us.
I’ve also attached PDFs of a 5-part series I wrote A DECADE AGO. Like “Noho Hewa,” the article is fresh– it reads like it was written recently. The relevance of these things is due to the fact that nothing has changed in a good way for Hawaiians. In countless ways, things have only become worse. Hawaii is being swallowed up, and in some very important, visible and trackable ways, Hawaiian resistance has diminished. And that’s in the wake of 40 years of education and over a decade of a very public discourse about our rights to independence.
If the DOI, the formal representative of President Obama, is able to have its dog and pony show, able to get away with making Hawaiians believe they are being heard, when really they are being herded, then the selling off of our Crown and Government lands, aka the ceded lands, is not far off.
Indian Country Today-The Alaska-Hawaii connection (Part One)
The Alaska-Hawaii Connection Pt 2
The Alaska – Hawaii connection- Pt.3 |
The Alaska – Hawaii connection -Pt. 4
The Alaska – Hawaii connection-pt 5
MAHALO NUI to Seeti and Guy for the catch and release kokua!!!
This link is now showing up on FB pages and blogs (ku’e petition).
I include it here, along with one of the pages that has signatures from my ohana– my grandfather and my grandmother’s side are on this page.
The Ku’e petition is Hawaiian political genealogy. It’s linked here in case people coming to this site are interested in the ORIGINAL unified protest/activism of Kanaka Oiwi.
Find the mana’o of your kupuna.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom held it’s Pacific regional meeting in Auckland, and along with Peace Movement Aotearoa they sponsored a screening on Friday, April 25th at Auckland University Tech in downtown Auckland.
This is a 100- year old organization that was established during WW1, and their interest in Noho Hewa is something to take notice of because they are serious activists with an international reach.
Roti Make, Sina Brown-Davis, Rose Greaves, mois, and Marama Davidson.
It was an honor to be a part of the 3-day long gathering, and being there with the film was an opportunity to highlight the occupation of Hawaii; I was surprised to find that most of the attendees were unaware of the illegal occupation of Hawaii and grateful that they embraced the message of the film.
Closing remarks by the organizers included the following:
“Militarisation in the past has caused the colonisation of countries which are still under domination,” said Roti Make from WILPF Polynesia section. She specified Hawai’i under the USA, Rapanui under Chile, French Polynesia/Te Ao Maohi, Kanaky (New Caledonia), Wallis and Futuna annexed under France, and West Papua under Indonesia.”
It’s great that this international gathering of activists and scholars now have Hawaii on their list of countries under occupation. They also took an interest in RIMPAC for the first time, which is another issue they can discuss throughout their network.
PEACE MOVEMENT AOTEAROA is a national network for peace, social justice and human rights. Edwina Hughes, featured in the center of this photo, is largely responsible for the goings-on at PMA, and she organized my tour. Together ,with Teresia Teaiwa, professor of Pacific Studies at Victoria University, they planned for screenings of Noho Hewa and my participation at this conference on the “Military Occupation and Military Bases” panel with the other 3 wahine featured in this photo.
Asenaca Uluiviti, myself, Edwina Hughes, Kozue Akibayashi (WILPF Japan) Cherry Padilla (WILPF Philippines).
The trip to Wellington was truly inspiring. Mahalo nui to Maria Bargh, professor in Maori Studies at Victoria University, for hosting my stay there. Maria is an accomplished scholar (Editor of Maori and Parliament: Diverse Strategies and Compromises; Resistance: An Indigenous Response to Neoliberalism), and she’s a commentator on TVNZ. She’s also a mother of two beautiful, brilliant little boys.
Maria Bargh and Emalani Case at a Castro Street eatery in Wellington
Emalani Case is a PhD student at Victoria University in Pacific Studies. Her dissertation is about Hawaiki, and from what she shared with me it sounds like it will be a moving, powerful depiction of Hawaiian thought and cultural/psychological landscape of our sense of origin and expression.
Emalani and I had also had a couple of really good talk-stories about what’s happening here in Hawaii, politically and culturally. She’s an inspiration and I suspect she will be an influence in our community for a long time to come. She also spoke eloquently at the end of the q&a at the screening. So mahalo nui to her for the kind words of kokua in olelo Hawaii and in english– truly appreciated.
It was great to have another oiwi in the house at the screening, which took place at the National Film Archive; mahalo nui to Oscar Halberg, the projectionist who made my film look beautiful, and to manager, Mark Sweeney.
Tracey Whare, rapporteur and secretariat for the indigenous global coordinating group, and Edwina at one of the great restaurants on Castro Street
The 21st Annual Women’s Studies Conference at Southern Connecticut State University was a beautiful, intellectually and spiritually uplifting experience. It was small enough to be intimate and large enough to be very diverse, and the panels I was able to attend and speakers I heard inspired me and reminded me that there are women all over the world with ku’e and fearless minds and spirits.
Mahalo nui loa to las professoras Virgina Metaxas, who instigated my participation and made sure to secure the funding for me to attend and hosted me at her home. I rode all over Connecticut with Ginny and it was kind and stimulating and yes, inspiring. I also want to mahalo Tricia Lin and Rosalyn Amenta, the co-chairs of the conference and two unbelievably inspiring women– their personal AND political stories are why they are such leaders in the women’s studies community of scholars and activists.
I am honored to have been able to screen “Noho Hewa” at this conference, and to have been on the opening plenary with an amazing Puerto Rican artists and scholar, Imna Arroyo.
Spoken Word artist, MindEvolution, is an incredibly gifted and fierce poet and artist, and it was a pleasure to see her perform.
Majora Carter was the opening keynote, and her work in the South Bronx makes me wanna visit the South Bronx the next time I’m in NYC… can’t say I’ve ever had that urge!
And last, but fabulous was the closing keynote, Dr. Chung Hyung Kyung. Some of you may recognize her from “The Tribunal.” She was a part of the people’s tribunal in 1992 here in Hawaii. What an incredibly gifted, brilliant and inspired soul and mind this woman is. Truly an honor to meet her.