HAS THE ILLEGAL US OCCUPATION OF HAWAI`I WORKED?
Yesterday [6/13/2016] Debbie Lindsey, interim Poʻokula (and former hope poʻokula) at Kamehameha Schools (KS), sent a letter to the leadership, faculty, and staff of KS Kapālama addressing what she calls a “disrespectful” “incident” at the 2016 KS Kapālama commencement ceremony. The incident she is referring to was a choice made by five strong and proud Kanaka Maoli students who refused to stand during the opening song, The Star Spangled Banner.
Lindsey, says this choice “created a noticeable disturbance to the commencement exercises” that was “disrespectful to our school and our country.” Ultimately Lindsey claims that the ceremony was “blemished by the poor choice of a few.” Throughout her letter, Lindsey cites important values that KSK is responsible for instilling in their students including: pride, humility, honor and respect. Lindsey was further appalled that this act of resistance took place on Memorial weekend, when all occupied people are supposed to be extra patriotic Americans.
With enough time, I could shred her letter into too many pieces to count. Rather, I would like to share this letter with you all to remind us of how much work we have left to be done. Unfortunately, some of our greatest obstacles come from within institutions that are meant to protect and serve our Kanaka Maoli community. The audacity of this woman to attempt to force her Americanism on our students and our faculty is sickening. Her erroneous use of pronouns meant to assert the idea that Hawaiʻi is apart of America is best rebutted by our kumu Haunani-Kay Trask (KS 1967) who famously said, “We are not Americans, we are not Americans, we will die as Hawaiian, we will NEVER be Americans.” Trask’s words were true and timely in 1993, and they continue to be true and important to this day. Pauahi was not an American, our haumāna are not Americans, and choosing to sit during the national anthem of our occupiers is a sign of great respect and reverence to our true country.
I am concerned that our school is currently led by someone with so little consciousness and vision as to not understand the great need for a group of students to “create a noticeable disturbance” in order to inspire change. At the same time, I am not surprised, as this is the same institution that fires employees for “nation building.” I hope our community stands behind these students as they potentially put their academic standing on the line in order to show us how wrong it is that we have not updated our commencement protocol to exclude the American National anthem. In addition, I hope Lindsey and her supporters are properly reprimanded for attempted to force students to participate in any activity they find demeaning or against their personal beliefs.
Finally, I would like to applaud these five haumāna. I am immensely proud of you, and proud to be a Kamehameha graduate precisely because of students like you. Continue to stand (and sit) strong in your convictions, all the rest of your days. Continue to follow in the footsteps of our kupuna, like Aunty Nona Beamer, who stood up to the hypocrisy of Kamehameha when she was expelled for dancing hula and practicing our culture. Remember always that you are a part of a brilliant genealogy of resistance, true decedents of the original poʻe ʻai pōhaku. Never let anyone, no matter what role they play or badge they wear, try to convince you that you should ever stand for something you do not believe in. And maybe, because of you five students, someday we will have a Kamehameha commencement that doesn’t open with such an offensive and appalling demonstration of American patriotism. Contrary to this woman’s arrogant assertions, you all have made a beautiful statement that demonstrates respect, honor and pride and I am privileged to be a part of the same lāhui as you. You are not a blemish, but a shining light that remind us all that our work must and will continue until the very last aloha ʻāina.
Me ke aloha nui,
Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio
2008 KS Kāpalama Graduate
PS: if anyone who knows the students who participated in this act of resistance, please forward them my letter so that, at the very least, they know their demonstration was not in vain, and that I and many others sit with them.
& please share to show KS that we do not support Debbie Lindsey's letter.
Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio