Guest speaker, Video screening

“Voices Behind Barbed Wire” + Dr. Jonathan Y. Okamura

Showing of the 75-minute docudrama Voices Behind Barbed Wire: Stories of Hawai’i followed by discussion with Dr. Okamura

Description of the presentation:
The rise in anti-Asian hate incidents this past year has prompted an important discussion about racism toward the Asian-American population, both in Hawai’i and the Continental United States. During the meeting, we will view the film mentioned above and then listen to a presentation and hold a discussion led by University of Hawai’i Professor Emeritus Jonathan Y. Okamura. This will include various related topics such as the history of anti-Asian racism, including the WWII internment camps, the burden of the model minority myth, the indiscriminate lumping of all Asians into one block, and Asian-American support for other vulnerable ethnic groups such as those who are caged at the US southern border and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dr. Okamura’s biosketch:
Jonathan Y. Okamura is professor emeritus at the University of Hawai’i where he worked for more than thirty years, twenty of which were with the Department of Ethnic Studies. He is the author of several books, including “Ethnicity and Inequity in Hawai’i” and “Raced to Death in 1920s Hawai’i: Injustice and Revenge in the Fukunaga Case.” Professor Okamura continues to serve on the UH Manoa Commission on Racism and Bias and to write and lecture on race and ethnicity in Hawai’i.

Description of the docudrama:
Voices Behind Barbed Wire: Stories of Hawai’i. The film was sponsored by, among others, the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i. It was written and directed by Ryan Kawamoto with David Sato directing photography, including the historical reenactments.

While the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II has been well documented on the U.S. Mainland, new information about the sites and untold stories continue to emerge from Japanese Americans in Hawai’i who endured this dark chapter of history. “Voices Behind Barbed Wire: Stories of Hawai’i” explores the personal stories of Yakuma Hayashi, George Hoshida, Koiichi Iida, Rev. Tadao Kouchi, Dr. Motokazu Mori, Dr. Seiichi Ohata, Kanesaburo Oshima, Matsujiro Otani, Joichi Tahara, Shigeri Terada, and Kyoichi Ueda from the counties of O’ahu, Maui, Kaua’i and Hawai’i Island. The film also takes an archeological journey through the 19 former WWII confinement sites in Hawai’i and the relevance of history upon civil liberties today.

Guest speaker

Current issues in the Micronesian community of Hawaiʻi

Presentation by Jocelyn “Josie” Howard, Program Director of We Are Oceania (WAO). Josie Howard discussed current issues in the Micronesian Community of Hawaii.

“Cultural differences between Micronesia and Hawai‘i in the areas of medical care, employment, education and laws, compounded with the unfamiliarity with navigating Hawai‘i’s systems and services, has led to the numerous challenges facing the Micronesian community in Hawai‘i. Among these challenges are homelessness, highest number of student truancy, lack of job readiness skills, increasing numbers of children in child welfare services, and increasing numbers of juvenile and adult incarcerations.” — WAO Needs Statement

Guest speaker

Abolition in Hawaiʻi

Description of presentation:
Discussion led by abolitionist organizers Aree Worawongwasu and Noelle Kakimoto from the Hawaiʻi Abolition Collective. Abolishing prisons, policing, and the military are heated topics with easily manipulated definitions, so Aree and Noelle explained what abolitionists truly want and why these goals are beneficial for everyone. Starting with a quick background on how abolition developed, Aree and Noelle lead audiences into today’s movements for community safety, accountability, and healing outside of the inherently racist and punitive legal system. They shared influences from revered abolitionists like Mariame Kaba and Ruth Wilson Gilmore and present possibilities of what a Hawaiʻi without prisons, policing, and the military will look like.

Aree Worawongwasu’s bio:
Aree Worawongwasu (อารีรัตน์ วรวงศ์วสุ) is a Mon Teochew Thai community organizer, cultural worker, and educator from Bangkok. She is a member of Hawaiʻi Abolition Collective and a PhD student at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where she is a teaching assistant in Indigenous Studies and Ethnic Studies. She is the Director of Communications for the Afro-Asia Working Group and a technician for Dark Laboratory, a collective for Black and Indigenous relationality. As a diasporic Indigenous woman, Aree is deeply committed to and in solidarity with the movement for Hawaiian self-determination.

Noelle Kakimoto’s bio:
Noelle Kakimoto is a Kanaka Maoli organizer and writer born and raised in Honolulu. She is a co-founder of the Hawaiʻi Abolition Collective and is on the board of Hawaiʻi Peace and Justice in her free time, and she works for the Office of the Public Defender as an Appellate Legal Clerk and a freelance sports writer at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Noelle is passionate about building abolitionist futures in Hawaiʻi and she wants to establish connections between Hawaiians and other communities in our shared struggles. Her goal is to do reentry work with people who are released from prison.

Suggested resources:
A Nation Rising
ACLU Hawaii report on bail in Hawai’i (2018)
Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System, OHA Report
Community Alliance on Prisons
Hawaii Correctional Systems Oversight Commission
Puʻuhonua Penpal Program

Guest speaker

Honolulu Police Commission Task Force and the current state of affairs

Presentation by Cathy Lee, a founder of the Honolulu Police Commission Taskforce. In the past several weeks we have witnessed the tragic events in which Iremamber Sykap and Lindani Myeni , both unarmed men of color, were killed by the HPD. Many of us have been appalled by the systemic issues in policing here in Hawai’i.

Cathy Lee spoke to us about how to be engaged with Honolulu Police Commission and we discussed further actions that we can take to work towards creating a more equitable Hawaiʻi with transparent and just policing.

Suggested resources:

The Untold Story: Policing with Jay Ellis
HPC homepage

Guest speaker

Environmental Justice is Racial Justice: From Memphis to Kahuku

Environmental Justice is Racial Justice: From Memphis to Kahuku

Description of presentation:
Many regard the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, Dr. King’s final advocacy while still among us, to be a seed of the environmental justice movement. This legacy, and struggle for racial justice and equality in relation to health, spirit and the natural world, has grown into a powerful movement. Raya will discuss the fundamentals of environmental justice and her experience working with Ku Kia’i Kahuku’s fight for environmental justice on the North Shore. She will also share national context and next steps for federal action.

Raya Salter is an attorney, educator and clean energy law and policy expert with a focus on energy and climate justice. She is a member of the New York State Climate Action Council, which is developing NY’s plan to reach the nation’s leading climate action goals, and the Policy Director for the NY Renews climate justice coalition. In previous roles she was an attorney for both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. She started her legal career as an energy associate at Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP.

Raya has practiced in several jurisdictions, including New York, California and Hawaii and is the co-editor of Energy Justice: US and International Perspectives (2018). Raya worked as a consultant for Henk Rogers, at the State legislature in the Legislative Reference Bureau and enjoyed living in both Kailua and Ala Moana.

Raya sits on the board of directors of the Energy and Environmental Study Institute and the advisory board of Evergreen Action. Her web site is Raya is @ClimateAuntie on IG and Tik-Tok and Raya Salter on YouTube and Twitter.

Guest speaker

Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs (AHCC)’s adoption of Resolution No. 2020-30 “Standing in Solidarity with the Black Community in their struggle for social change, justice, equity, and equality”

Anthony “Makana” Paris, Esq., current Treasurer of the AHCC and President of Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club talked to us about his work with an import important resolution: Resolution No. 2020-30 “Standing in Solidarity with the Black Community in their struggle for social change, justice, equity, and equality”.

The AHCC adopted this Resolution at the 61st AHCC Convention which was held in November 2020. The AHCC was originated in 1918 by Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who was also the first Senator from the Territory of Hawaii. The AHCC represents 62 clubs, of which 17 clubs are on the continent, and has 5,000 members. Click to access 2020-AHCC-Adopted-Resolutions-excerpt.pdf

Guest speaker

Hawaiʻi’s failed criminal justice system and reforms we can implement

Description of presentation:
Attorney and Deputy Public Defender Jacquie Esser spoke and lead participants in a discussion regarding the following topics:

  • Overview of Hawaiʻi’s failed criminal justice system. Mass incarceration exists here, as on the continent, and is cruel, racist, and ineffective. It wastes money and lives, and doesn’t make our community safe.
  • Examples of how the current system is failing us: the criminalization of poverty and addiction, and discrimination against Native Hawaiians and other persons of color.
  • Reforms we can implement here to create a more just and fair system for everyone, including: Redirecting resources from police and prisons to healthcare, education and public housing; expanding restorative justice and rehabilitation programs.

Jacquie Esser is a mother and career public defender. Jacquie has spent more than a decade fighting to improve the lives of her clients, their families, and our communities. She is a criminal justice reform advocate who is committed to investing in communities, addressing the root causes of crime, building intergenerational stability, giving crime victims a voice in every case, and making our communities safer and more just.

Guest speaker

The Pōpolo Project

We listened to a presentation about The Pōpolo Project by founder and director Dr. Akiemi Glenn. A discussion followed.

Dr. Glenn holds a B.A. in linguistics from New York University and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. “Her primary interests are in how Indigenous peoples, refugees, captives, migrants, and other diasporic peoples in the Pacific and the Americas use language to construct, navigate, and politicize their identities.” She describes The Pōpolo Project as “a Hawai’i-based nonprofit organization that redefines what it means to be Black in Hawai’i and in the world through cultivating radical reconnection to ourselves, our community, our ancestors, and the land, changing what we commonly think of as Local and highlighting the vivid, complex diversity of Blackness.”