Over 100 community members packed into the small basement event space of the Elliot Bay Book Company on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, September 19, to celebrate with Sharon H. Chang the launch of her newest book and first memoir, Hapa Tales and Other Lies. Sharon kindly invited me to perform opening and closing ceremonies as well as share a couple mele (specifically, a couple hula performances). This experience was powerful, inspirational, and fulfilling regarding womxn and femme power, a force of indigeneity, vulnerable sharing and deep cultural exchange, a multi-racial community's pains and triumphs, and a breath of fresh intellectual enlightenment and prosperity.
I feel so blessed to be in the company of greatness. Sharon's excerpts chosen in her book reading were equal parts eloquent and down-to-earth, simultaneously humorous and bluntly painful. Although she and I have very different relationships to Hawai'i - I being Native Hawaiian and she being mis-identified as such - I find my questions and emotions completely seamless with her own. For example, she questions the changes in expectations and justifications from having dark skin in the tropical places where she had grown up - she in California while I was on O'ahu - but now living as a light-skinned mixed person in cloudy Seattle. People treated us differently than when we had been growing up elsewhere. We have been identified, misidentified, claimed, and disowned and singled out. Where is home?
I can't wait to sit down and read voraciously through this memoir. Stars Marian Macapinlac, Selena Velasco, and Moonyeka feel the same. Marian's voice began the set of performances with sweet rock and roll - her voice echoing smooth melodies throughout the room. Selena's slam poetry piece with artistic interpretive dance moved me - her vulnerability is her strength; her body is her own, now. And so is mine. And Moonyeka smashed onstage with a super-chill-cool dance set and disturbingly great video montage. Watch them. These individuals, led by the community Sharon H. Chang is drawing together, will shake the world as we know it.
Mahalo nui loa to Sharon for the opportunity to share in such an incredible night I will always remember. Me ke aloha e ku'u 'ohana hou!
Event: Lei-Making Workshop
Date: Sunday, November 11, 2018
Time: 11:00AM - 1:30PM
Location: Wing Luke Museum 719 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104
Fresh flowers, fragrant greens, and endless results. Join us!
One of the four Pacific Islander artists featured in the Wing Luke Museum’s Visions of Pasifika Light from Another World, artist and lei-weaver Kalei'okalani will direct a 2.5-hour lei-making workshop with fresh lau and pua (leaves and flowers), woven together in the wili or wrap style at the Wing Luke Musuem in Seattle's Chinatown-International District.
Participants will learn about the significance of lei-making and how this Polynesian tradition is integral in the perpetuation of cultural values. This is a challenging exercise and is recommended for 12+. No experience necessary.
Lei are not simply decorative pieces; they share a spiritual connection with and are representative of the land they come from, the people who create them, and the people for whom they are made. Lei is a cultural, personal, and spiritual exchange of aloha (love), mana (spiritual power), and mana'o (knowledge). Learn about how lei-making strengthens our connections to the land and to each other. Share in company, stories, and laughter in this labor of love.
What to bring:
Sharon H. Chang is an award-winning renowned activist, author, and photographer whose works and perspective shed light and insight on the racial relations of the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora. Her first publication, Raising Mixed Race: Multiracial Asian Children In a Post-Racial World, is a critically acclaimed academic work focusing on the contradictorily underrepresented children of color that make up the vast majority of the under-5 population. Now, she's launching her first memoir book Hapa Tales and Other Lies, a beautifully woven story of mis-identity, hidden histories, and a search and understanding of home. For this highly anticipated work, Sharon, in her usual fashion, has curated together a community-collaborative, which, by sheer power of community, features many artists with whom Huraiti Mana has performed across the Asian American, Womxn/femme, Pacific Islander, women of color, and social justice art activist scene.
Huraiti Mana (Kalei'okalani) last collaborated and shared the breath of life with Selena Velasco for the Wing Luke Museum's Visions of Pasifika exhibit and with Moonyeka as a peer teaching artist for Arts Corps. Alongside the amazing performance artist Selena, dance artist Moonyeka, and musician Marian Macapinlac, Kalei'okalani of Huraiti Mana will be performing hula and sharing ceremonial oli as a part of Sharon's book launch and opening.
Join us for an amazing conversation about the complex identities of, in, and with Hawai'i that so many people share in so many different ways. We are so incredibly honored for this amazing opportunity to participate with our community of "Pacific Islander, Indigenous, Asian Am, and Mixed Race womxn/femme performers" and with Sharon H. Chang; her brilliance is an inspiration to us all, and her leadership drives a path for our voices and our stories.
Huraiti Mana is looking for Tahitian drummers to join or partner with us as we continue our journey as one of Seattle's newest Polynesian dance troupes. We're looking for the following drummer talents and leads including but not limited to:
If you are interested or know of groups that may be interested, please contact Kalei at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mauruuru roa!
It was such a fun opportunity to share a brief snapshot of the life I've created for myself - a life full of passions and communities; a life full of laughter and shared stories. The Cool Job column of the Jobs Section focuses on folks in the greater Seattle area who have interesting and unique positions in the workforce. The Seattle Times kindly highlighted both online and in the Sunday paper the trade I've built for myself as a unique leader in Polynesian Dance. It's refreshing and enlightening to see this particular dance community recognized in a section of our society as something more than the token "cultural," "ethnic," or "diversity" piece. In addition to being itself a cultural work, a position as a Polynesian dance advocate and ha'api'i is recognized as a full-fledged career in this weekly Job section. With this article, I hope others realize that their artistic, cultural work, can be shared in a way to create a sustainable career, a career they truly love. That's fulfilling stuff!
Vicky Holt Tokamine, renowned Kumu Hula of Hālau Hula Pua Ali'i 'Ilima, in this short video inspires her students and communities to use their knowledge and skills of their culture to create their careers. She is a professor, a Kumu Hula, and a Hawaiian cultural advocate, sharing her mana'o or knowledge through many different avenues. She has inspired me to use my creativity and perseverance and continue as a cultural ambassador for my people. For so many generations, Hula and Ori Tahiti have been through turmoil: forbidden and taken from ancestors, then appropriated and bastardized by colonizing cultures, and now demanded for entertainment. But now, we reclaim it, and in reclaiming our dance and its heritage, use it for the benefit of our livelihood and connecting with those around us.
I am proud to serve the communities of which I am a part. And this is just the beginning. I will continue to find more ways to connect with the Polynesian and Pacific Islander communities of Seattle through dance, discussion, workshops, performances, and more. Imua e nā pōki'i!
Highline High School kindly invited Huraiti Mana back again, and this time, to celebrate the amazing achievements of the graduating seniors who are headed off to colleges across the nation in their formal College Day event! I am so proud of the staff that has put on such an important tradition for this school. Similar to Sports Day when many young athletes celebrate the professional sports teams they are joining, College Day is meant to celebrate students' next step toward pursuing their education - a feat just as momentous, daunting, and rewarding.. Shout out to the young student headed to Seattle University (my alma mater) and the two headed to Stanford! E ho'omaika'i nō! Congratulations!
Huraiti Mana was invited to participate in a multi-cultural showcase reflecting the diverse population of students (shout out to my islanders!). I performed "He Hawai'i Au," which is a song expressing the journey to finding and understanding oneself, something I hope that each of these many students come to understand as they embark on their own journeys of self discovery. That though the journey may be difficult, they can always look within and know who they are.
I kēia pō eia au me ʻoe
Kēia pō ua hoʻi mai au
He loa ka helena ma ke ala hele
E huli i wahi ma kēia ao
Maopopo a ua ʻike hoʻi
Ka home i loko o kuʻu puʻuwai
Ua hoʻi mai au, ke ʻike nei au
ʻAʻole au e ʻauana hou
Ke maopopo he Hawaiʻi au
Tonight I am here with you
Tonight, I have returned
Long was my journey on the path
To seek a place in this world
I now clearly see and understand
The home within my heart
I returned when I realized this
I will not wander again
For I understand, I am Hawaiian
My sister and I are the only of our Native Hawaiian family to attend a four-year university and earn a Bachelor's degree. For many of the students celebrated at this College Day event, they are the first in their families to attend college. But, we will not be the last. This opportunity not afforded to so many in our family and so many more in our island homes cannot be reserved for so few. Imua e nā pōkiʻi! We are here for you on this journey.
Join Kalei'okalani of Huraiti Mana as we host a Hula Cultural Workshop as a part of Northwest Folklife! Last year's festival, we filled the Armory Center with a room of hula. We're excited to be back, and with two different workshop sessions this year. Join us at either, or at both! As we'll tell different stories and focus on various hula basics. Bring clothes you can move in - and your bare feet!
Sunday, May 27th @ 12PM | Seattle Center Discover Zone
Sunday, May 27th @ 2:15PM | Seattle Center Armory Loft #3
Check out the full schedule for Northwest Folklife and enjoy the many, many groups participating in the 47th year celebration!
We were so excited to announce Huraiti Mana's participation in Northwest Folklife's newest program Our Big Neighborhood and to be able to participate in their Movin' Around the World segment focused on Polynesia. This week marked the Spring Break for many schools in the nearby area, which meant lots of youth and families were able to come through Seattle Center. There, they could find program after program featuring teaching artists from across disciplines, across cultures, and for some - like Etienne of Gansango whom I met and learned was originally from West Africa - from across the globe.
The morning began with a generous invitation from Q13 Fox News to feature Huraiti Mana in their early morning live broadcast to help share the news of Northwest Folklife's youth event! I had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful, charismatic, energetic, super-real, and quick-witted Ellen Tailor. The Q13 Fox Morning Features Reporter and I talked-story about our heritage, her Greek background and my Native-Hawaiian, about the similarities of laughable language barriers, of appreciating our elders, and of a peoples' resilience.
My day continued with performances and workshops led by Halau 'O Napualani's Kumu Gloria and Bill Nahalea (both of whom also run the non-profit organization Pacific 'Ohana Foundation (POF)). It was so beautiful to see so many keiki (children) perform and help teach hula and Maori poi ball dancing! My hands were twitching the whole time - it's hard for a dancer to watch others and not feel compelled to join!
And following this, I had an absolutely amazing time meeting the bright faces and inquisitive minds of so many youth during Huraiti Mana's 45-minute hula workshop. There is Hawaiian proverb: a'a i ka hula. Dare to dance. And these youth danced unabashedly, learning kāholo, hela, and 'uwehe steps. They listened to my story as I recited "Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai" and danced. After watching intently and listening to nothing but 'ōlelo Hawa'i (Hawaiian language), they repeated to me the story they saw unfold before them; "in the beginning, you were looking at sea-waves," "and you loved it and shared it with everyone," "and the plants of the ocean smelled good." 'Ae. Pololei. They in turn stood to learn and perform this story - and they did so beautifully.
Questions followed after I left the stage and youth gathered around: "when you dance hula, how come you always dance with flowers?" "How come you dance barefoot when you're doing hula?" "Do you always dance hula?" Questions we look forward to addressing each day with Huraiti Mana.
Our sincerest mahalo to Anna and Leta of the Northwest Folklife team for having Huraiti Mana as a part of your innovative program to engage our youth and create empathy across the many cultures that create our big neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest.
Huraiti Mana was kindly invited by the College & Career Readiness team of the Highline School District to participate in the high school's Multilingual and multicultural career fair as a community career partner. Students sat down to an introduction to the fair's main themes: that multilingual skills and multicultural backgrounds are an invaluable asset to our everyday lives and can be used to help each of us thrive in our future endeavors. There are many creative opportunities out there for us multicultural people of color to achieve and in which to excel. Many students in our communities of color are soon to become the first in their families to graduate high school and the first to attend college. This endeavor is very exciting - but it can also be intimidating. So, Highline High School has been building ways to engage their students in networking opportunities to prepare them for their next chapter.
Following an introduction to our goals, students split into small groups and visited various tables of community partners to learn more about job opportunities, resources, and experiences. At the table for Huraiti Mana, as Rayann Kalei'okalani Onzuka, I shared about my experiences with Huraiti Mana as a business and cultural community partner, but I also shared about other organizations in which my cultural work has developed. Organizations including the Wing Luke Museum where I've exhibited my work and am also the Director of Museum Services; and Arts Corps, where I am a Master Teaching Artist instructing after-school hula classes. Students asked me questions about starting my own business, building skills for design and accounting, and why I chose particular majors to study in college. I was able to follow up with individual students after the fair, and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience.
It's been great to meet curious students and hear about their dreams: some wanted to begin a restaurant or food truck and others wanted some type of business "but I'm not sure what, just yet." I suggested joining clubs on campus to build resumes and receive "free professional training" in a way; if you want to create a restaurant someday, become your club's Food Logistics Chair and learn about permits, licensing, and catering for your club's annual food-centered fundraiser. Or, if you don't want to begin a business, there are other ways to be creative; such as suggesting a new job position at your organization, one that will be mutually beneficial and fits your unique skill set. Although conversations were short with only an hour and six career partners to visit (including Seattle Times, Interpreters, and more), they sparked inspiration and excitement - for students, but most definitely for myself as well. I realize there are many more ways to partner with the community and tabling opportunities would be great to continue!
Students shared feedback with organizers of the event:
Mahalo nui to everyone who came out during the month of January 2018 to celebrate with Huraiti Mana in our first year anniversary! We shared in a little bit of Guava cake (after practice!) and talked story about our past year and looking forward to the next. It's great to see everyone meet each other and learn from each other. That's what community and culture is all about. That's what Huraiti Mana hopes to share with you! E manava, e komo mai. Hau'oli lā hānau e Huraiti Mana. Happy Birthday!