A testament to resiliency and rainbows

Div. 35, 45 and 17 host an educational enrichment event celebrating Hawaiian culture at the APA convention.

By Wendy M. K. Peters

Since the days when foreigners first arrived on her beautiful shores, Hawai’i has been a multicultural community and home to many different ethnic populations. For the once vigorous and physically robust Native (Indigenous) Hawaiians, however, the arrival of foreigners marked a dramatic shift in their well-being, economic prosperity and social status as sovereign citizens. Thankfully, changing times have finally begun to reveal the latent strengths inherent in Hawaiian culture and values, and those who are advocates of the Native community have taken up the task of healing the Hawaiian people by helping to revitalize their homelands and working to re-traditionalize their culture. These important endeavors, however, are all too often eclipsed by media stereotypes, tourism propaganda or simple misinformation. 

Aiming to highlight authentic Hawaiian culture from a strengths based perspective, with an intent to inform and celebrate all that is admirable about it, Wendy Peters, PhD, who is Native Hawaiian and the president of Section 6: Indigenous Women (Div. 35), led a small, dedicated committee of volunteers from Div. 35, 45 and 17 to accomplish just that by hosting an educational enrichment event celebrating the Hawaiian culture. Members of the committee were Susana Ming-Lowe, PhD (Div. 35, Sec. 5), Julii Green, PhD (Div. 35, Sec. 1), Vanessa Li (Div. 45, Adelphi University), Div. 17 Leadership Development Institute Fellows Phillip Keck (Ball State University) and Anita Mihecoby (AI Numunu Comanche, New Mexico State University) and Monique Macalinao (event planner).

Overcoming innumerable challenges, with team members spanning the country and working across an ocean with no capital to speak of, the plans eventually fell into place and 250 tickets were sold after only two weeks of promotion. To the team’s surprise, they were subsequently besieged with email requests to make more tickets available. Despite the monetary and logistical considerations that weighed heavily upon them to accomplish that, the Hawaiian spirit of resilience prevailed and the end result was that over 500 guests were able to attend the festivities. 

L to R: Photo 1:(L to R) M. Duarte, A. Austin, B. Kaapeha-Tanner, K Crabbe; Photo 2: Halau o ke 'A'ali'i Ku Makani performing hula kahiko (ancient style hula); Photo 3: A view of Kualoa Ranch from the Ranch House patio - a sacred place overlooking the ocean.

L to R: Photo 1:(L to R) M. Duarte, A. Austin, B. Kaapeha-Tanner, K Crabbe; Photo 2: Halau o ke 'A'ali'i Ku Makani performing hula kahiko (ancient style hula); Photo 3: A view of Kualoa Ranch from the Ranch House patio - a sacred place overlooking the ocean.

The challenges, however, did not stop once the tickets were sold out. Just days before the APA convention, the threat of a hurricane wreaked havoc with travel schedules or worse, cancelled them entirely and the volunteer helpers for the luau were no exception. Making matters even more hectic, a traffic accident caused the venue to be without power on the day of the event. Nonetheless, even in the unusually oppressive heat of the stormy weather front, everyone involved pulled together to stage this unprecedented APA event.

In addition to a number of Peters’ own family members, the student volunteers who were actually able to get to Hawai’i, along with a few others who pitched in at the last minute, saved the day by helping with all the tasks necessary to host 10 busloads of attendees. Many thanks go out to Laura Straughn, PhD (Georgia State University), Melissa Wheeler, Monica Slinky, Royleen Ross (University of North Dakota), Kayi Hui, Minji Yang (University of Maryland), Holis Tsoi, Joe Nee (CSPP, Alliant International University, Los Angeles), Wells Ling (St. Louis University), Anne Scott (Julii Green’s mom) and Arielle Smith. The preceding list of helpers is by no means exhaustive, as many others also rolled up their sleeves to lend a hand wherever one was needed. Likewise, thanks are owed to a number of organizational sponsors whose generosity made the event possible: Div. 35 Society for the Psychology of Women, the Society of Indian Psychologists, Women’s Caucus of Council, Argosy University Hawaii, Ball State University, Ethnic Minority Issues Caucus of Council, Div. 17 Society of Counseling Psychology, Div. 52 International Psychology, and the Hawaii Psychological Association. After expenses, the sponsorship and other proceeds raised were donated to benefit worthy Native Hawaiian serving community organizations that included Halau Ku Mana Charter School, I Ola Lāhui Rural Hawai'i Behavioral Health, and Kako'o O'iwi (a community participatory project for sustainable culture). 

Featuring eminent Native Hawaiians who cordially spoke about their specific endeavors, the event was conducted according to traditional Hawaiian protocols and values. It was an evening packed with culturally enriching education and art forms. First to address the group was Mahina Paishon Duarte, the principal of Halau Ku Mana, a charter school focused on retraditionalization with a curriculum steeped in Hawaiian culture and courses such as aquaculture, sustainable agriculture and ocean voyaging. Bonnie Kahape'a-Tanner, also affiliated with Halau Ku Mana, is a teacher of Polynesian canoeing and celestial navigation. Mentoring the Native youth, her work is helping to re-affirm their connection to the land and ocean, as well as instilling in them a sense of caring for Hawaiian traditions. Aukahi Austin, PhD, executive director of I Ola Lāhui Rural Hawai'i Behavioral Health and APA member, was also present to impart her knowledge. Austin’s organization provides culturally-minded, evidence-based behavioral health care that is responsive to the needs of medically underserved and predominantly Native Hawaiian rural communities. Last to address the attendees was the keynote speaker and CEO for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kamana'opono Crabbe, PhD. Also a member of APA, Crabbe shared some of his experience with traditional healing practices that are being incorporated to help Native men. After the presentations, a traditional luau dinner buffet was served and guests were entertained by the 2013 Na Hoku Hanohano (Rising Stars) award winning band, Na Hoa. Under the direction of Kumu Hula Manu Boyd, and a fitting conclusion to a wonderful day’s celebration of culture, Halau o ke 'A'ali'i Ku Makani at last took center stage dancing the hula under the moonlit Hawaiian night (because the spotlight was broken too).

Yes folks, it was a challenging day that exacted patience, understanding and resiliency from all concerned, but in the end everyone went home feeling it all was worth it. On that day, a Hawaiian rainbow did indeed shine through the stormy weather showcasing Hawaii’s legacy in the wisdom of her progeny. Best of all, it was those who came to learn, share and enjoy the event that were the most beautiful rainbow of diversity to be seen at this year’s APA convention. With attendees representing almost every APA organization and coming from all corners of the globe, it was a multi-cultural gathering exemplary of diversity itself. The evening was undoubtedly a testament best described by the Hawaii state motto: "Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i Ka Pono," the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

For more information or questions about the event contact Wendy Peters.