Different Strokes in Our Hawai‘i Canoe
|Solomon Alfapada||Top row: Jim Dooley, Ulalia Woodside, Sean-Joseph Choo, Tracy Alambatin, Shayne Shibuya.
Bottom row: Denby Fawcett, Ryan Ozawa, Burt Lum, Ku‘uipo Kumukahi
Was it an “Only in Hawai‘i” phenomenon?
Before the red camera lights signaled the start of last month’s two-hour live KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall, our studio chief Jason Suapaia asked the 70 participants with diverse perspectives to “keep the discussion civil.”
He needn’t have worried. The discussion was interesting and it got lively, but as it turns out, the participants had a higher standard than civil. They were polite and even generous.
As participant Donne Dawson said afterward, “I deliberately did not raise my hand a second time even though I had lots more to say because I wanted more of the diverse group to weigh in.”
PBS Hawai‘i named our new Town Hall program KĀKOU because it means “all of us,” as in: All of us in these isolated islands – no matter how different – are in the same canoe. The question up for discussion: “Have you fact-checked your truth?”
In reflecting upon the experience, PBS Hawai‘i Board Member Aaron Salā wrote: “Probably nowhere else in the world would you get so many different kinds, and colors, of people in the same room at the same time to discuss a series of rather intimate thoughts and beliefs. Only in Hawai‘i…”
He harkened back to plantation times and the exorbitantly long, hard work days.
“That drive to survive caused us to figure out how to live together and rather than feign color-blindness (a concept that continues to baffle me), we celebrate a color-consciousness that helps us to really see each other,” Aaron said.
“So,” he continued, “we started this process in survival mode and, in many ways, we still choose to negotiate our peace every day because we know that we must survive. In a sense, we are the American dream come true.” And yet, he believes, “we are probably also the most outwardly racist community in the world.”
Participant Burt Lum, co-host of Hawai‘i Public Radio’s Bytemarks Café, was among several people who went home and kept wrestling with the topic of the discussion, about the idea of truth vs. reality.
He pictured a stadium full of people.
“There is some degree of shared reality, like the fact that you are all watching a football game,” Burt wrote me. “But for the most part everyone there has their own sense of reality, a result of inherent being, accumulated experiences and moral compass.”
Two hours on live TV and live streaming flew by. As we signed off, I thought how glad I am to be in the same canoe with these fellow Islanders who can directly address their differences, don’t pretend to have all of the answers, and actually listen to each other.
A hui hou (until next time),
President and CEO