Honolulu

HIKI NŌ
Compilation Show from the Spring Quarter of the 2018-2019 School Year

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the Spring Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year. Besides being excellent stories, these pieces all explore the connections between people and, in some cases, between people and other living things.

 

Students from McKinley High School in Honolulu tell the story of teenagers who connect with senior citizens in ways that bridge the generation gap.

 

Students from Waiʻanae High School in Central Oʻahu tell the story of a young tattoo artist who uses his art form to connect with his Hawaiian heritage.

 

Students from Konawaena High School on Hawaiʻi Island feature a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor who connects with Big Island students by teaching them about the devastating effects of bigotry and racism.

 

Students from Hilo Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island focus on the special connection between a bone marrow donor and the recipient of that donation who discover (despite the astronomical odds against it happening) that they live just minutes away from one another.

 

Students from Kua O Ka Lā Miloliʻi Hipuʻu Virtual Academy on Hawaiʻi Island follow conservationists who are facilitating the connection between male and female members of an endangered Hawaiian crow in order to save the species from extinction.

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi introduce us to a singing nun who uses music to help students connect with the values she tries to instill in them.

 

Students from Maui High School in Kahului show us how a disabled student makes profound connections with her non-disabled peers through a program developed by the Special Olympics.

 

Students from Waiākea High School on Hawaiʻi Island tell the story of a pet placement service that connects homeless canines with their forever owners.

 

This special episode is hosted by Crystal Cebedo, a 2016 HIKI NŌ graduate from Waiʻanae High School on Oʻahu who has just completed her junior year at Menlo College in Northern California, where she majors in marketing and human resources.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
Lokahi Program

 

TOP STORY

 

“Lokahi Program”
Students from McKinley High School on Oʻahu feature their school’s Lokahi Program, an outreach activity in which students bond with senior citizens at the Kulana Hale Senior Apartments in Honolulu. The students organize an annual senior citizen prom for the residents and lead activities such as arts and crafts and karaoke. Friendships between kupuna and teens, such as the one between resident Faye Kubo and student Regina Nguyen, blossom. Says Regina, “The way I see Faye is the way I see my friends at school. We can literally talk about anything.” Faye says that through her interaction with Regina and other students, “I learn that there’s hope.”

 

ALSO FEATURED

 

Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului profile a married couple that wanted to start a family and ended up turning to adoption to find their bundle of joy.

 

Students from Waiʻanae Intermediate School in West Oʻahu discover the values a judo instructor teaches his students.

 

Students from Kalākaua Intermediate School in the Kalihi district of Oʻahu introduce us to a local sculptor who uses invasive tree branches to create a replica of an ancient voyaging canoe.

 

Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kauaʻi feature a singing nun who uses music to teach her students valuable lessons.

 

A violinist from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui presents us with an introspective video self-portrait.

 

Plus—a public service announcement from students at Kealakehe Intermediate School on Hawaiʻi Island raises awareness about human trafficking.

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ also features students’ profiles on their HIKI NŌ teachers.

 

 

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAIʻI:
Ala Moana Park Plan

 

Ala Moana Regional Park on Oʻahu’s south shore is a beloved playground for local residents, with access to surfing, swimming, paddleboarding, tennis, walking and picnicking. The city of Honolulu has a master plan to revitalize the park. Not everyone agrees with the plan’s vision. Join our discussion on the Ala Moana Park Plan on the next INSIGHTSON PBS HAWAIʻI.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Facebook:
Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

 

 

Engelbert Humperdinck in Hawaiʻi

Engelbert Humperdinck in Hawai‘i

 

Recorded live in August 2018 at the historic Hawai‘i Theatre in Honolulu, this concert features Engelbert Humperdinck crooning more than five decades of his international hits, including “After the Lovin’,” “The Last Waltz,” “Release Me,” “A Man Without Love” and many others.

 

Engelbert Humperdinck in Hawai‘i

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Harry B. Soria Jr.

 

As the voice of Hawai‘i’s longest running radio show, Harry B. Soria Jr. has kept the music of Hawai‘i’s past alive for current and future generations. His weekly show, Territorial Airwaves, preserves and shares vintage Hawaiian, or hapa-haole, music recorded between 1915 and 1959. While he is a third-generation member of what is called “The First Family of Hawai‘i Radio,” he didn’t immediately enter radio broadcasting. The Honolulu born-and-raised host shares how he eventually surrendered to the siren call of radio. He tells of the rare recordings he has saved, and the launch of Territorial Airwaves, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 9, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Harry B. Soria Jr. Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

But a lot of the young kumu hula, who are now old kumu hula, weren’t so keen on what I was doing.  They thought it was the black period of Hawaiian music, you know, where our kūpuna had been tricked, and we had gone into the territory and lost our identity.  And there was some ill feeling at that particular time.  But as they got older, and as people learned more about all of this, they began to accept it.  And now, it’s revered.  And now, you see it at the Merrie Monarch, and you know, it’s found its place.

 

He kept the music of Hawai‘i’s past alive and meaningful for future generations. Territorial Airwaves radio host Harry B. Soria, Jr., next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  For forty consecutive years, Harry B. Soria, Jr. has hosted Territorial Airwaves, weekly radio show featuring vintage Hawaiian music recorded between 1915 and 1959.

 

You’re in the Territory with Harry B.

 

Soria first launched Territorial Airwaves on KCCN in 1979 with the late radio legend Jacqueline “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti.  It’s the longest-running radio show in Hawai‘i airing at this time in 2019 on AM 940, as well as on TerritorialAirwaves.com. Soria continues to preserve and share rare and otherwise forgotten recordings of Hawai‘i’s past in a collection that now numbers more than ten thousand vinyl records.  The territorial era music he passionately advocates is also referred to as hapa haole music, or a merging of Hawaiian and Western music.

 

Hawaiian music is always a reflection of the Western musical influences of the decade.  So, whether it’s big band swing, whether it’s calypso, whether it’s Jawaiian now, whatever it is, it’s always a reflection of what’s on the mainland, and it’s coming in and affecting the youth, and they’re listening to it.  You know, Richard Kauhi was a reflection of Nat King Cole and all of that.  You know, there’s always some influence coming in which was persuading the youth to change the way they expressed Hawaiian music.

 

When a young person comes to you and says: Why should I listen to Territorial Airwaves?, what do you tell them.

 

It’s actually been the other way around. People say: Oh, you know, I was born in 1998, but I listen to Territorial Airwaves.  And I’m amazed.  You know, they’re young musicians, they ask for songs to put on their records.  There’s this curiosity where they’re interested in language, hula, you know, all of the performing arts, and they realize that the older music is where it all is.

 

And there’s no direct connection to the people performing it, but you’re the link.

 

I guess that’s it.  Yeah.  ‘Cause the aunties and uncles are all gone.  You know.  I mean, when I play voices on my show—You’re in the Territory with Harry B, this is Andy Cummings or whatever—well, they’re long gone.  They’ve been gone forever.  But they still live on my show.  They still talk to you every week.  One thing about radio, when the record’s playing, that’s when you hear the real story.  So, the challenge is to, decades later, remember the story that was told off-air by the person who has passed on, and share it with the contemporary audience in a meaningful way.  So, it is challenging, but for some reason, all of these things stay with me.

 

You remember all those conversations.

 

I think it goes back to my father telling me: This used to be that, that used to be this.

 

As a child, Harry recalls that his family moved into the very first block of homes in the new housing subdivision of ‘Āina Haina in East Honolulu.  He attended public schools in the district all the way through his graduation from Kalani High.  Here’s a stunning fact: for one hundred years, there’s been a Soria working in Hawai‘i radio, three generations, starting with Harry G. Soria, then Harry B. Soria, Sr., and currently Harry B. Soria, Jr.  Together, they’re called The First Family of Hawai‘i Radio.

 

Well, Soria is Spanish.  They emigrated from Spain to Bordeaux, France, and then to Saint-Domingue, which is the Dominican Republic today, and then to New York City in 1791.

 

Became Americans then?

 

Yes.  So, just twenty years after the revolution, we were there, some of the earliest Spanish. We kept moving westward, and my grandfather came to Berkeley, California to represent a company, brought his family, and then came over from Berkeley to Honolulu in 1919.

 

Talk about traveling; that’s a lot of movement.

 

Yeah.  So, this is our centennial, our hundredth year in Hawai‘i.

 

1919 was the year he set foot here.

 

Yup.  He very quickly got involved with Marion Mulrony of KGU Radio, the first radio station that started in 1922.  And he became the solicitor, and very successful for decades.

 

What is a solicitor?  Attorney?

 

A time salesman.

 

A time salesman.  Okay; so he sold radio ads?

 

Yeah, yeah; the very first.  And Dad eventually broke in as a personality.  So, he became, you know, Going To Town With Harry Soria, or Voice of Hawai‘i, or all these specialized shows that my grandfather created to feature him.  And so, he became a radio star in the 30s.

 

So, your grandfather created the shows as a way to sell commercials, and your father provided the content for the shows.

 

Yes; exactly.  My father would jury-rig things and make the first remote broadcast, or the first shortwave broadcast, or whatever he could figure out.

 

And this was in the days before television.  Radio was huge; right?

 

It was everything.  Yeah.

 

That’s what people depended on.  So, was your dad a star?

 

At that time, yes.  Yeah; I have a lot of his publicity pictures and so forth.  And he was the first guy with his name on a show, Going To Town With Harry Soria.  And he was the first personality that was known outside of Hawai‘i, because he was known as The Voice of Hawai‘i.  So, there was recognition transpacific wise.  So, it made for a very heady time in the 1930s, but when World War II came, it was all over.  After that, the war, when he returned, he was—

 

When he returned from fighting?

 

Well, he was a censor for the electronic calls, long distance phone calls and so forth.  So, when he returned, he was immediately activated in the Navy Intelligence to be running this particular division.  And after that was over, he was in management and sales after that. My mom was a war widow.  She was in her early twenties.  She left Washington, DC, came all the way across the nation, demonstrating business machines for the women now entering the workforce during the war.  At the end of war in ’46, she was assigned to Honolulu to Fisher Printing, and she was supposed to demonstrate the addressograph and the new machines.  And her first client was my father, who was trying to put together what would be like a Midweek today.  It didn’t go, but you know, he was trying to get it off the ground.  And so, she was consulting for him, and then at the end of the week, they had argued the whole week, and he said: Hey, have you gone around the island yet?  She said: No, I haven’t seen anything.  He said: Okay, I’ll pick you up.  And that was it.

 

And there was a big age difference between them.

 

Yes.  When I was born in ’48, my father was forty-three, and my mother was twenty-four. So, they were able to bridge those generations, and I think that was part of the magic of our family.

 

Wow. And that worked; that May-December marriage worked.

 

And just held hands, walked around the block every night.

 

Long into their marriage?

 

All the way through their marriage; never stopped. Yeah; very much in love.  My parents bought one of the very first homes in ‘Āina Haina, on the very first street, Papai.  And it was one of the first ten houses.  And we have a photo of nothing but this little street with a few houses on it.  My father was a Shriner, and we had lots of parties.  That was a side thing going on.  And Shriners had lots of parties.  So, we had Andy Cummings playing for dancing in our lanai, and I sat in the living room and talked to Duke Kahanamoku,

 

Wow. 

 

We had all these people who, I found out later, were very important celebrities, but they were also part of the Shrine organization. So, because of that, I got to meet everybody in our home, and it was kind of amazing to look back later and realize who I’d actually spent time with as a young boy.  I think the cleverest thing he did was, I was pretty young, still in elementary school, and he brought home a reel-to-reel tape recorder. And he said: Here, this is how you use it; why don’t you try and make a show, an adventure series.  You know, like I watched on television, the serials. So, sound effects, and voices, and imitating things.  And he told me that the biggest thing that he worried about was that his son would have mic fright.  And so, he wanted me to get used to the sound of my own voice on this tape recorder, so that I wouldn’t intimidated by a PA system or a tape recorder, or any other form of electronic recording.

 

Do you think he saw you going into broadcasting, the way he and your grandfather did?

 

You know, I don’t know.  I wonder about that, because—

 

Pretty subtle, but—

 

Very subtle.

 

Yeah.  But he did want me to get over that.  To him, mic fright was a big deal.  You know, he didn’t want that.  And if you think, in the 50s, where there were very few microphones and opportunities, it’d be easy to have mic fright.

 

Oh, yes.

 

So, he had this fear that, I don’t want you to be afraid of a microphone.  And that seemed to be very, very important to him.  So, we addressed that very early on.

 

Harry B. Soria, Jr. did not immediately follow his father’s footsteps into Honolulu radio broadcasting.  Despite being introduced to the microphone at a young age, he did take his father’s advice and earned a college degree in business, and then had a career in credit collections.  Along the way in 1976, he found something in an old overlooked storage crate that would transform his life.

 

And then, suddenly in ’76, the renaissance was happening, and my father said: Hey, you want to see this box of things I have? They’re in the garage, and I have to get rid of ‘em, we’ve moving.  So, I went through, and here’s the contents of his entire office at KGU that he put into a shipping crate on December 8, 1941.  So, at one point, Dad pulled this paper tape out.  It was carbon paper; it wasn’t plastic tape.  It was on a reel, and he cued it up on an old machine.  And there was Alvin Isaacs and his group.  One of the songs had never been heard, and it was about the interisland airport, and it was a comedy song.  So, I initially thought: Oh, this would be a great record.  So, I approached Mike Kelly and Jerry Santos and the gang, and asked them if they would want to release it on their label.  But happily, they said: You should talk to Skylark, ‘cause that’s more of a radio vehicle.  So, I went to Sky, and I showed her something, and we transcribed it.  And Skylark heard it, and she was just amazed by it.  So, she started playing it on the radio, and it became a big hit.

 

What was it like?

 

It was: Here comes the big mokulele.  It was called The Mokulele E.  And it was all about the interisland airport and the early airplanes.  And it was hapa haole, it was real fun kinda lyrics.  And it just took off.  And so, in ’78, ’79, it became this big hit on the radio, a highly-requested song.

 

Harry B. Soria, Jr. would continue to share more forgotten vintage Hawaiian music with Jacqueline “Honolulu Skylark” Rossetti, then a young KCCN radio deejay. She immediately took interest in both the vintage records and the pre-statehood stories that Soria and his father could share with radio audiences.  In 1979, Harry and Skylark co-hosted the first episode of Territorial Airwaves.

 

Sky recognized that we had this older music. She had a passion for 78s, but she was like twenty-three.  So, she would play the records, and she’d go: This is so weird, what does this mean, why are they doing this?  And I would call my father and say: Dad, they’re asking a question about this song. He’d say: Oh, well, that’s because we did this.  And then, I would call up her and I’d say: Well, my dad says.  So after a while, she would say: Why don’t you come on.  So, I started coming on, bring in some records. .  It took off, and that was it.

 

The beginning of Territorial Airwaves.

 

Exactly.

 

And did your father’s old office suitcase yield more songs?

 

It was full of records, and song sheets, and photographs, and business cards, and whatever you can think of.  And he spent the time to explain each and every item to me, and kinda walk me through this history of what radio was like.  So, he realized that I was interested at that point, and so, he really immersed me in everything.

 

And I think there are parents who want to tell their children, you know, more about their jobs, but sometimes kids aren’t interested at that age.  But you were.

 

Well, especially in our case, because there was two generations between us; right?  So, he was like my grandfather.

 

Even though he was your father.

 

Yeah.  And so, for me to take an interest in his life, back in his prime, was unexpected and he loved it.  So, he was very proud, and he was like the consultant for the show for the first eleven years.

 

And it gave you reach far beyond what someone your age would normally have.

 

Exactly.  You know, if people would ask questions, I could go right to the source.  He would give me the answers.

 

He must have loved hearing the show.

 

You know, every show, every week, he would listen. And I would come home, and on my answering machine would be a critique.

 

Oh, on a positive way?

 

In a positive way.  You know, this was good, but you could have …  Yeah.  And then, other radio guys, legends, got involved, started supporting me.  Ron Jacobs started calling me and giving me advice, and listening to the show.  And occasionally, Tom Moffatt.  And these guys, I had known them as a young rock and roller, so now they were giving me advice about the radio.  So, it really helped that they would give me insights into their careers and what they had done.

 

And nobody else was doing what you were doing at that time.

 

No.  It was unheard of, you know.

 

But in part, it was because it was not all that popular.

 

Well, we didn’t even have oldies rock and roll shows yet.  You know, this was oldies Hawaiian.  Period.

 

You know, you mentioned this was right about the time of the Hawaiian renaissance.

 

M-hm.

 

The Hawaiian renaissance wasn’t wild about territorial music.  I mean, it was hapa haole, it was not Hawaiian, it was not authentic, it was kind of a mixture, lots of malihini references.

 

Luckily, I had Skylark, who was my champion, who believed in what I was doing.  There’s two ways to look at it.  You know, some people say: Oh, they outlawed the language, and they destroyed the connection, and we lost our roots.  But on the other side, without hapa haole music, we wouldn’t have had that string to keep us going to this point, so that we would have a generation rediscovering Hawaiian language and writing songs again .

 

In addition to his weekly broadcast of Territorial Airwaves, Harry B. Soria, Jr. worked to restore rare and out of print Hawaiian music recordings based on the records he collected over the years.  He re-released many of these lost albums on newer formats, like compact discs and digital music files.

 

Through the years, people would say: Harry, get rid of your records and put it all on tape; get rid of your records and put it on cassettes; get rid of your records and put it on CDs; get rid of your records and put it on the internet.  But the point is, I’ve kept the source material, and I’m glad I did.  Because all these other mediums have gone away. They don’t last.  You know, CDs, whatever; they’re gone.  So, by keeping the original 78s, 45s, 33s, I haven’t lost my connection to the source material.

 

And I understand you have a lot of those.  How many records do you have?

 

About ten thousand Hawaiian.

 

Wow …

 

Yeah.

 

And do you keep them in a place you won’t say where it is?

 

No, no.  In our living room, we have the working collection in big bookcases.  And then, we have more in our storage lockers, so forth.

 

Wow; ten thousand.  And some of them were given to you; right?  I heard the story about you going door-to-door.

 

Yeah.

 

And saying: Do you want your old records?

 

Well, there was that time when nobody had a 78 rpm player anymore.  And so, what I would do after work is, I had handbills, and I would drive around the communities of Kaimuki, Kapahulu, you know, wherever.

 

Older communities.

 

Older communities.

 

Yeah.

 

And I would look for a home with fruit trees and a green-and-white striped canvas awnings, so forth.  And I would go up and knock, and give my handbill.  And they’d say: Oh, yeah, we have that; come, you can get it.

 

And they have no way to play it.

 

No way; it’s just taking up dust.  So, I got lots of records that way.  That was in the ’78 acquisition.  And then, as I went into the 90s, people said: I have all this vinyl, all these 33s; let me give it to you, I’ll bring it by the station.  I’ll do this, I’ll do that.

 

And nobody wanted money; they just wanted to give them to you.

 

Just want to hear it on the radio.  You know, ‘cause nobody had a record player anymore. You know, everybody was going to CD; who cared about vinyl.  Now, the kids are into vinyl.  So, it’s gone full circle.  You know? Suddenly, they all want vinyl, and they want turntables, and they want to listen to old records, and they’re paying big top-dollar for them.

 

And your wife, she has the same reverence for the past that you do.

 

You know, it’s amazing.  We were introduced because she has a collection that she acquired in Paris, when she was living there for thirty years.

 

A collection of …

 

Of records, vinyl, 45s and 33s, from the 1950s, that a French scientist had acquired in the 50s, and then wanted to give to her in the 90s.  So, she took care of it all these years.  She paid to bring it back home, when she came back home after she was widowed.  And then, we had a mutual friend that said: You know, you both have these record collections; you should meet.  So, we merged our collections, and we merged our life, fell in love.  And her name is Kilohana, and she’s a kumu hula in Paris, Rome, Mānoa, Beijing, Juneau, Alaska; all over the world.  And so, we have this winter love.  You know, we met late in our lives.

 

How long ago did you meet?

 

In 2015.  Yeah; right after I retired.  And so, we took our incomes, refinanced the home, and we have a 1931 vintage home in the back of Mānoa Valley.  And we’ve remodeled it for aging in place, which is the thing to do.  At this point, we’re focusing on our nonprofit foundation, The Hawaiian Music Archives Foundation.  And the idea is, now that I’ve turned seventy, and Territorial is forty, I don’t have an heir, it’s time to focus on preparing all of this for sharing with a curriculum for future generations.  So, my wife and I hope to have it out there so that it’s accessible, and then when the time comes, we can just transfer it to the proper and the chosen institution to, you know, take care of it for perpetuity.  If you had told me back in 1979 that all this was gonna happen, I never would have believed it.  But it just seems that slowly, but surely, we’ve gotten opportunities, whether it was the CD series, or emceeing shows, or you know, being involved in productions, whatever it is, we were able to be part of the culture. And we went from we were this weird little thing, to now we’re having Hapa Haole Hula Festivals.  You know, that’s quite a stretch, over the decades.

 

And it’s because you were there, and you waited for other people to join you.

 

Pretty much.  Yeah; that‘s all it took.

 

Territorial Airwaves.  Yeah; we’re Territorial Airwaves, your source for the history of Hawaiian music.

 

In 2017, Territorial Airwaves and Harry B. Soria, Jr. were honored with a Krash Kealoha Industry Award at the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Lifetime Achievement Awards. He’s also received eight Hōkū Awards for the vintage recordings that he’s helped to re-release.  At the time of this conversation in the spring of 2019, Soria continues to broadcast new episodes of Territorial Airwaves to audiences worldwide.  Mahalo to Harry B. Soria, Jr. of Honolulu, O‘ahu.  And thank you for joining us for this edition of Long Story Short on PBS Hawai‘i.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

What are some of the best-known Territorial songs?

 

Of course, R. Alec Anderson is my favorite, because he was a local boy.  He was not a mainlander.  Most of the hapa haole composers are.  But he was a local boy who had the ability to, in English, with some Hawaiian words, convey the meaning of, you know, the earth, the sea, the wind, all of the elements.

 

 

 

The Filmmaker Who Went Behind Prison Walls

 

CEO Message

 

The Filmmaker Who Went Behind Prison Walls

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEOBy definition, film directors have control issues. To fulfill their creative vision, they compel events and people and settings to conform to plan.

 

“I’m so bossy, I’m so bossy,” says award-winning O‘ahu film director Ciara Lacy, whose cinéma vérité documentary Out of State was selected for national distribution by the PBS series Independent Lens.

 

We at PBS Hawai‘i are proud to debut Out of State this month. The documentary follows two Native Hawaiian men who were sent to serve their prison sentences at privately owned Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona. They’re connecting with their culture behind bars, far from home, and later they struggle to reintegrate into society on O‘ahu.

 

Controlling her circumstances had long been a hallmark of Ciara’s life. As a teenager, her relentless control of time and study habits helped propel her to honors as valedictorian at Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. Next came graduation from Yale University.

 

Instead of pursuing a job related to her psychology major, Ciara resolved to break into the music video business in New York. And she did so – by placing a Craigslist ad.

 

Hawaiʻi filmmaker Ciara LacyHer ability to harness people and schedules and her creativity led to 10 years of consuming work in video production on the East and West Coasts.

 

“You want to show up and own the space and say, ‘This is how everything has to work.’ Right? This is my crew, this is my schedule, this is what it has to be,” Ciara explained on a recent episode of Long Story Short.

 

However, tell that to prison authorities who rule the roost and to prisoners who have more than enough reasons not to let down their guard. Ciara knew she wouldn’t be able to make the film she wanted, unless she released her need for control.

 

“When it came to working in the prison,” she said, “I call it Taoist filmmaking. You don’t have control and you just give it all up. And you say, ‘thank you for whatever you’re able to do.’”

 

All of five-feet-three inches tall and swimming in her husband’s long-sleeved shirt, Ciara says she employed a different “super power” in interacting with prison officials and prisoners.

 

“I brought a female presence into an all-male space and used collaboration. It wasn’t about me and what I get, it was about sharing.”

 

The result is a thought-provoking, multi-layered film, airing on May 6 at 9:00 pm on PBS Hawai‘i.

 

Congratulations to Ciara Lacy, her producer Beau Bassett of Honolulu and the documentary team. And best wishes to prisoners and ex-cons with their own kind of creative vision: seeing and striving to make better lives.

 

Aloha Nui,

Leslie signature


 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1014 – Top Stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 School Year

HIKI NŌ #1014 – Top stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year

 

This compilation show features some of the top stories from the Winter Quarter of the 2018-2019 school year:

 

–Students from Maui High School in Kahului introduce us to Maui High robotics captain John Fabella. John’s mother passed away when he was just seven years of age, and his father was deported. Growing up without his biological parents, John found an extended family in his Maui Waena Intermediate School robotics team and later, in the Maui High School team.

 

Program

 

–Students from Wai‘anae High School on tell the story of a female wrestler who used to be teased and bullied about her weight, and lost the pounds to regain her self-esteem.

 

–Students from Kalāheo High School in Windward O‘ahu focus on the importance of taking responsibility while driving. Their story is framed by the recent traffic fatalities in the Kaka‘ako neighborhood of O‘ahu and how that tragedy sparked a family’s memories of losing their daughter in a drunk driving incident.

 

–Students from Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy Middle School in the Waimea district of Hawai‘i Island show us the proper way to saddle a horse.

 

–Students from Ewa Makai Middle School on O‘ahu feature two cancer survivors who battled with their diseases at a very early age: Lily Mallory, who was undergoing treatment for her cancer at the age of three, and Emi Robison, who was battling leukemia at the age of seven.

 

–Students from Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School on Kaua‘i introduce us to Mike Coots, a surfer and photographer from Kīlauea, Kaua‘i, who lost his leg in a shark attack and now, ironically, works to protect sharks against the ravages of the shark fin soup industry.

 

–Students from Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului feature a food truck owner who starts a pay-it-forward campaign to help feed workers affected by the recent federal government shutdown.

 

–Students from Moanalua High School on O‘ahu introduce us to figure skater and Moanalua High School senior Kyra Fukumoto. While Hawai‘i has only one ice skating rink, and its resources for training figure skaters is very limited compared to the Mainland, Kyra is adamant about being based out of her home state. She is very proud of being from Hawai‘i and looks forward to representing the islands in her career as a figure skater.

 

This special episode is hosted by Tyler Bright, a 2018 HIKI NŌ graduate from Wai‘anae High School on O‘ahu who is currently studying biology at Chaminade University in Honolulu, with hopes of becoming either a canine rehabilitation therapist or a physical therapist.

 

 

 

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
The Island Murder

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Island Murder

 

In the waning days of summer 1931, Honolulu’s tropical tranquility was shattered when a young Navy wife made a drastic allegation of rape against five nonwhite islanders. What unfolded in the following days and weeks was a racially-charged murder case that would make headlines across the nation, enrage Hawaiʻi’s native population, and galvanize the island’s law enforcers and the nation’s social elite.

 

Preview

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Skylark Rossetti

 

Original air date: Tues., Aug. 12, 2008

 

Radio Personality

 

Leslie Wilcox sits down to share stories with a delightful woman with a beautiful voice – Honolulu Skylark.

 

This popular radio personality, whose real name is Jacqueline Rossetti, reflects on her early influences and what would become pivotal experiences in the Hawaiian cultural renaissance – visiting Kaho‘olawe with George Helm and others, co-founding the Nā Hokū Hanohano Awards, hosting the Merrie Monarch Festival for over 30 years, and being named Outstanding Hawaiian Woman of the Year (1984) and Hawaiʻi Broadcaster of the Year (1991).

 

Skylark Rossetti Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Aloha no, and welcome to Long Story Short on PBS Hawaiʻi; I’m Leslie Wilcox. The Honolulu Skylark. I remember the first time I heard her on the radio. It wasn’t just the beauty of her voice, or the image of a Skylark, that held me. It was her knowledge and understanding of Hawaiʻi people, music, history, values. In the radio industry where companies and personnel tend to come and go, the Honolulu Skylark has made a lasting impression. We’ll catch up with her next.

 

The Honolulu Skylark is Jacqueline Rossetti. Her warm voice and warm personality became a fixture in island radio in the mid-1970s. Since then, she’s been named Hawaiʻi Broadcaster of the Year and Hawaiian Woman of the Year. And today, she lives and works on Hawai‘i Island where she’s known simply as “Skylark.”

 

When people talk about you, they say, popular radio personality, Honolulu Skylark, or beloved personality. And they say something with you that I don’t hear about them saying with other DJs; it’s influential radio personality. What happened? What did you do?

 

I think I listened, Leslie. I had a passion and care for keeping our culture alive. I wanted to know why songs were written; I didn’t want to just hear the songs. I wanted to talk to the composers. And so I armed myself with going out and meeting them, caring about why they wrote a particular song, what inspired them. I wanted to hear about the careers of people that I had heard their music over the years. One of my favorite people, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs, his big band, syncopated swing era; I loved that. And so he said, Why would you want to be interested in talking to me? I said, Because you did this, you were the ambassador of good cheer in the 30s. Why did they call you that, Uncle Alvin? And so I would sit with them, and they would tell me their stories.

 

Well, you’re going back to the 30s now. How did you know about them?

 

Well, because I had old 78s; I collected records. You know, Mom kept her collection, and that’s what started my collection. ‘Cause she would have to practice her hula to these old recordings. And so I started listening to them, and I loved the swing era, and I loved that sound of Hawaiian music with big band. And so, when I had the opportunity to seek these people out, I wanted to make sure that their stories were told, or that somebody could you know, share them with the rest of the audience so that we could all learn about that era of Hawai‘i.

 

At that time, was there Hawaiian music on the air?

 

There was one station, and that’s why I was so excited about getting an opportunity to work there, was KCCN. They were the only —

 

AM?

 

It was an AM station; it was from sunrise to midnight. And it went off the air at midnight, and it was an opportunity to share. And I have to laugh, because back then, it was the other side of Hawaiian music, as Krash Kealoha, who was the program director at the time, would call it. They were doing the Funky Hula, and they were doing you know, all this different kinds of hapa Haole, almost, music. And I wanted to bring back the Hawaiian, the traditional Hawaiian. I wanted to hear Genoa Keawe on the radio again, ‘cause she wasn’t being heard. I wanted to hear some of the traditional music.

 

And did they think that old school, it wouldn’t —

 

They did.

 

— draw an audience —

 

And they said —

 

— people don’t care.

 

No; and I kept saying, No, they do want to hear about this. I want to play chants; I opened my show every morning with a chant, because I felt that was important for us to hear that we came from, you know, beats and chanting before. And every program that I watched as a child growing up, with Aloha Festivals, you had a chanter come out and welcome everybody; and I wanted that when I performed and did my radio show. So I would open my shows with chants, and explain what those chants were about. And people started to listen, you know. They hadn’t heard the language translated in quite sometime.

 

And then you would get a chance to do something that radio executive Mike Kelly would say, changed the radio landscape of Honolulu forever.

 

 

Is that putting it—Hawaiian music—on the FM then?

 

Yeah.

 

You know, somebody didn’t want it; I don’t know why. They didn’t feel that Hawaiian music was worthy enough for FM, or something; I don’t know. Every format had been covered in FM, but Hawaiian music. And I said, Why don’t you put Hawaiian music on the FM band? And they said, Well, will you do it? I said, Absolutely. Why shouldn’t it be on the FM band? Well, what kind of music would you play? Hawaiian music. You wouldn’t put the chants on FM, would you? Yes, I would. You know. And so it was an opportunity to hear chanting, in stereo, and music that has been recorded in stereo for years but never on a stereo band. It was exciting. It was a wonderful time period.

 

A popular broadcaster today, Billy V, Bill Von Osdol, says you were his radio kumu, and he was so thrilled when you called him over to work at KCCN FM. And he said, basically, you folks built the studios.

 

We did. I mean, we hammered the nails, and we [chuckle] I mean, from the ground, up. It was nothing but an empty room and they said, Go put up a radio station in there; and that’s exactly what we did.

 

And once you got this traditional Hawaiian format going, how did it do?

 

It did really well, Leslie. I was amazed at how many people were listening. I had no idea that the young kids would gravitate to it so well. I thought, Okay, sure, we add a little color with the Jamaican music, and you know, that will keep the young kids. And then we get the kupuna and have their style of traditional Hawaiian music. But could it actually blend, and would it actually work? And it did. We did a concert at the Aloha Tower; it was the first of many which now has become the FM100 Birthday Bashes, right? And we took over Aloha Tower at the time, ‘cause it was gutted, it was empty. And I couldn’t believe how many kids showed up. We thought maybe hundred kids; there was three thousand people the first concert we threw. And it was Kapena and Ho‘aikane, and just our local bands. It was nobody, you know, fabulous to come and see; just kids that wanted to play music.

 

And pretty soon, we did these on a monthly basis. And we had to move out of Aloha Tower. We just — there was no room for us anymore. And that’s what started the first FM100 Birthday Bash at the Waikiki Shell.

 

Na Hoku Hanohano; you are a three-time award winner, and I always hear your name when people talk about the founding of the Hoku Hanohano Awards. Tell me about it.

 

It started as our small, little radio station promotion. We realized that, you know, in one year, we had double the amount of recordings. And I said to Krash, Look at this, we had thirty-six records this year recorded, and if next year it’s up to seventy-seven. And he said, We should do something about it; we should honor these people in the recording industry. And as a small, little radio station promotion, it turned into the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts, and we mimicked ourselves after the Grammy Awards because we thought that’s what we could be, a Hawaiian Grammy Award.

 

Did you have a budget for it?

 

Oh, yeah; all of three hundred dollars. [chuckle] We had to beg and barter, and back then, we you know, went to the Ala Moana Hotel and said, Do you want to have this event? And they looked at us like, Hawaiian music? Yeah, we want to honor our Hawaiian music. And it’s interesting, because people like Melveen Leed, they could walk down the street and nobody knew who they were. Now, Melveen Leed walks down the street, and she’s a star. You know, and we sort of, you know, did that; we made stars of our own entertainers that were just going unnoticed in our lifestyles.

 

You knew Brudda Iz, Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole very well. And I’ve read that you pointed out something about him, which is that he really didn’t come prepared to the studio.

 

Never.

 

And as a result, for example, in the song that has gone platinum all over the world, you know, you hear some incorrect lyrics and —

 

Lots of incorrect. [chuckle]

 

— consolidating lyrics. He changes chords.

 

Israel’s own interpretation of what the song is supposed to sing like. And it’s because he gets inspired, and you go into the studio, and he’ll just sing whatever comes to his heart. And he must have been thirteen or fourteen years old when I first met him. And they would call me up on the radio; I wasn’t at KCCN at the time. I worked at a station that — KNDI, at midnight played Hawaiian music when KCCN went off the air. And I think that’s what lured them to have me come to join KCCN, was I was doing a midnight to eight in the morning Hawaiian music show. And the entertainers were calling in and — and listening to me and —

 

And I bet Iz called you all the time.

 

He did.

 

[chuckle]

 

He and Skippy.

 

And he continued to —

 

And their group.

 

— do that most of his life, called —

 

Oh, he did.

 

— folks up, and had his say.

 

He did. He loved radio; that kept him entertained. And he said, Come on out to Makaha; I have this group, I want you to hear us. And I went out there, and there they were; just these kids in, you know, puka clothes, and just — but their harmonies and their voices, and their family unit was so endearing, and I just loved them. And I brought them to KCCN, and did their first recording, and we started playing — this was when we could play bootleg music on the air. And so that’s how they started their career.

 

And you went and sought them out, and they knew it.

 

Yeah; they did.

 

You gave them a voice they really didn’t have. But what would move you to go all the way to Makaha to talk to a couple of teenaged boys about their music?

 

Once I drove into their yard, and Mama and Daddy were out on the porch, I said, Oh, my gosh, I found myself home. And I just — you know, they were just this sweet family, opened up their hearts to us, and to me, you know, and I just, you know, I felt like home.

 

Skylark’s passion for the people and traditions of Hawaiʻi resonated with listeners at a time that Hawaiian music and culture were going through a renaissance. That’s when she really found her “voice.”

 

Well, let’s go back –

 

Okay.

 

— ‘til way before the Honolulu Skylark emerged. Where’d you grow up? What was your growing up like?

 

It was a wonderful Hawaiian family. The Mahi’s are my mother’s background; she had ten brothers and sisters.

 

Are you related to Aaron Mahi, the —

 

That’s my —

 

— former band leader?

 

— first cousin. Yeah; his father and my mother are brother and sister. There were ten children in that family, and they all had four or five children each. And so we had a wonderful family home in Kalihi, where my grandfather lived, and our families built their beach house in some property that my grandmother had right across from what we call Baby Beach Park in Ka‘a‘awa. So our family spent weekends in Ka‘a‘awa and weekdays going to schools in the Kalihi area.

 

When you say it was a Hawaiian upbringing, what does that mean?

 

When you’re in a Hawaiian family, you learn nurturing of values and living off the land. And we did things like hukilau and did our own imu and kalua pig, and you know, fished. And it was just a warm, family thing. We all slept together in the same beds, and we all bathed together. [chuckle] You know, it was that kind of a family.

 

Rossetti doesn’t sound terribly Hawaiian.

 

No, my father’s pure Italian, and Mama and Daddy met in Pearl Harbor. And he just loved our family and became more Hawaiian, almost, than my mother. She wanted to be Americanized. You know how that was —

 

That was the —

 

— back then.

 

— generation, World War II.

 

That was that generation. And Dad wanted to be Hawaiian; he wanted to learn to fish and hukilau, and you know, do all of those things. And so he gravitated more to being Hawaiian than Mama did. And he loved the brothers and sisters, and just got along very well with them.

 

And traditional Hawaiian music; when did that come into your life?

 

I think it had always been surrounded in my life. My father — and I have to give him credit, because he loved things Hawaiian. And during our raising up, Dad was involved with something called Aloha Week back then. And he surrounded us with just wonderful mentors that were our aunties. I didn’t know that they weren’t really related to us, ‘cause we always had — everybody was aunty and uncle.

 

So your pure Italian dad —

 

Yes.

 

— and not your full-blooded Hawaiian mom introduced —

 

Thank you.

 

— you to this.

 

Yes. And he was, you know, hanai’d by Auntie ‘Iolani Luahine, and Auntie Sis Wiederman, and these wonderful pillars of Hawaiiana. And they nurtured my father in this business. I remember watching Auntie ‘Iolani dancing at ‘Iolani Palace in these beautiful Hawaiian pageants. And I said, That’s what I want to do; I want to keep our culture alive.

 

I never saw her dance in person. Is it true what people said, that when she danced, it was as if something else was inside her, living through her?

 

Absolutely. Auntie enjoyed an inu, and when we were at parties, after the big pageantry, she would have an inu or two. And then all of a sudden, she’ll hear a song that somebody’s dancing or singing, and she became a whole different person. And you’d look at her like, what happened, what possessed her. And she’d just start dancing or chanting, or — she was just a marvelous woman. And then after it was pau, it was like, Oh, where am I?

 

[chuckle] And she’s —

 

And she went back to —

 

— back at the party.

 

— hanging out —

 

Yes.

 

— at the party.

 

Absolutely. And she was just a gracious, lovely lady.

 

So your dad worked for Aloha Week, or volunteered for Aloha Week?

 

It was a volunteer thing for over forty years of his life. He’s director emeritus, if you look at the — well, I don’t know where we are with that right now. That breaks my heart terribly to see an organization like that starting to fall apart on the neighbor islands. But it got to me see what life on Kaua‘i was like, what life on Moloka‘i was like. Because we would go from week to week to the different —

 

M-hm.

 

— islands, meet some wonderful people who all cared about the culture. I don’t know if you remember; we used to spend time at Ala Moana Park when there was an Ulu Mau Village.

 

M-hm.

 

And they had all the little places that you could go and visit and learn your culture, and pound poi, and watch them weave. It was just a marvelous time to grow up.

 

And later, they moved that by He‘eia Kea.

 

He‘eia Kea; but it wasn’t the same as in Ala Moana Park, where it was closer to the people, and people could come and visit.

 

And that’s what Waikiki is trying to move toward now, having lost some of that authenticity.

 

Absolutely. Yeah.

 

So here we are; going to Kamehameha. Did they infuse you with Hawaiian?

 

I think there were wonderful people up there, like Auntie Nona Beamer, who was encouraging you to, you know, learn hula and to dance. And I had always been a part of the music scene. Mama was a hula dancer with Hilo Hattie, and she toured with the Al Kealoha Perry Show and danced at the Lexington Hotel in New York. And so she — you know, she always had her music with us, and she always taught us hula. And then we went to formal training in our neighborhood where we grew up in Foster Village with Auntie Rose Joshua. So we — at the age of five, we were dancing hula and chanting, and you know, uniki’d by the age of fifteen. And you know, I didn’t know what that was back then, but it was just a part of how we grew up. You know, and how brothers and sisters would drum and beat the tin cans or the cracker cans in those days for the Tahitian music. And it was hula schools, where you learnt ancient hula, auana hula, Samoan dancing, Tahitian dancing, and Maori dancing.

 

We talked earlier about the Hawaiian renaissance. One of the highlights of that period, besides the return of traditional music, was Kaho‘olawe and freeing the island from target bombings by the military. Were you involved in that?

 

Well, you remember the gentleman who started the theme and raised the theme of Aloha ‘Aina, aloha awareness: entertainer, musician, and a dear friend, George Jarrett Helm. In fact, I named my son after him; that’s how close we were. A wonderful family of Moloka‘i. And you know, he could sing, and his beautiful voice would transcend to the kupuna. And then when he would talk to them about aloha ‘Aina, they could relate to him. And then he started to say, This island is not a distant rock; don’t bomb it. I live right there; I can hear this. It’s paining me to just watch this smoke go up. Why are we continuing to do this? And it was his thought, his vision of freeing that island from the harshness of the bombing, and watching the red dirt surround the islands; it almost looked like it was bleeding, the island was bleeding of its red dirt. And he said, We’ve got to stop this. He went to the legislature. And I’m sure you know, people can look at the history books; he gave his life for that island. And I think we were in the early stages. Women were like Auntie Emma DeFries, who I was studying under at the time, a dear friend who I grew up with up. Auntie Frenchy DeSoto said, Do you want to go to the island? And this was in the days when nobody was going to the island; they had just arrested the nine protestors on the island, and they were giving us an opportunity to go in legally and to look at the island. And I was one of those first seventeen onboard. We were called the first warriors, as they call us today, but we went to take the kupuna to see so that they could see that it wasn’t just a rock. We weren’t bombing just a rock.

 

Did you feel any mana, or anything special on that island?

 

 

Oh, you could feel the island; you can still feel the island today if you to got Kaho‘olawe. It’s just chicken skin. You were there with your camera; you saw how beautiful that island is. And you know, to walk the ancient trails, and to see, you know, poi pounders and shell carvings that you don’t see on any other island except Kaho‘olawe; it was exciting. Dr. Patrick Kirch did this whole study that we were a part of, and we looked at how the sediments of the earth and how the people — it was just m-m, magical, wonderful.

 

You’re telling me something I didn’t know. Do you think it was George Helm who bridged, you know, he went from music to cultural –

 

I think it was. I think he had this magical voice that could attract people to listen to him, and then he could tell his story. He could say, Hey, this island needs to stop this bombing. And I think that’s the way he got the message across.

 

And that was a multi-generational protest and rally, and in the end, very successful.

 

And he —

 

Except —

 

— got; yes.

 

— now we can’t free the island of all the ordnance.

 

[chuckle] And you know, it’s sad, because here we thought that was what was going to happen with all that money being dumped into — we were gonna be able to get it all off the island. And when we were there, we had no idea we were tromping around with live ordnance on the island.

 

M-hm.

 

You know, and here we are, taking kupuna and flying them from districts. And Inez Ashdown, who was raised on the island, you know, was in our party, and she was telling the story of how the goats were here, and this water tank was here. And you know, we had no idea that we were tromping her through live ordnance. But we were so passionate, and we were so excited at the time to document these stories. And Uncle Harry Mitchell being with us, and you know, him sharing his passion for the island, because his son and — yeah, it was a wonderful time.

 

Rich cultural experiences have shaped Jacqueline “Skylark” Rossetti’s life. Today she’s a single mom living in Hilo – she wanted more a country lifestyle for her children. She’s still broadcasting and still promoting the Hawaiian culture.

 

You’re still the Honolulu Skylark, but for the last almost twenty years, you’ve had a neighbor island perspective.

 

You know, it’s interesting, because I grew up on O‘ahu in a rural area, right across from Radford High School in a little village called Foster Village. And we had cow pastures in the back yard, and chickens, and so to me, moving to Hilo where my mother is from, it was almost like I had to because that’s what I wanted my children to grow up knowing, was a rural area where we could have dogs and cats, and not live in an apartment or you know, the hustle and bustle of how Honolulu had changed so. And I could go down the street, wave to my neighbor, and he would wave back to me. I mean, that’s what I grew up knowing. And that’s what I still look at Hilo – as a wonderful place to ensure that the foundation for my children was there.

 

Are you happy with the state of Hilo radio?

 

I think it’s unique; it’s growing, it’s changing. You know, we don’t command the advertising dollars that we could get with Honolulu, but we’re a unique market. And I enjoy, again, like I did with the old kupuna, going out and meeting who these people are, what they’re doing. We have wonderful farmers like Richard Ha doing some wonderful things; Barry Taniguchi, who’s had this store in Hilo forever. And you know, bringing that into the mix, where people can understand who our community is, is just endearing to the listeners.

 

Well, how optimistic are you about this Hawai‘i nei?

You know, Leslie, I am very concerned about where we’re going. I work – another hat that I wear, Leslie, is economic development. And I find that isn’t that odd, as a Hawaiian being in economic development. But if I don’t get involved and make sure that the culture is okay, then I don’t feel that I’ve done my duty here. And Hawai‘i Island Economic Development is into sustainability, is into getting back — instead of shipping everything in, growing it, making sure that our island can be sustainable. And it’s hard. You know, there’s lots of stuff going on that are influencing, lots of pressures with Mauna Kea issues, lots of pressure with water right issues. And we just had an earth shake in October of ’06 that devastated water on our island to get the cattle fed. You know; fresh water. I mean, who is going to replace those ditches? You know. It was a wake-up call for us, on the neighbor island folks – that we’ve got to ensure, you know, that we’re strong and healthy. You know how they say you’ve been at the right place at the right time? I think I was very lucky enough to be at the right place, at the right time to be able to have mentors take me in and want to train me, like Pilahi Paki is one of my – a very stalwart woman who I just admired, and who taught me so much about who we are, and what we are as a Hawaiian, and made me proud of who I was. I endear myself to people to like Moe Keale, who you know, was this big, old bear, you know, but just had that love and aloha for people, and it transcended through his music. There’s just so many people who are – influence on me, that I want to thank them for helping to shape me. Because if they didn’t share their stories, I wouldn’t have them to share with other people.

 

Of all of the musicians, the entertainers, and others you’ve come across in your career, who’s impressed you the most?

 

You know, it’s funny you would say that. There were people, like I mentioned earlier, Alvin Kaleolani Isaacs was a dear man who had that 30s and 40s era. And then in the 50s and 60s, I would have to say there were people like Ed Kenny and Marlene Sai, and those people and those voices that shaped Hawaiian music that I’ve gravitated to as dear friends. And then in the 70s, it would have to be my friend Gabby Pahinui. I loved Pops. He just transcended this down-home earthiness about him, with that little kolohe style like Israel, always getting himself in trouble with his wife. But just this raw, loving, caring person. And then, of course, my friends from when I went to high school, Robert and Roland Cazimero, and you know, we were all at school at the same time. Keola and Kapono Beamer, they were all much older than I am, but you know, that era of music too.

 

Skylark continues to share her voice and her stories, hosting radio shows and, for 30 years, the Merrie Monarch Festival of hula. She has a beautiful voice. And she is a beautiful voice, speaking with understanding and love of the islands. Mahalo to fellow broadcaster, Skylark Rossetti and you for joining me for this wonderful Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawaiʻi. A hui hou kākou!

 

How would you intro a new show that you’re doing?

 

How would I intro? How about, From the snow-capped mountains of Mauna Kea, to the warm, sunny shores of Waikiki, you’re listening to Hawaiian music that will transcend your heart and deepen your soul. I don’t know; I just made something up. I didn’t know what you wanted me to do! [chuckle]

 

I wanted you to keep going! [chuckle]

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Mahealani Wendt

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Mahealani Wendt

 

Growing up in the crowded, rundown tenements of downtown Honolulu, Mahealani Wendt witnessed the poverty of the Native Hawaiian people around her. That ignited a passion to help, and she spent more than three decades fighting for Hawaiian rights, with a long run as the Executive Director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation in Honolulu. Today she lives in Hāna, Maui, and is a poet and author.

 

Program

 

More from Mahealani Wendt:

 

“Righteous Cause”

 

Hawaiian Homeland

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, March 24, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Mahealani Wendt Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When I went to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, I’m not sure that the most effective thing I could do there was as an attorney.  I worked as a volunteer, I worked as a grants writer.  I knew nothing about writing grants.  You know, a lot of times, you’re fueled just by passion, and you have so much … I don’t know how else to put it.  You know, you just feel so, so intensely about something, and it drives you, and you do everything you have to do to make it happen.  And that’s how I became a grants writer.

 

Her success as a volunteer grant writer led to a thirty-two-year career fighting for Native Hawaiian rights.  Mahealani Wendt of Maui, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Mahealani Wendt is the retired executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a community activist, accomplished writer, and poet.  She’s the eldest of seven children, grew up on Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, and now lives on farmland on Maui in Wailua Nui along Hāna Highway.  She knew from the time she was nine years old, living in the rundown tenements of Downtown Honolulu, that she wanted to help others.  She was deeply affected by the poverty of Native Hawaiian people she saw around her, and despite being poor herself, she says she was raised in a loving, nurturing environment, and never went hungry.  In childhood, she developed a love of writing and reading.

 

My father is Spanish; he’s second generation.  My grandparents emigrated from Spain in 1906.  They were plantation workers, the first sugar plantation in Hawai‘i, Kōloa Sugar. And so, they settled on Kaua‘i. And eventually, he met my mother, who’s from Hilo; she’s Hawaiian.  And we grew up on Kaua‘i there.  It was very beautiful, very country.  We had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, raised every kind of, you know, fruit tree, we had a garden. We were cray fishing, climbing trees; all this stuff we did, it was beautiful.  My parents separated.  You know, we were pretty innocent; we never understood what happened.  We just knew that one day, my mother decided that we were going to move, and she brought us to Honolulu.  It was a really different lifestyle.  You know, it was kind of an idyllic life, country life, and we moved to the heart of Honolulu, to the tenements.  And I still remember our address; it was 1278 Fort Street.

 

Fort Street.

 

Yeah; Fort Street, and there were twenty-seven steps going up to the second floor where we lived.

 

This was an old, beat-up building.

 

Yeah; it was the heart of the slums, the tenements in Honolulu.  This was in the 50s, mid-50s, and these tenement buildings, the closest thing that would kind of resemble it would be the buildings in Chinatown.  Those are far more well-maintained than the ones we lived in.  The buildings we lived, I’m now understanding, they were at least fifty years old.  They were wooden, they were termite-eaten.  They were firetraps, basically, you know, not fit for people to live in, but we lived there.  My mother, when she left, you know, didn’t have really the means to support all of us, and so … that’s where we lived.  Some slept on the bed, some slept on the floor.  We had, I think, three showers, cold water.

 

On that floor?

 

In the building.

 

In the whole building?

 

Everybody shared.

 

And how many people were in the building?

 

There were fifty-two rooms. There were three areas where we could do our cooking.  There were kerosene stoves.

 

Was it dangerous?  I mean, I know from a fire standpoint, it was dangerous.  What about from a human standpoint in a rough part of town.

 

It was a rough part of town. From my standpoint, I never saw any danger, I never experienced any danger.  It was a new world; I thought it was really kind of cool and exciting. New kids to play with, new people to meet, new aunties and uncles.  All Hawaiians in that building.  You know, in the same way they do now, the aunties take care.  So, we felt very protected and free, and I never felt any danger.  If you were entering from the sidewalk, you know, there were these narrow steps that went to the second floor.  And the pool hall was downstairs, next to a Chinese restaurant, next to a grocery store, next to, you know, all these different kinds of—

 

So, it felt like a neighborhood to you.

 

It did; totally.

 

No creepy people hanging around.

 

I never remembered any creepy people.

 

You know.  And I mean, when I think back on it, I think: Wow, it would be like, you would think there would be creepy people, but in my child’s eyes, I never saw creepy people.  To me, they were really nice; nice people.

 

And you felt adults were looking out for you, too.

 

Yes, we did; we felt very protected.

 

I wonder how your mom felt with seven kids to take care of.

 

We owned our own home on Kaua‘i. My grandparents homesteaded twenty-five acres there, and you know, the lands are still there.  So, you know, what caused her to feel so compelled to move, we never understood.  I never even understood it as an adult.  But there we were.  It must have been very stressful; we were really poor.  I sold newspapers.  I thought that was really cool, ‘cause I could have spending money, you know, and stuff. I was selling newspapers.  My corner was Fort and Kukui, and I sold the Honolulu Advertiser.  I sold forty papers, made a dollar.  And then, that was my lunch money.  I made most of my money from tips, ‘cause I was so young.  You know, I was like, nine years old, standing on the corner with newspapers.  Oh, poor thing, you know.  So, they’d give me a dollar.  Wow, that’s a lot of money.  That’s what I would make for the whole, you know, selling forty papers.  So … I thought it was great.

 

M-hm.

Again, the perspective.  You know, as a child, I was innocent.  I saw all of it as a great excitement.  It was just a different thing, you know.  I mean, one thing, for example, when we lived in Kauai, the store was really far.  You know. When we moved to Honolulu, the store was downstairs.

 

It was amazing.  I was just like, enthralled, you know.  When I lived on Kaua‘i, we’d go to the movies once, you know, every six months or something.  When we went to Honolulu, we lived next to the theater.  You know.  So, that’s how I saw it from a child’s sort of sense of wonder.  It wasn’t until I was, you know, older, maybe intermediate school, I sort of kinda understood that we were really poor.  And then, as I got older, I realized that, you know, the auntie that, you know, was so sick, and da-da-da, this is why.  And then, I realized that, you know, so-and-so, that you know, we really thought was really a cool guy, he’s in jail because he did this.  You know, so I had a sense of perspective, but it was afterwards.

 

After the fact.

 

Yes.

 

Did you ever connect with your father again?

 

Yes.  We saw him as we could afford to.  I think he would send money and, you know, we’d go.  But it wasn’t very often.  And he came to visit us once.  You know, he was not a Honolulu man; he was a hunter, a fisherman.  He would come back from the mountains with, you know, these burlap bags full of ‘o‘opu to feed our family.  You know, very subsistence lifestyle.  When he worked, he worked as a heavy equipment operator, kind of a laborer.  I loved my dad.  Both of my parents read to us.  My father would put us on his lap and read.  You know, those experiences.  I came to really love literature and reading from both parents.  My parents were very good parents, in spite of the separation. And my mother was very strict; she taught us very fundamental values, and we were expected to, you know, adhere to them.  And if we did not, the punishment was swift and sure.  All of the kids turned out good.  I went to Royal School.

 

Royal School.

 

Yeah.

 

Okay; elementary.  And then?

 

I went to Royal Elementary, and then I went to Central Intermediate.

 

And then?

 

And then, I went to Kamehameha in my sophomore year.  I liked public school.  Public school was awesome; I learned a lot.  You know, again, the common theme of, you know, this love of literature, that was more than reinforced in the public school.  In fact, at Kalaheo Elementary, where I went to, you know, from first to third grade, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Robello, encouraged me when I wrote a little poem for my mother.  You know how teachers do.  It’s so important.  She took my little poem, she put it on the wall.  You know how teachers, you can encourage by telling everybody, you know. And when her students would make a little picture, she’d put that on the wall.  So, she had ways of encouraging and making you feel: Ho, this is something I can do.

 

How long were you in the tenements?

 

Well, we lived in Honolulu for three years.  There was a terrible fire in the tenement next door.

 

Another wooden building?

 

It was a wooden building; it was right next to ours on the next block, and it burned down.  And four people died in that fire.  One of the ones who passed was a three-year-old who was my brother’s playmate.  And so, it really affected everybody, the family.  It really had an impact on me.  And it was just … I don’t know; I’ll never forget it.  We stood out there and watched this whole thing happen.

 

And watched it burn down.

 

Yes.  We lived there until my mother could find someplace else she could afford.  So, we moved close to Queen’s Hospital; same sort of building, but not as big.  We lived there for another, like, three or four years, and then we moved, and we actually moved to a much nicer place. Things were getting better; you know, Mom could find work, and so, we moved to a much better place.

 

How formative was the experience of living in places like that, those two different buildings and the fire that took your acquaintances and friends?

 

I know that it has everything to do with my community advocacy work, especially on behalf of Hawaiians.  The people who made a difference in our lives when we were growing up were the social workers who reached out to us. They were so kind.  They were so kind to my mother.  And I grew up feeling that I wanted to be a social worker.  I changed my mind when I realized I didn’t have the fortitude.  I saw what they had to deal with.  And I’m a little bit emotional; I have a really hard time focusing, you know, when I see that.  I got older, I guess I gained a perspective.  As a child, I didn’t really understand what that environment was all about.

 

Yeah; you thought they were nice people.

 

I thought everybody was nice.

 

But they were carrying all this pain, I suppose—

 

Yes.

 

–that they saw.

 

M-hm.  And as I got much older, and we learned our history and, you know, the displacement, I started focusing on Hawaiians.  It happened kind of gradually.  I was, you know, someone who was intent on a social work profession, but I also had competing things that I was really interested in.  The literature thing was always an interest.

 

After graduating from Kamehameha Schools, Mahealani Wendt went to work for big corporations, first on the continent, and then back home in Hawai‘i.  She was good at what she did, but her heart was not in the corporate world.

 

Right out of high school, I lived in Texas.  And while I was in Texas, I worked for a very large insurance company, a national insurance company, and I learned a lot about corporate business.  And so, I worked there for five years, I worked my way up.  Then I came home to Hawaiʻi.  I worked for a local corporation called Crown Corporation.  They had a bunch of industrial loan banks, they had securities firm, they had insurance. You know, I mean, some of the companies are still around; a lot of them are no longer.  But you know, they were real estate developers; all of that.  I was into that.  And I was like an admin assistant to vice president.  So, I did that.  And then, I went to college.

 

That was good preparation.

 

Yeah, it was good preparation. But interestingly, I started doing the community activism, you know, the demonstrations and stuff when I was still working for this corporation.  And my boss, who was a vice president, said: Just don’t let me see you arrested, or on TV. You know, something like that.  I said: I’ll be fine.

 

You know, so I always like, had these two like, sort of identities there.  I would be this corporate thing at work, and then, you know, uh, the rest of the time, I’d be … and then, I decided I needed to go to school, because I needed skills to do the thing I wanted, which is [SIGH] effectuate social reform.  Working for business was really a survival thing for me.  I had good skills, I had good typing, accounting; those sort of things. I had skills that I could market very readily in the business environment, so that’s where I went.  But that’s not where my heart was.

 

So, you’re taking political science now at the UH.

 

M-hm.  I’m taking political science, and I have an opportunity to do an internship with Legal Aid Society, along with thirty other interns, students at UH Mānoa, political science majors.  And we’re placed at the Legal Aid Society of Hawai‘i at a time when, you know, we were coming into a growth of social programs, social economic programs in our community.  So, there was this quantum leap in legal services available to the community through Legal Aid.

 

Because there was more funding.

 

There was more funding.

 

More value placed on that.

 

Yes.  I chose to go with the so-called land unit at the time.  And in the course of my internship, I was assigned to work with community organizations in the Hawaiian community. And that sort of was a catalyst for my future work.  I attended law school, I left law school.  I was very active in the community.  I mean, actually coming into this kind of work, the genesis of it was community activism.  So, the early so-called land struggles—Kalama Valley, Kokua Kalama, He‘eia Kea, Waiāhole-Waikāne, Niumalu-Nāwiliwili on Kaua‘i, Mokauea Island—all of those struggles, I was there.  I was there. I was not there as a leader; I was there as someone who felt compelled to be there.  I really related to what the people were suffering, and I felt I had to be there.  It’s a combination of that activism and my experience at the Legal Aid Society leading me to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.  You know, it’s kinda like all boiled into the picture.

 

Why did you leave law school after college?

 

Well, I had children.  At that time, I was a single parent.  That was part of it; it was the economics of it. You know, when I went to Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, I’m not sure that the most effective thing I could do there was as an attorney.  I found my niche was really talking to the staff about community; how community felt, you know, what was important.  Because sometimes the rigor of legal linear thinking separates you from community. And I think you need both.  So, I think it would have been fine to go through law school, but at that point in my life, I felt I would be more useful in bringing that perspective to the firm.  And I think that it worked really well.

 

And you worked your way up to heading the office; you ran the office.

 

Yeah.  So, the first position was an interim attorney who agreed to come over from private practice to sort of get us started.  The second was Melody MacKenzie.  Then after, I think, a year or two, the first gentleman moved on back to private practice after kinda mentoring us.  I became the third staff person.  And Melody MacKinzie was my boss for, I don’t know, maybe six, seven years. And she taught me so much.  I just owe her a great debt of gratitude.  She’s the kindest, the most brilliant mentor a person could have.  I mean, I just love her; I love her to this day.  She was the executive director, but I guess she was kind of, you know, having to do a lot of this admin stuff.  And it just seemed more efficient to have me do the administrative part, you know, deal with personnel hiring, firing, that sort of thing.  ‘Cause I had a background in it.  Melody has those skills, but she’s also brilliant; a brilliant jurist, a brilliant scholar.  You know, I mean, talking story as a staff, and it just seemed like, you know, a more sensible way to go.  And so, I guess in name, you know, I became the head of the organization, and then she could focus on cases and clients, you know, and I could just deal with the other stuff.

 

You did that for a long time.

 

M-hm.  Well, I retired after thirty-two years.  So, yes, I did it a long time.  It was fun.  I loved it.

 

What kinds of cases did your firm handle?

 

Well, our cases were all Native rights cases.  So, you know, they’re kind of characterized as the things that we require in order to be Hawaiian.  Hawaiians were being affected with respect to land tenure, their ability to hold onto their lands, ability to hold onto their natural resources, have access to it, ability to engage in traditional and customary practices that they require to be Hawaiian.  If their access to the ocean is cut off, then they can’t go fish, they cannot gather limu; these kinds of things.  The ability to exercise practices relating to their traditional religion, things that would impede it, ability to access their trusts, the Hawaiian Homelands trusts or the public lands trusts.  All of those things became our areas of focus.  We had genealogists on staff, we had title people on staff.  We had Hawaiian translators on staff, because we’re dealing a lot with archival documents, many of which are only in Hawaiian. So, we had people on staff who specialized in translating legal documents.  So, the shop is a specialty shop, you know, asserting the rights of native people.  And we did well.  There were many cases that we did, that I’m very proud of.

 

That was a very … just vibrant time, and also, it was a time of people coming into age and being very proud, and also running into a lot of walls, too.

 

Yes; yes.  And I think with knowledge comes power.  You know, and the more we’re able to understand our history—and of course, language is a window into culture, the more we understand our language the more we understand better who we are.  Part of that is having, you know, connection to land, connection to water, connection to ocean, continuing to keep traditional practice vibrant and alive. All of those things are important. And you know, ultimately, it’s about values.  And as many other peoples, including indigenous peoples, those values are really important, not only for us here as a people in Hawaii, and not only for all of Hawai‘i, but even globally.  You know, you join with other peoples.  There are certain values that are universally exalted as being life-affirming and necessary in order for, you know, humankind to thrive.  We can make a contribution, and it’s really, really important that we be allowed to be a people.

 

Why do we do this?  We do this because we love Hawai‘i.

 

A&B doesn’t own the water, the taro farmers do not own the water.  Our people own the water.  Ke Akua owns the water.

 

Ae!

 

Ae!

 

Ke Akua owns the water.

 

Ae!

 

For all of us.

 

So, let our people live, and let the ‘aina live, forever. [INDISTINCT]  Stand up so that we can make that happen.

 

Mahealani Wendt met her husband, Ed Wendt, through her work in native water rights.  He’s a taro farmer with kuleana land.  Where they live in Wailua Nui, in Maui’s Hana District, is beautiful, but as always, farming kalo is hard work.  Besides her passion for justice, Mahealani Wendt has always had a love for poetry and writing.  Even as head of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, she found time to write, and has received numerous literary awards, both nationally and internationally. We’re going to close now with a reading from one of her poems that reflects back on her childhood.  Mahalo to Mahealani Wendt of Wailua Nui, Maui, for sharing her life story with us, and mahalo to you for joining us.  For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

At statehood, we trundled kerosene tankards over rutted Honolulu sidewalks, past beer halls, pool halls, taxi dancehalls, past honky-tonk dives, juke joints, and shoeshine stands, to rooming house kitchens where we lit our communal fires and kept vigil for the one day our nation would be restored.  The torches burned bright as we stood watch.  Our children, listless on tenement floors, their coverings prickling with insect filth, and the grit of ambient sounds, incessant scuttlings and winged scurryings inside squalid floors and walls, we sensed a slow collapse under the terrific weight of a people whose gods kept watch with them there. The minions of forest, river, and ocean gods, companions in these root places whispering their encouragements as generations of children turn to hear, like flowers brightening to sun.

 

[END]

 

 

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