storytelling

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Lois Kim

 

Strength and grit were the two values that Lois Kim’s Korean American parents instilled in her from an early age. But when tragedy struck, she turned to drugs, which took her down a dark path that resulted in prison time. She’s since served her time, and is now using the power of storytelling to share her exploration of vulnerability – and a new source of strength.

 

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

 

Lois Kim Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

I remember this one time, right before my mom passed.  I think it was maybe two or three months I’d been out on the streets, and she saw me on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.  She had lost a lot of weight by then, and she started crying and she said: I thought you were dead.  You know, where have you been?  And you know, I was dressed kind of scantily clad, and … I remember feeling a little embarrassed to see her.  And the only words that could have come out of my mouth at that wasn’t: I’m sorry, Mom, I’ll be home, I’m sorry what I did to you.  It was: Mom, do you have money?

 

She was a young wife, mother, and assistant vice president at a local bank when events in her life triggered a downward spiral: drug addiction, life on the streets, and a spot on Hawaii’s Most Wanted List.  Lois Kim candidly shares her story, 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.  Recovering addict Lois Kim describes her childhood as growing up in a stable middleclass family environment, surrounded by siblings, a grandmother, an auntie, and her parents, who were immigrants from South Korea.  Her father was an engineer who later become involved in local politics, and worked on behalf of the Korean community in Hawai‘i.  She says her mother was a workaholic, an entrepreneur whom some referred to as the Godmother of Korean Restaurants.  Kim says her mother would take a struggling business, and turn it around with her instincts, reputation, and cooking skills.  And it was not unusual for her busy working mom to send a taxi to pick up her children at school.

 

With all that work she did for so long, were you close to her?

 

Not growing up; no.  I remember always longing to have what I saw on TV, the Western family.  Longing to have a mom that would pick me up every day, go to like after school practices with me, hug me, say I love you; all that cheesy stuff.  I remember longing for that.  But today, in retrospect, I think she did the best she could. She came from a different culture than I was brought up watching on TV.

 

She was busy providing for you.

 

Yes.

 

So, that means when you were sick from school, you were alone.

 

My grandma; my mom had brought over my grandma to watch over us from Korea.

 

So, you always had somebody in the house?

 

Yes; either grandma, or before that, there was this auntie that my mom trusted with us.

 

You said your dad was a politician.  And was he a strict father?

 

He was very quiet.  Extremely strict; he would make my brother and I uh, meditate at night. You know, he’d sit us in front of him, he’d sit on the couch, and he’d watch us for an hour.  And I think we were like … I was ten and my brother was six. You know, for a ten-year-old to sit there with their eyes closed and meditate for a whole hour was impossible. But my dad just grinded it into us. He tried to teach us a lot about discipline and being strong.  He wasn’t very loving in a sense, only because, you know, traditional Asian family; he was the man of the household.  But when he spoke, you listened.

 

He would spank you?

 

He did, at times.  I remember being afraid of the golf club at times.

 

He would hit you with his golf club?

 

Yeah.  For me, looking back today, it’s just discipline; a different type of discipline. I wouldn’t call it child abuse. Maybe some might today, but it was just to make me a stronger person.

 

What were you like as a kid?  Besides being bratty.

 

I was an introvert.  Childhood was kind of rough for me, only because you know, I couldn’t really fit in well.

 

Did you speak Korean, or what was your language like then?

 

My first language was Korean.  So, going into school, I really couldn’t converse with the other children, the culture was different.  So, I was kind of an outcast.  And then, I think later on, as I got older, I turned to food to comfort myself.  And this is back when childhood obesity wasn’t that prevalent.  I was extremely overweight.  I remember being the biggest kid in class, bigger than all the boys and the girls, height wise and weight wise.

 

Did you get picked on?

 

I did.  I got picked on, but because of my size, I was able to stop the bullying right there.

 

How were your grades?

 

My grades were mediocre, only because I think it bored me; high school didn’t really challenge me.  At some point, my father thought that maybe it would be a losing investment to put me through college, only because my grades were pretty low.  I was determined and stubborn.

 

What made you determined?

 

I think a little bit of my dad refusing to pay for my college.  ‘Cause I knew in the back of my head that, you know, that’s what parents are supposed to do.  They’ve provided for me up until now.  They haven’t provided a loving family style, but they’ve always provided financially. And it goes without saying, they’re gonna provide for my education.  But that day when he told me that he’s not gonna put an investment into my education, is when I realized: Hm, what?  I’ll show you.  My father paid for everything for my brother.  ‘Cause in our family—and I think it’s typical of all Asians, you know, a son you take care, he’s like the king of the family.

 

Yeah. So, I can see how there were a lot of reasons to feel resentment and worry.

 

M-hm.

 

As a child.

 

I did; I did have a lot of resentment, a lot of anger.

 

But somehow, you said: I’m gonna go to UH.  How did you pay for that?

 

I worked at the bank as a teller, and I got grants and loans.  I’m still paying off my student loans now.  But I made it happen; I made it happen.  Yes.

 

You enjoyed college?

 

It was challenging, and that’s where I excelled, because it was something that mentally stimulated me.  And when I graduated, I graduated on the Dean’s List.  So, I was holding down a job, paying for college, and getting good grades.

 

What happened next?  At some point, you met somebody that you married.

 

A gentleman I was working with at the bank introduced me to his friend.  He said: Hey, look, I’ve got this friend, he lives in Guam, but I think you guys would match; you guys are both intellectuals, you’re both Asian, both Korean. And that’s an important thing. So, I started emailing him.  We emailed back and forth.  He came down to visit for about ten days.  My family met him.  He was the perfect son-in-law my mother and father had always wanted.

 

What about you; were you in love with him?

 

Well … I loved how happy my mom and dad were. And he was a good man.  You know, he is a good man.  He’s good on paper, accomplished.  I think he was pre-law at that time.  So, love was probably the farthest thing from my mind.  He just made logical sense.

 

And at some point, you had a baby.

 

About a year or two into our marriage; yes.  The right thing to do; right?  The typical thing to do.  I had a daughter.  I remember giving birth to her, and just instantly falling in love, and thinking: I’m gonna do everything in my powers to protect you; and at the same time, I’m gonna do everything in my heart to love you and show you the love that I’ve always longed for.  But time will tell.

 

What happened to change your daughter’s life, your life, your husband’s life?

 

Those turning points in life; huh?  So, I was at the top of my career, doing so well. My father and I were finally building up a relationship.  You know, he called me just because he was lonely or bored.  I’ve never had that.  It was amazing.  I remember receiving a phone call saying: This is St. Francis Hospital; you need to come here right away.  I asked for more information, but of course, they couldn’t give me any information over the phone.  I remember driving up to St. Francis, and the first person I see is my mom.  She runs to me, and she collapses in my arms.  She tells me that my dad passed out, he’s on life support, and he’s in the ICU.  Speaking to the doctors, they told me that he’s got like, ten percent brain activity left, and prepare yourself.

 

Shortly after Lois Kim lost her father, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and the grandmother who looked after her as a child passed away.  It seemed that just as her life was finally coming together, those she loved were being ripped away.  She says she couldn’t cope with so much loss, and that’s why she spent more time away from home, at bars and clubs, where she met someone who introduced her to cocaine.

 

It did a weird thing.  It alleviated some of the pain; it made being conscious and awake a little bit more bearable.  And that’s when the downturned happened.  You know, of course, the more your body gets used to something chemical, it needs a little bit more.  And then, that’s when I started to experiment with crystal methamphetamine.  I can handle it.  This drug will never bring me down.  I’m just gonna use it for now to get over this hump, and then get back on track. You know?  I’m not an addict.  This drug is not gonna consume me.  Couldn’t have been more wrong.  It took everything from me.  And I let it.

 

So, I need to ask you.  You still had family; your husband and your child.

 

Yes.

 

So, you didn’t lose all your family.

 

Not at that point; no.  My mother was still alive, as well.  But I acted selfishly at that time.  I told my husband that I don’t love him anymore.  I moved out.  I stayed with my mom, and then I remember just going out frequently.  And it was this perpetual snowball.  Like, I wouldn’t come home ‘cause I was embarrassed because of my drug use.  Then I’d feel guilty, and do more drugs.  Then, it would prolong my stay out on the streets, you know, staying at strangers’ houses, drug dealers’ houses, just trying to get high.

 

What was a day like for you when you were on crystal meth?

 

It’s hard to demarcate when the day starts and ends, because crystal meth is a stimulant and it’ll keep you up for days on end.  So, I guess to describe, let’s just say, okay, in the morning, my day would start with having nothing in my pockets, and wondering in my head: How am I gonna obtain this high?

 

And where were you waking up?

 

Sometimes, in stairwells.  Sometimes in game rooms.  Sometimes … at strangers’ houses, being woken up to man on top of you.  It was an adventure, to say the least, I guess. So, I’d wake up with nothing in my pocket, with a goal in mind.  My only priority at that time was to obtain more drugs.  So, I’d go out on a quest.  For a lot of women, there’s only a few ways you can obtain drugs out there. It’s either you sleep with a drug dealer, or you obtain something worth something, to sell.  And because I was Asian, I could fit in with the tourists. I quickly got drawn into what we called boosting, which is essentially shoplifting from stores, and obtaining items that a high demand on the streets.

 

How did you learn to do that?  I guess your native wit takes over.  How did you do it?

 

You have to learn to survive.  So, you know, in the dark world of the drug world, there are some people known as professional boosters.  So, I would go to them, pick their brain, learn from them. And they taught me a few tricks and things that I could do to get past sensors.  And then from there, I took that and just melded my own theories into it. So, I was able to support my habit that way.

 

And all this time, what were your thoughts about your daughter?

 

There would be moments she’d creep into my head.

 

But generally not?

 

No.  I knew she was safe.  I knew she was well, she was happy.  Well, in my head, I convinced myself that she was happy, and that me being in her life might just be worse.  So, I kinda tricked myself into justifying why I wasn’t there for her, or staying out on the streets longer.

 

Did you think of the future?  Like, I’ll just do this for a couple more days, and then I’ll stop.  Did you have that feeling, like it was not gonna be what you did forever?

 

That’s how it began.  It did.  I told myself: You know, it’ll be just until I get over this, or I’ll wake up someday.

 

Get over what?

 

The grief, the pain, the loss.  But then, it slowly turned into … towards the end of my drug addiction, I was hoping that it would be the end of it.  Like, I would die high.  Like hopefully, this drug will do so much damage to me that it’ll just take my life from me.  Towards the ending of my drug use, I was shooing ice intravenously, using needles.

 

Well, how did it get to be in your past?  What happened to change this, where you’re hoping to die high?

 

So, naturally, I got in trouble with the law.

 

I remember seeing you on Hawaii’s Most Wanted.  And it said that loss prevention officers at a store, you were a known person to them, and they followed you and they caught you with a couple of items.

 

Like, five of them just jumped out of the bushes, called me by name, and you know: Drop what you what you have in your hands and don’t move.  Something out of a movie.  But yes, they took me.  It was enough to convict me with felony charges.  I think I had drugs on me, so another felony charge.  I got into OCCC, and that’s when I learned that … my mom was in a coma.  I guess the reason why when she saw me on the streets and asked me to promise to come home that Thanksgiving was because she needed to tell me that she needs me there for her when they’re removing the tumor.  I wasn’t there.  So, in OCCC, I got a phone call from my brother saying that Mom’s on life support, we’re taking her off.  I begged and pleaded, and asked him to bail me out, let me be there for her.  You know, I wasn’t there for her when she needed me the most, let me be there for her now.  He said, no.  So, eventually, I did get put on probation.  But it’s the weirdest thing.  The judge knew I had nowhere to go.  So, at that time, my mom passed, her funeral happened.  I thought my daughter and her dad had moved back to Guam. Nobody communicated with me while I was incarcerated.  And then, the judge let me out on probation, out on the streets.  So, I went straight back to the game rooms, got high within an hour of getting released.  And I think that’s when you saw me on Hawaii’s Most Wanted, ‘cause I absconded. They were looking for me.  I think I was on the run for about two to three months. They found me in a game room, took me in.

 

While serving time in prison in Kailua, Lois Kim was enrolled in a mandatory drug rehabilitation program.  She recalls a life-changing moment of clarity.  During an exchange with her counselor, she declared that since she lost everything and everyone she loved, she just wanted to die high.  The counselor wasn’t buying any of it.  She looked Lois Kim dead in the eye, and challenged her to get off her pity pot.  Something clicked.

 

I was like: What?  I was on a pity pot.  I’m better than this.  I’m stronger than this.  I was bred to be strong, through my upbringing.  Why am I acting this way?  And that’s when that proverbial turn in your life happened again for me. You know.

 

It’s interesting that that got to you, because you probably knew that at some level already.

 

I knew it; I knew it.  But she said to me in a challenging manner, just like how when my father had told me: I’m not paying for your education.  Oh, I’ll show you.  Oh, get off my pity pot; you don’t think I can?  I’ll show you.  Well, getting over addiction and all that trauma in your life is never a one-day thing, or one-thing thing.  I remember just, you know, beginning my healing process at that time.  But again, I was incarcerated, and then sobriety was hitting me.  And when you’re sober, all this guilt just comes rushing back into your life, into your wellbeing.  I remember having recurring nightmares of seeing my mom and my daughter with their back towards me, and me screaming out to them, but they wouldn’t turn around. I didn’t know where my daughter was. I knew there was so much I needed to say to apologize, so much I needed to explain, but I didn’t know how.

 

How many years had gone by since you left the home?

 

Maybe two years straight, and maybe … four years altogether, where I’d come home once in a while.  So, a straight two-year absence from my daughter’s life.

 

And how old was she then?

 

She was probably about six when I started.  And then, through seven, eight, nine is when I was gone.

 

Did you feel like you owed your—was he your ex-husband by that time, an explanation?

 

He knew.

 

So, no need to have words over that?

 

I remember apologizing to him, ‘cause I knew that was what needed to be done.  But as for an explanation; no.  He knew what I had gotten myself into.  I mean, it was plastered all over the news; he knew.  He knew exactly what grievance I was going through too, ‘cause he was there when my father had passed.  He was there through the whole thing.  So, he knew why I did what I did.

 

What was it like between you and your daughter when you were reunited for the first time?

 

It was kinda … you’d like to think it was like a storybook ending, where we ran into each other’s arms, and lived happily ever after.  But it was kinda awkward in the beginning.  She had her wall up, and I didn’t know how to get past that without offending her.  It was kinda like two strangers meeting … but they’re family.  So, it was baby steps.  So, from the first meeting, we started talking on the phone every day, ‘cause I was allowed to talk on the phone for fifteen minutes at a time.  I’d call every evening.  We started to play this game that we made up, where she likes to act out a role, and we’d role-play.  And then from there, it went into her coming and staying, and sleeping at the furlough house on weekends.  And then, when I graduated from the furlough program, her father actually allowed me to come and rent a room from him.

 

So, you had regained, if not his trust, at least a second chance.  And your daughter, too.  You know, your daughter had to be onboard for that too; right?

 

I think what happened was, he knows that who I was while high or addicted isn’t who I am.  He knows the core being of me is responsible.  And I think that’s the thing; responsible.  Maybe not so loving, maybe not so caring, but he knows I’m a very responsible person.  And I remember before he allowed me to rent that room, we had to interview with his landlord.  So, what took me off guard is my ex-husband telling the landlord: You know, I don’t back anybody up, but I’m backing her up; she’s very responsible, she’s changed, she’s a good person.  That’s the first time I’ve ever heard him say anything nice about me.  And that‘s when I knew I’m doing well.  When I got reunited with my daughter, I shared every part of my life with her: the embarrassing parts, the hard to swallow parts. So, she understands.  But the importance is that I told her it was a bad choice, and we come up from that.  I didn’t alleviate any of my wrongdoings, I didn’t wash my hands saying it wasn’t my fault.  I told her: Yes, it was Mommy’s fault, Mommy made bad choices, but I can fix it.

 

At the time of our conversation in the Spring of 2018, Lois Kim told us she was employed fulltime, and continued to work on her recovery and rebuilding her life with her daughter.  She was also committed to earning a relationship with a son, who was born during the years of her addiction.  He lives with his paternal grandmother, who still isn’t ready to permit Kim to establish a bond with her son.  Lois Kim says she understands, and sees this as another opportunity and challenge to prove herself.  We wish her personal peace and sobriety, as she shares with everyone her first published work, Mommy Loves You, a heartfelt message she wrote for her daughter during a critical period of her journey back.  Mahalo to Lois Kim of Honolulu, O‘ahu, for sharing your 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.

 

What did she make of your book, Mommy Loves You?

 

The book helped open up the discussion.  She told me that she had thought I abandoned her. She thought it’s because I didn’t love her.  And at one point, she thought I was dead; she thought I had passed.  The lucky thing for me is, I got sober while incarcerated. I also got to heal while incarcerated. So, I was speaking about having all that guilt and turmoil inside of me.  That’s when I got granted an opportunity to write a children’s book.  At first, I didn’t want to do it, because I thought it hurt too much.  Like, who am I gonna write to, who am in gonna give it to; I don’t know her address. But someone encouraged me to.  I wrote it within two, three minutes of sitting down.  It just … flowed straight out of me.  Did the artwork.  And that’s when I think I really began to heal.

 

And if I’m her, my question is: How do I know you’re not gonna go right out and do it again?

 

You don’t.  You don’t.  I don’t. I would like to think I won’t. You know, addiction is a very scary thing.  I would say ninety-five percent of my sisters in addiction has gone back.  And like you brought up earlier, the whole relapse thing. I haven’t relapsed.  I hope I never will.  But statistically, it’s likely.  Those times when I think about relapsing, I remember how horrible my life was back then.  I remember everything I’ve earned today, and how hard I’ve worked to get it.  I think before I get high, I think about my child, my children.  I need to be responsible.  That’s a part of my past that, you know, been there, done that.  Let’s never, ever revisit that.  But it’s a notch under my belt.  You know, I’ve been there, done that, I’ve lived through it, and hopefully … I can forever remain a success story.

 

 

 


PBS Hawaiʻi to benefit from Consolidated Theatres
film screening series

In celebration of storytelling through film, Consolidated Theaters has selected PBS Hawai‘i as one of five local nonprofits to benefit from its Saturday screening series, “A Film for Every Decade.”

 

Every Saturday from August 26 through October 28, all Consolidated locations will present an iconic family film from every decade over the last 100 years. Admission is only $4. A portion of net ticket sales will support PBS Hawai‘i, as well as the following nonprofits: Boys and Girls Club of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Arts Alliance, Hawai‘i Public Radio and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawai‘i.

 

The screening series will take place at all Consolidated locations: Ward, ʻOlino, Kapolei, Mililani, Pearlridge, Kahala, Koko Marina, Koʻolau, Kaʻahumanu.

 

The chart below will be updated with online ticketing links as they are provided. For more information, please check with your Consolidated venue of choice.

 

Screening Date Film Titles Decade Year of release
26-Aug CHARLIE CHAPLIN’S THE KID 10’s – 20’s 1921
2-Sep THE WIZARD OF OZ 30’s 1939
9-Sep CASABLANCA 40’s 1942
16-Sep SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 50’s 1952
23-Sep THE SOUND OF MUSIC 60′ 1965
30-Sep WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY 70’s 1971
7-Oct E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL 80’s 1982
14-Oct JURASSIC PARK 90’s 1993
21-Oct LILO AND STITCH 2000’s 2002
28-Oct MOANA 2010’s 2016

 

CURIOUS TRAVELER
Curious Stockholm

 

This series takes viewers on an enriching and entertaining “field trip for grown-ups” to some of the most intriguing cities in Europe and North America. Journalist Christine Van Blokland brings her passion and genuine curiosity about the arts, quirky characters, storytelling and lifelong learning to this new series. In each location, Christine explores the hidden histories in their art, architecture, museums, monuments, houses of worship and city parks.

 

Curious Stockholm
What did Alfred Nobel invent that led him to create the Nobel Prize? What is Gamla Stan? What’s so important about the throne inside the Royal Palace of Stockholm? What is the Djurgarden Canal? Why did the Swedes grow grass on their rooftops?

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Hula: The Language of the Heart

 

The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is a four-day competition and exhibition that showcases elegance, power and rich storytelling that this ancient art form portrays. This program highlights the 2012 festival winners and presents a look at hula’s role in the past, present and future of Hawaii’s people.

 

On March 8, Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of Hawai‘i net sales to PBS Hawai‘i

PBS Hawaii

For questions regarding this press release, contact:
Liberty Peralta
lperalta@pbshawaii.org
808.462.5030

 

Download this Press Release

 

Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo are among those from the 90 public, private and charter schools across the Islands in HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i’s flagship digital learning initiative, which will benefit from Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Day.HONOLULU – Whole Foods Market Hawai‘i has selected PBS Hawai‘i as its statewide nonprofit partner for its upcoming Community Giving Day on Wednesday, March 8.

 

Pictured: Students from Waiakea High School in Hilo are among those from the 90 public, private and charter schools across the Islands in HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i’s flagship digital learning initiative, which will benefit from Whole Foods Market’s Community Giving Day.

 

That day, five percent of net sales from all three Whole Foods Market locations in Hawai‘i – Kahala and Kailua on O‘ahu, and Kahului on Maui – will go toward supporting PBS Hawai‘i’s mission of advancing learning and discovery through its video programming.

 

Whole Foods Market hosts Community Giving Days twice a year to benefit local nonprofits. These initiatives are part of the company’s core values and commitment to serving and supporting local and global communities.

 

“We are thrilled to partner with PBS Hawai‘i, as we have a shared interest in providing the highest quality products,” says Annalee England, Whole Foods Market Kahului Store Team Leader. “Whole Foods Market does so through our selection of the best natural, organic and locally sourced foods, and PBS Hawai‘i through their incomparable programming for the whole family.”

 

PBS Hawai‘i’s statewide digital learning initiative, HIKI NŌ, will benefit from the Community Giving Day. Through this program, PBS Hawai‘i offers free digital storytelling training for the program’s 90 participating public, private and charter schools across the Islands. The student video stories that result from this training are showcased online at pbshawaii.org, and on Thursday nights at 7:30 on PBS Hawai‘i.

 

Since its launch in 2011, HIKI NŌ has served more than 4,800 students. More than half of HIKI NŌ schools are Title I, the federal designation of schools with at least 40 percent of students coming from low-income families.

 

“With HIKI NŌ, PBS Hawai‘i is bridging serious educational and socioeconomic gaps,” says Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEO. “This partnership with Whole Foods Market will help us with this important work in our island communities – some as near as those in PBS Hawai‘i’s own neighborhood of Kalihi, and as far and remote as South Point on Hawai‘i Island.”

 

Other programs produced locally by PBS Hawai‘i include the live, weekly community affairs program Insights on PBS Hawai‘i, the half-hour interview program Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox and the Hawaiian music series Na Mele.

 

As the Islands’ only member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service, PBS Hawai‘i carries flagship PBS programs, including Masterpiece, Antiques Roadshow, Independent Lens, NOVA, Frontline and educational children’s programming on PBS KIDS.

 

PBS Hawai‘i is also one of a handful of PBS stations in the country to carry a live feed of English-language international news coverage from Japanese public broadcaster NHK World.

 


PBS Hawai‘i is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization and Hawai‘i’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i to the world. pbshawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii

 

Strategy from a Swordfighter

Musashi Miyamoto, right, as depicted by artist Yoshitaki Tsunejiro

 

Musashi Minamoto, right, as depicted by artist Yoshitake Tsunejiro.

 

Leslie Wilcox, President and CEO of PBS HawaiiOne of the greatest swordfighters in history comes to mind as PBS Hawai‘i sets out to draft a new strategic plan to guide us in a rapidly changing media environment.

 

“Do nothing which is of no use,” wrote samurai Musashi Miyamoto, when he wasn’t roaming Japan wielding two swords, facing enemies in the Edo period.

 

Yes, Miyamoto-San, we must decide what skills and habits of mind we need to take with us into the future, in order to serve up great content on the many viewing screens in people’s lives. Folks might want to lean back for an hour-long documentary on a big wall monitor; catch a one-minute clip on their smartphone; or participate in a globally interactive discussion on their tablet. In fact, it’s already become common for people to use two digital devices at the same time to access content.

 

“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.” So true, Minamoto-San, as we clear the bias of the present moment and attempt to see with clarity how we and fellow Islanders will want to use media and storytelling in the years ahead. Our organization used to peer ahead five years; now, even trying to pin down the next three years in this industry seems foolhardy.

 

In meetings held so far, our Board of Directors, Staff and stakeholders agree that PBS Hawai‘i must create a far-reaching system of touch points for people to encounter our programming. We’ll go where people are, rather than wait for them on a television monitor. We’ll continue to broadcast. However, many more people will want to engage in content online, selecting what they want to see when they want to see it. We want that, too.

 

First and foremost, we’re storytellers. We can and will adapt, to meet the need for quality stories and interactivity in different ways on different digital devices.

 

“Fixation is the way to death. Fluidity is the way to life,” wrote Miyamoto, who was known for anticipating an opponent’s moves and unleashing unexpected moves to bring victory.

 

However, the future isn’t all about fluidity and change. Like many of our viewers, we intend to hold onto our mindsets of curiosity, discovery, resilience, fairness; our belief in exposure to diverse viewpoints and civil discourse; and the value of universal access to education and reliable information.

 

When our Board of Directors adopts a new strategic plan at mid-year, we’ll share the plan with you and count on your feedback as we evolve. As Miyamoto-San said, “It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”

 

At least we don’t run the risk of sword injuries! We do stand a fighting chance of creating richer and more versatile viewing experiences for you.

 

Aloha a hui hou,
Leslie signature

 

A Christmas Carol:
The Concert

 

This unique musical event marks the first time Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol has been adapted for a live orchestral concert with choir and soloists and performed for audiences in a concert setting. Robert Christianson’s score is filled with memorable songs, and the story, faithfully adapted by Broadway’s Alisa Hauser, is performed by such Chicago and New York theater luminaries as Michael Aaron Lindner and E. Faye Butler.

 

HIKI NŌ
Top Story: Kapaa High School: Shave Ice

 

TOP STORY:

 

Students from Kapaa High School on Kauai report on an organic, 21st Century twist on an iconic Hawaii treat – shave ice. For decades, shave ice, brought to Hawaii by the Japanese, consisted of brightly and artificially colored syrup on shaved ice in a paper cone. Today, entrepreneurs on Kauai have created a new niche with a supposedly healthier, all-natural, no-food-coloring-added version of this classic refreshment. And speaking of favorite island treats, we’ll visit the HIKI NŌ archives for a Waiakea High School (Hawaii Island) story about a family-run business that adds Technicolor to traditional Japanese mochi.

 

ALSO FEATURED:

 

Students from Waianae Intermediate School in West Oahu tell the inspiring story of their after-school activities director’s weight-loss journey.

 

Students at Hongwanji Mission School on Oahu introduce us to a blind singer who dispels some common myths about what it’s like to live without sight.

 

Students at Hana K-12 School in East Maui show us how to make beautiful prints with something found in most Hawaii backyards.

 

And students at Campbell High School on Oahu present a fresh, expressionistic approach to telling the story of a young woman with cerebral palsy.

 

This program encores Saturday, June 18 at 12:00 pm and Sunday, June 19 at 3:00 pm. You can also view HIKI NŌ episodes on our website, www.pbshawaii.org/hikino.

 





PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Hula: Language of the Heart

 

The Merrie Monarch Hula Festival is a four day competition and exhibition that showcases elegance, power and rich storytelling that this ancient art form portrays. This program highlights the 2012 festival winners and presents a look at hula’s role in the past, present and future of Hawaii’s people.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Candy Suiso

 

Original air date: Tues., Feb. 24, 2009

 

Program Director for Searider Productions

 

Leslie Wilcox talks story with Waianae High School alumnus Candy Suiso, who returned to the school as a Spanish teacher and then helped to create the nationally acclaimed student media center – Searider Productions. Candy talks about how the language of visual storytelling gave voice to a community in need.

 

Candy Suiso Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When I left, I remember graduating from Waianae High School, thinking, I want to get the heck out of here, and I never, ever want to come back. I never want to come back. I remember that—thinking that way. But you know, you leave a place that you really love, and when you come back—every year, I would come back, it just felt better and better. And I knew I wanted to come back. When I realized that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to teach, I knew I wanted to be at Waianae High School.

 

There’s a movement taking place on Oahu’s leeward coast. You may have seen a part of it without realizing you were seeing part of a movement that’s bringing in jobs in place of drugs, hope in place of homelessness, and a culture of doing the right thing. And where would you have seen this? On television!

 

Public service announcements, TV commercials, student news videos and music videos are some of the kinds of work of the multi-talented, award-winning high school students from Waianae High School’s Searider Productions.

 

They’re part of a movement that’s encouraging, educating, enabling young people to learn life and workforce skills and give back to their community. A movement led, guided, nurtured by a graduate of Waianae High who returned to the community to live and work. This educator learned to find resources in and mostly OUTside the public school system to grow the largest and most successful high school multi-media production program in Hawaii. We’ll sit down to chat with Candy Suiso – next.

 

Aloha no, I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawaii. Today’s Long Story Short features Candy Suiso, a graduate of Waianae High School who’s been teaching there for more than 20 years. Her mother taught at Makaha Elementary for 30 years.

 

What Candy and a team of teachers have done at Waianae High is pretty simple. While teaching students to use different mediums of communication (print, audio, video and web), they’re also teaching them to communicate – ask questions, seek different perspectives, present a story.

 

The teachers at Waianae have simply given students the tools they need to succeed, the skills they need to know, and the belief that they can achieve. And boy have they.

 

Success receiving grants… success producing broadcast TV commercials… success winning awards…

 

I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to give back to the community that was very good to me. I really felt that that’s where I was the most needed. It felt right. I wanted to be in—I wanted to be home. I wanted to be in the community that raised me. And it was the right thing to do. I just felt that that was the right thing to do, and it was the right decision, when I look back.

 

Much of what you’ve done at Waianae High School wasn’t done really within the system. You had to find ways to equip yourself and your students with grants. You had to become a grant writer—

 

M-hm.

 

–to get the proper equipment, the space.

 

M-hm. There’s—within the DOE, there’s so many limitations, and there’s only so much money to go around. And part of our success is, I believe, we’ve learned to work around the system and been very successful in going—like you said, going after a lot of grants. A lot of support, pulling together partners, pulling together people that believe in you; that’s been our success. We had to prove ourself, you know, like you said, the right people at the right time started to notice these students, and started to give. And—

 

These were big grant makers.

 

[chuckle]

 

Kellogg Foundation. I mean—

 

We still—

 

–you were getting—

 

Yeah, and the—m-hm.

 

–hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money.

 

We were—yeah, we were able to secure couple HUD grants, federal government grant—from the federal government. We received another federal—the Native Hawaiian Education Act, another federal U.S. DOE grant, and recently, W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant. Back to back; but prior to that, it was the little grants that we were able to get. Little donations from people like the, you know, Ko Olina Charities, HMSA, who’ve been very generous, the Campbell—James Campbell Company. Just people who really saw these kids’ potential, and gave.

 

Because they were doing things with nothing. When we first started, we started in a classroom with no air conditioning, with very little equipment.

 

And by the way, heat isn’t just bad for people, it’s bad for—

 

It’s so bad.

 

–equipment.

 

We would pack fifty kids, forty kids in a classroom, and it was hot, and no air conditioning. But you know, those kids never grumbled; they never grumbled, because they didn’t have an air conditioned room or top of the line equipment like a lot of other schools did. Instead, they just started to create projects. And they did some pretty good projects, and people started to notice. That’s what happened, is people started to notice.

 

How did they know they could do that? What got them started?

 

You just—you give ‘em the tools. You, as educators you know, the team of educators, there was enough people out there that said, You can do it, of course you can do it. You know, make a video; here; here’s the camera, here’s your tool, here’s how you do it.

 

The essence of video production, as I look at it, is storytelling.

 

M-hm.

 

What kind of experience do you think your students had in storytelling?

 

They are born with a gift to tell a story. I really believe their success is because they are born with the gift to create. They—the kids out in Waianae, I really believe, are the most creative, loving, storytellers because—they don’t grow up with a lot. I really believe that; they don’t grow up with a lot, so they entertain themselves by playing the ukulele, sitting around, talking story, they draw, they doodle, they sing. And it carries over. When they come to us, they just—they’re so strong and their heartfelt creativity carries over with this tool. All of a sudden, we have these expensive toys now that we give them, and we say, Go create. And they—

 

And they—

 

–create.

 

–just take to it.

 

It was amazing

 

Now—

 

It’s incredible.

 

–you didn’t have the star pupils of Waianae High School. Some of your kids were doing really poorly in other—

 

M-hm.

 

–classes, they were reporting to school from their homes on the beach in tents.

 

M-hm. We have the homeless, we have kids whose parents have been in jail, they are abused. They come to us, we know they’re—a lot of dysfunction. So much. And you know, that’s my world; I grew up there, and I know that world. And they come to us, and we give them hope. For a lot of these kids, it’s their security; we’re their family, we give—we teach them a tool, and they become successful at it. And they see something that they create, and for their self esteem, it’s wow, I did that. You know, it gives them hope. And they realize, I have just learned something that I can do for life. And a lot of these kids’ lives have been turned around. They would have dropped out, I really believe. And they’ll tell us that too. If it wasn’t for this class, I would have dropped out, or I didn’t know I was gonna go to college, or I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. And now, so many of our kids are college graduates.

 

They’re being recruited by—

 

They’re being recruited.

 

–television stations, and advertising—

 

Yes, yes—

 

–agencies.

 

–yes, yes.

 

I remember when your Seariders first started doing public service announcements for various clients. You—

 

M-hm.

 

You invited the business community to hire the kids and said, We’ll see what we can come up with you. I just remember, as a professional television person at that time, how the students’ work had so much more depth than what you would normally see in a PSA or public service announcement, because the kids knew that world, as you mentioned.

 

M-hm.

 

When it was about crystal meth, they—

 

Yes.

 

–brought a reality to it that—

 

Yes.

 

–nobody had brought before.

 

They know—

 

these kids know what it’s like to live in houses, in homes where there’s crystal meth, or they have to be in a car with someone who’s been drinking.

 

They know how it hurts.

 

They know it hurt. And it was their stories. If you look at any of those PSAs, those are their stories. They knew. That was either them, or that was someone that they knew, and they were able to come up with the idea from the heart, from real life. And I think that’s what makes their work so powerful; it’s real stories. They tell their stories, whether it’s a news story, a public service announcement, a commercial, they’re just telling their story.

 

You know, John Allen, who is the teacher now, I hear him say this all the time; you know, no matter what piece you do, you, you have to hit the emotion. If you can make someone laugh, you can make someone cry, you’ve done your job. And that’s what you want to do as videographers, as filmmakers. Whatever your piece is, you want to—who’s your subject, who’s your audience, and what’s your purpose. And they do a good job.

 

Knowing the audience and the purpose for every video they produce, students at Searider Productions have received rave reviews and numerous awards, including Robert F. Kennedy Foundation journalism honors and a prestigious national high school Emmy. By the way, it’s NOT in an Emmy category for students from a low-income, minority, geographically isolated community. It’s an Emmy open to the richest and poorest schools across the country. Waianae outdistanced everybody else.

 

A national high school Emmy, they got a free trip to New York to share it with some of the top journalists in the country. And what was so unique about that is, they showed it on these big screens, and it was a paddling story. And it showcased Pokai Bay in Waianae, our ocean, our mountains, the story of paddling, how it’s not just a sport, it’s a way of life for us out in Waianae. And Katy Hoppe, the student who won, got up there and spoke, said how proud she felt to be able to share the culture of Hawaii at a national level. Just to share what we do, and to share their work. And it was a very chicken skin moment. I cried; I sat there, and I cried.

 

[chuckle]

 

It was such a proud moment.

 

Candy Suiso, multimedia teacher at Waianae High School, is clearly very proud of her students’ accomplishments. Historically, the school has turned in pretty dismal scores in standardized testing. It’s excelling in its team-based multi-media program.

 

Searider Productions is housed in its own building on-campus with 15 edit stations and HD cameras, still cameras, and computers for students to work on the school newspaper, yearbook, video news and video productions. Two bold statements posted on the walls at SP read: Lead, Follow, Or Get Out Of The Way and If Can Can, If No Can, No Can.

 

Tell me about, If can, can.

 

If can, can; if no can, no can. Because you know, there’s nothing worse, we feel, than saying you’re gonna do something, and not do it, and not follow through. And we tell these kids, if you’re gonna do something, if you’re gonna say you’re gonna do something, hold yourself to it, and do it, follow through and do it. Because really, there’s nothing worse than not completing something that you’ve committed to. And if we could teach them now in school, it will carry over in life, in a job, in a marriage, in a relationship.

 

And when you work in teams, you know other people are counting on you.

 

Yes; ‘cause it’s teamwork, and the good thing about our program is, every project that these kids do is a team effort. And we always think, if you have—when you leave our program, if you have learned nothing about video production, about creating a webpage, about a page layout in a newspaper, we hope you’ve really learned the importance of teamwork, cooperation—

 

And getting things done on time?

 

It’s meeting deadlines, respect, respect for self, respect for other people, respect for property.

 

So if you’re gonna say you’re gonna do something, you better do it, because if you don’t, you’re dropping the ball for your teammates.

 

But if no can, no can.

 

If no can, no can. And if you can’t do it, it’s okay; say you can’t do it.

 

But just don’t say you’re gonna do something, if you can’t do it. ‘Cause you let everybody down. So if can, can; if no can, no can. And it’s been out mantra, and the kids—they get it, the kids get it.

 

So sounds like you don’t care if your students become these video producers extraordinaire; it’s whatever they want to do in life, and this is just a tool to help them get there.

 

To teach them. You know, my mother would always say, You do what you want to. You know, what’s gonna make you happy; and whatever you do, you do it the best that you can. If you’re gonna cook, if you’re gonna be a teacher, if you’re gonna be a lawyer. Well, no matter what it is you’re gonna do, you do the best job you can possibly—you know, possibly do. And for our kids, they might not be the videographers and the Spielbergs, and whatever. We want them to know—we want them to be the best at whatever they choose to be. And be honest, contributing citizens to our community. To come back, to give back, and just to do what’s right in life. Do what’s right, even when no one’s watching. You know, do what’s right.

 

What’s the impact of Lead, follow, or get out of the way?

 

[chuckle] Well, you be a leader; we want to also promote leadership and be a leader, and lead; or follow. If ovementyou’re not gonna take the lead, then do what you’re told to do, or follow what needs to be done.

 

And in this world, you know, if you’re negative, and if you don’t like what’s going on, and if you’re gonna whine and complain, then get out of the way. Because we have so much work to do and if you’re not gonna move with us, get out of the way.

 

With Candy Suiso guiding them, young people on Oahu’s leeward coast are moving forward, together as a team. And, through Ms. Suiso’s guidance, there are also opportunities for young people to return to the Waianae coast to work and live. Here’s a sampling of the work of Waianae High School graduates at the for-profit social enterprise Makaha Studios located in the old Cornet Building

 

That’s where they’re based, in the old Cornet building. And it’s, you know, people are, Whoa, that’s kinda shady over there, because you have a lot of the homeless that’ll hang out there, or the—oh, a lot of illegal activity going on, and it’s kinda scary sometimes to be there. But they’re not afraid. That’s where their office is, they’re making the most of it. It’s their start, it’s their humble beginning; they’re gonna grow, and they’re gonna flourish. I really believe that, and they believe that.

 

They want to give back; they want to grow that company. They want to stay in the community, which is good, we’re finding out. Because there are no jobs out in Waianae. Really, if you look at it, it’s a rural community, you have to drive out to work, and so this studio now is creating a lot of good jobs for these students that are coming out of Searider Productions.

 

Seems to me that something is happening on the Waianae Coast. It’s the can-do that you—

 

M-hm.

 

–that’s on your wall; if can, can.

 

If no can, no can. But we call it a movement. There’s just—it’s really—it’s this generation of, I would say, the twenty to the thirty-year-olds I want to talk about. They get it. They are a generation, I feel—we can feel very hopeful that they want to give back. They are not—at least the ones that we’re working with in our community, they’re not so wrapped up in making big bucks, and they want to go and get educated, whether it’s a trade school, whether it’s through work, or through college. And they want to come back into the community, and they want to turn the community around so that people will no longer look at Waianae and say, Oh, it’s bad, they have the drugs, they have the pregnancy, their scores are low. They want to do some positive things, and make some real positive changes for the community.

 

And it’s all being done from within.

 

Yes; within.

 

With reaching out to national grantors.

 

Yes. Yes; and national grantors are seeing what we’re doing, and

 

And we’re very thankful for that, that we have these national or local foundations and philanthropists that are saying, these—wow, this community is really trying to help themselves, and we want to help them. And we know that money will dry out, and we—in fact, we want to get to the point where we don’t have to ask anymore, that we can be sustainable, and not—and create jobs enough where we can stop depending on grants. That’s what we want for the future of our community.

 

Where do you think this movement will take the Waianae Coast?

 

I hope eventually it will take them out of poverty. It might take decades, but this is certainly a start. You have a group of young adults that are really making a difference, because they have come back to the Waianae Coast, and they are giving back, and they believe in themselves, and they’re believing in the students that are under them, and they’re trying very hard to prove to the rest of the world that we’re just as good as everybody else if you just give us a chance.

 

Candy Suiso… raised in Waianae… returned to Waianae to live and work. Like her mother, for 30 years a teacher at Makaha Elementary, Candy Suiso is an educator.

 

Your mom was a legendary teacher on the—

 

M-hm.

 

–Waianae Coast, right?

 

Oh, she—thirty-one years of her life, she dedicated her life to teaching out there. And really, that was her life. She impacted a community and thirty years, just taught at Makaha Elementary School. She went there, and she never left. Um, I remember the principal would always throw all of these hardcore kids and say, Okay, Mrs. Smith, you’re the one that’s gonna take these kids. And she would turn them around. She would just—she was mean, but she was very strict, and she was very fair, and she loved them all. And she did; she turned a lot of lives around.

 

What kept her going?

 

What kept her going is just seeing the results, seeing these kids turn around. You know, working out there in Waianae, there’s a lot of dysfunction. There’s not a whole lot. We have a bad reputation out there. And she would take kids and really give them hope. She would let them know, You can do anything you want. She would tell them that, and she would really make them believe that, you know, you can do anything that you want. And they would believe; and sure enough, they would. So many of them would turn their lives around. She believed in them, and I think that is why they believed in themselves. She really instilled in them, You can do, you can do and you can be anything you want. You just have to believe in yourself.

 

Did you ever see her at a moment where she just didn’t have that hope, and she was miserable about—

 

Yeah.

 

–something that had happened?

 

Oh, yeah. She went through—she was very, you know, she—my mother, she literally raised four of us. She was My mother and father divorced when I was nine, my older sister was eleven; and I had a younger brother who was, I think, five; and then my other brother was three. And she just—her whole life was shattered. Um, moved us to Kauai, had my grandparents take care of us. I can’t do this; she moved to Makaha and just literally really had to get her life back together. And a year later, we moved back, and she remarried. And it was a—there was a lot of dysfunction. I don’t know what the word to say, but there was—she married an alcoholic, and there was a lot of abuse. He didn’t really work much, and she carried, she struggled. She would live paycheck to paycheck. And there was a lot of times I know it was hard. It was really hard. She couldn’t provide, I think, the way that she would want to for us. But she’d always say, you know, but she would always have a roof over our heads, we would always have clothes on our body, we’d always have—we had each other. And—

 

What about food?

 

We always had food on the table; always. My mother was the queen of Spam.

 

[chuckle]

 

She knew how to cook Spam, she knew how to cook corned beef hash. She knew how to make ends meet. You know, we always knew at the end of the month when the times were hard, a little harder, we’d have the bean soup and we’d have the ham hocks. And we hated it, but actually, it’s something that we really love eating now.

 

M-hm.

 

We cook it, and it’s good memories. It used to be bad memories, but there was always food on the table, and clothes on our back, and a roof over our head. And she kept us together.

 

She raised four of us, and it—you know, living out in Waianae, it would have been easy for any of us to either go the other way. But we all turned out really …

 

It must have been hard for her. She was the authority at the school—

 

M-hm.

 

–and somebody who was seen as having her life all together.

 

M-hm.

 

But then to go home and really have to—

 

M-hm.

 

–scrounge and work and scheme to keep things together for your family.

 

I don’t know how she did it. When I look back now, I think, I don’t know how you did it. And you know, my sister and I talk about this all the time. It’s—she—to get away from what was going on at home. A lot of times it was pretty—it was nasty; it was pretty bad a lot of times. And she would just block it out and work. You know, I think that was a lot of how she would run away from what was happening at home her home life, with her husband. And she would just work. She would just involve herself with work, and keep busy. And my sister and I talk about this all the time. We have so much of her in us.

 

Because you work all the time.

 

Because we work all the time, or we keep busy when we want to avoid something or we want to—we just work. And so many times, we think things that used to bother us, the things that she would say, or maybe some of the things that she would do, it would just drive us nuts. And now, I hear myself say things that she would say, and you know, I find myself doing things that she would do, and I think, Oh, my gosh, I have become my mother. And it used to bother me, but now, it’s a good thing. You know, it’s a really good thing.

 

You were lucky that your mom lived long enough to see what you’ve accomplished on the Waianae Coast. What did she say to you?

 

[SIGH]

 

She was always proud of me. She was just always proud of me. She was—she didn’t say much, but I always knew. Um —I think she was most proud, because she saw that, you know, part of her lived through me and continues. But she was always—I mean, she just always would tell me how proud she was of what I’m doing and the work that I chose. And that sometimes teaching is not a very prestige job, and you will not make a lot of money. It will not make you very rich with things and with money, but it will make you very rich with people. And she was right. You know, she was right.

 

Life is all about people, about relationships, about making a difference in people’s lives, in giving and giving back.

 

When you give, you give from the heart.

 

And you don’t expect—

 

And you don’t expect—

 

–anything back.

 

–anything in return. You give because you want to, not because you want or expect anything in return. And you give from the heart when you give.

 

Educator Candy Suiso… raised in Waianae… returned to Waianae to live and work. She knows about students’ pain and tough times, because she too has first-hand experience.

 

 

I met you a long time ago in one of your Seariders’ first triumphs. Do you remember?

 

I remember. That was our very first national recognition, and it was the first time we were ever on TV.

 

And you must have caught it, because you contacted us and you put us on your early morning show. And we remember getting up early in the morning, leaving Waianae at four o’clock in the morning. I thought, Oh, my god, there’s Leslie Wilcox.

 

[chuckle]

 

And it was so exciting; we felt like rock stars.

 

[chuckle]

 

Thank you for that.