Journeys of Personal Decolonization at Roots Cafe


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In January 2018, WVWS members Kasha Ho and Aiko Yamashiro worked together with Kaʻiulani Odom and the amazing folks at Roots Cafe to organize an Okinawan-themed dinner as part of their Decolonizing Diets dinner series. The theme for the evening was "Finding Our Way Home: Journeys of Personal Decolonization." Events at Roots Cafe are always so special and so transformative. You leave feeling cracked open, but also healed. On this particular evening, we enjoyed Roots’s take on Okinawan dishes like ninjin shirishiri, kandabajuushi, raafute, and yasei namashi, with many cherished recipes shared by family and community members.

[mahalo to Kauila Niheu for the photos in this post]

 

 

There was another kind of sustenance on offer too, in the form of presentations from several speakers with ancestral ties to Okinawa, sharing their own personal paths towards decolonization—through language, music, parenthood, and healing. Tina Grandinetti shared the following presentation about the lessons she learned during WVWSʻs trip to Okinawa as part of the International Womenʻs Network Against Militarism gathering in July 2017.

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Last summer, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Hawaiʻi delegation to a gathering of the International Women’s Network Against Militarism in Okinawa. It was my first visit I was 4 years old, and it was a strange kind of homecoming. As so many second-generation kids know, visiting the birthplace of your parents is weird… Reuniting with family you haven’t seen in years, navigating language barriers, and being confronted with your own ignorance about your culture is complicated. And to have all of that tied up in the reality of militarism and occupation was even harder.

My mom left Okinawa when she was 18, and while I know shes proud to be Uchinanchu, she’s always kept her life in Okinawa at a distance, never letting me and my sister get too close. I knew there was pain there, but I didn’t really understand why. Before I left for Okinawa, my mother, who was born and raised in Kin town, adjacent to Camp Hansen, told me that she didn’t want me to romanticize Okinawa and its people. She said life there is hard, and you can’t understand any of it in 2 weeks.

But she didn’t have to worry about romanticizing. Because, as beautiful as Okinawa is, it’s hard to romanticize a place that is scarred with barbed wire fences marking off 18 percent of the island as US military property. Where the sounds of waves washing up on a beach are drowned out by military helicopters flying overhead. Where a shrine sits on a quiet rural road marking the site where Rina Shimabukuro was murdered - just one of hundreds of women who have been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of US servicemen. Its hard to romanticize your family’s hometown as you’re catcalled and verbally abused by young American men from the base next door.

Still, my mother was right. I couldn’t understand a lot of what I experienced in Okinawa. Though our delegation had the privilege of learning from the powerful women who help lead Okinawa’s anti-base movement, we are still struggling to wrap our heads around the intricacies of power and exploitation, white supremacy and empire, capitalism and racism, that might explain why our people in Okinawa, Hawaiʻi, Korea, Guam and the Philippines continue to suffer under the grip of US imperialism. It’s hard to understand why our islands continue to be exploited and even harder to imagine ways that we can fight against this exploitation and win. Its impossible to understand what it felt like for my grandmother, who survived one of the bloodiest battles in World War II and saw a quarter of her people die at the hands of the Japanese and American armies.

But there are some things that I think I was able to understand- partly because I grew up here in Hawaiʻi, where the US military exploits Kanaka Maoli lands and similarly, meets the sustained resistance of strong, Indigenous people. I understood the elderly men and women on the front lines of Henoko who knew from tragic experience that the militarization of islands like Okinawa and Hawaiʻi do NOT make them safer. And I think after the missile scare last week, we all know that in our gut- that these bases might claim to protect us, but really, turn our islands into both targets and weapons in wars that we want nothing to do with. To me, that was plain and simple, and it felt so empowering to see so many people saying loud and clear that they reject those lies, and that they want real peace and genuine security.

Other things were more complicated though. The hardest thing about this trip for me was coming face to face with the trauma that Okinawans have faced, the trauma that has festered in my own family. I think part of me thought that if I went there it would be like coming full circle, that it would help my mom move past the pain of growing up in the aftermath of the war, in poverty, under US occupation.

It didn’t. My mom decided not to come tonight. It still hurts too much.

So even months after leaving Okinawa, I’m still learning how deep these wounds are. I’m still getting angrier and more confused. And now more than ever, doubting whether digging up the past is helping to heal or hurting even more. But the moment I keep coming back to happened out on the water in Oura Bay, where we joined a fleet of local fishermen and activists on fishing boats and kayaks to protest the expansion of Camp Schwab. There, a ring of orange buoys stretches far out into the pristine bay, marking the construction zone where 21 million cubic meters of sand and soil are being dumped into the sea to create an airfield for use by the US military. Out on the water, we watched the construction crane at work, and heard the blocks of concrete infill crash into reef.

Our captain, Koshin Nakamoto, a local fisherman who has been fighting base expansion for 20 years gave our delegation the opportunity to address the Okinawa Defense Bureau officials who were patrolling the construction site and video taping our every move. Aiko took the mic, and over a loudspeaker, she wove connections between Hawaiʻi, and Okinawa, “Our hearts are so sad to see this construction, because we are island people too… We thank the Okinawan people for protecting this place because we know it’s the same ocean. In Hawaiʻi we say aloha ʻāina, and when we say aloha ʻāina we mean we love the land, and we love the ocean, because we know we are connected and we need it”. Then, she knotted those connections together, firmly, when she called out across the water, “Mina san! [everybody!] Aloha ʻĀina!! Aloha ʻĀina! Aloha ʻĀina!”

As I shouted these words along with Aiko, all of those distances--cultural, geographic, political--between Okinawa and Hawaiʻi collapsed in my mind. Nakamoto-san was fighting for peace on one small patch of ocean that he loved so much. Aiko was fighting for another. But in the end, it’s the same ocean, and it’s the same love. As painful as it was to witness those concrete blocks crashing into the sea, and to fight against that kind of destruction, the struggle felt in some ways, like healing.

A few weeks ago, my mom told me that being Okinawan has a high cost. That if I want to learn what it means to be Uchinanchu, she can’t be the one to teach me.

That was hard to hear.

But I think I’m learning to be okay with it, because she’s already taught me more than she knows, and I have other teachers to step in where she can’t. I think that’s what happens when you live in Hawai’i surrounded by so many aloha ‘āina, so many powerful activists and protectors.

And the thing is, if trauma can be intergenerational, then healing can be too. It might be slow, but it will happen, and that’s the most important thing this trip taught me.

--Tina Grandinetti

Huakaʻi to Ulupō

January's false alarm missile attack was a good and terrible opportunity to reflect on what genuine security means to us. In December 2017, Women’s Voices Women Speak got to meet with aloha ‘āina Kaleomanuʻiwa Wong for a huaka’i to Ulupō Heiau. Before going to Ulupō, Kaleo took us to a Maunawili hike entrance at the base of Pali Highway, where signs are posted about unexploded ordnance. We learned that where Windward HPU campus exists today used to be a military training ground, Pali Camp. That the rich waterways of Maunawili was the site of one of the first water diversions on Oʻahu, to Waimānalo plantations owned by a planter named Irwin. That Maunawili was so famous for its poi that Queen Kaʻahumanu would send for it all the way from Waikīkī.

Photo: The IG post that inspired our huaka'i. Mahalo to Kaleo for letting us repost his photo.

















Photo: Aunty Terri and Aiko stayed by the road next to this healthy pōpolo berry



Then we drove down to Ulupō and Kaleo shared some moʻolelo about Kailua, and the ʻili ʻāina of Kūkanono. As he talked, the wonders of that ʻāina began to shift and settle around us. The body of Olomana lying above the YMCA, cool water springs below. The stomping grounds of Kākuhihewa and Kualiʻi. A land famous for navigators, with sweet edible mud brought from far across the Pacific as proof of this story. We marveled at the excessive amount of pōhaku (some all the way from ʻEwa, from Kualoa) used to make the heiau. It is amazing this structure is standing, Kaleo shared, there is another heiau close by named Kaanahau, which was taken apart for stone for Kalanianaʻole Highway. Ulupō heiau is right by the road but still here, for some reason. We wound our way down through the work of many hands, cultivating kalo, ʻulu, niu, lāʻau, and other native plants, helping water to flow.

Photos: walking through the work of many hands






Kaleo took us to a portal, overlooking Kawainui Marsh and the gentle curves of Mahinui Ridge. A few decades ago, there were permits approved to drain the marsh and erect a shopping center here, he shared. “We like to take the keiki here and ask them what they see. Think of a swamp: what do you see? ‘Shrek!,’ they yell. ‘Alligators!’ Think of a marsh: what do you see?” Mud, grass, birds, and Kaleo reminded us: a “wildlife sanctuary” where people must be kept out to protect the environment.



“Think of a fishpond: what do you see?” The kids’ answers change, Kaleo’s face lights up too. They say “food!” “Life!” At one time, Kawainui Fishpond was the second largest fishpond on O’ahu. The low estimate is that 250,000 pounds of fish could be harvested from this pond.

Our dream is that one day this will be a fishpond again, Kaleo shared. He continued: so much fish that when they jump, they fall down to the water like pouring rain. In the meantime they grow a little food here, more and more, and bring keiki here, bring the women inmates here, bring the community back. They mālama this place and eat plate lunch. They tell these moʻolelo, to learn to see the moʻo again, beneath the Target and the Whole Foods. They remember from Kahinihini`ulaʻs story, not to overlook even the smallest child. They share food from this ʻāina to reconnect us to these relationships.

We were so moved and reinvigorated by this work of genuine security and peacebuilding, and there are many lessons planted in us that will continue to grow and feed us. Mahalo nui to the kupaianaha lands of Kailua and to Kaleo for showing us how to love and care for each other. For more about the awesome work of this hui please see their blog, at: http://hikaalani.website/activities.html

"Militarism Isn't Working" Says Dr. Kim Compoc

Check out this Hawaii Public Radio Interview with Dr. Kim Compoc, one of the delegates from Hawaii who attended the International Women's Network Against Militarism gathering in Okinawa in June 2017.

http://hawaiipublicradio.org/post/bulletin-militarism-isn-t-working

Reflections & Demands from the IWNAM 2017 Okinawa Meeting

Check out this Summit magazine article on the reflections of  Hawaiʻi delegates when they attended the Okinawa gathering of the 9th International Women's Network Against Militarism, June 22-26, 2017.  Read also the political demands of women from the countries of South Korea, Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Guahan, Hawaiʻi, U.S. and Puerto Rico. No Base!

http://www.summitzine.com/posts/women-activists-join-struggle-for-peace-in-okinawa/

Women's Movement Speaks Out on Militarized Tensions between North Korea & Guam

Women Cross DMZ, the International Women's Network Against Militarism and Women's Voices Women Speak members dialogue on how our militarized nations are being used against one another.

They instead critically see through the military-masculinist propaganda by listening to and remembering our histories of decolonial struggles under imperial powers. They write suggestions on what communities on the ground can do to liberate ourselves from militarism's hegemonic messages.

Read:
http://iwnam.org/2017/08/15/stop-threats-of-war-and-militarization-women-from-guam-us-and-asia-pacific-region-call-for-peace-and-diplomacy/

Report Back on Okinawa IWNAM Gathering at Lā Hoʻi Hoʻi Ea 2017

by El-Rae C

This June 22-26, 2017, seven women from Hawaiʻi went to Okinawa for the International Women’s Network Against Militarism gathering. There, we reported on the militarization of Pōhakuloa, the Depleted Uranium in the bullets and bombs littered in the soil, being kicked up by the blasts and winds, affecting the surrounding communities.  We talked about the danger that the Navy fuel tanks in Red Hill poses to Oahu’s drinking water along the south shore.  We talked about the Hawaiian movement that stopped the bombing of Kaho’olawe, and are restoring the land and people’s relationships to it.  
We reported the U.S. has outright stolen Hawaiian Kingdom lands and then built military infrastructure on top of it. We corrected how the U.S. mis-educates people about U.S. annexation and Statehood, and interrupt how Hawai’i is seen as America. We had to because so many people from around the world, settle here looking for work, thinking they can just assimilate into American ideas of success and forget where they came from and where they are at.
Our delegation to Okinawa wanted to show how Hawai’i’s movement for demilitarization needs to bridge indigenous people and settlers, it needs to be an inter-ethnic movement, to heal the way that empire and militarization destroys our ancestral lands and tries to pit us against each other.


REPORT FROM OKINAWA AS A POEM
The Indo-Asia-Pacific Rebalance Policy
aka the Pacific Pivot
grows in name because it is expanding U.S. military presence in the Pacific region by 2025, to include South Asia and the Indian Ocean.  
Each Nation-state should be more equipped to protect its “mutual security” with the U.S.  
this means: continue to “fear” Others labeled as “terrorists.”
China and North Korea are propped up as “threats”


MUTUAL MILITARIZED SECURITY
Korean activists on the ground teach
the North Korean threat is propaganda
to keep the Status of Forces Agreement and US Military presence in South Korea
to tell the lie that North Korea is enemy.
remember the armistice between North and South
Reunify the peninsula.


Japanese peace activist fight their own Status of Forces Agreement that allows U.S. bases there
after World War II, they could not have a military, because of its imperial past.
But now, Japan concentrates those U.S. bases in Okinawa, where the Battle took place
where environment and lives of the Okinawans are still sacrificed.  
Sympathy Budget and Self-Defense Force, conservative Japan wants to support
the US military agenda


Filipina activists fight the Visiting Forces Agreement, that allows the U.S. to conduct jungle warfare training with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Muslim, Indigenous and displaced farmers resist the theft of their lands for corporate extraction and military aggression
they are labeled “terrorists” and “New People’s Army,”
The VFA has evolved into the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to expand U.S.-Philippine military exercises and infrastructures
Strong man Duterte stands by U.S. military presence to “discipline” Marawi and Martial Law in Mindanao.
The U.S. keeps neocolonial Philippines as lil Brown Brother to watch China and pimp the South China Sea.


Turtle Island folks speak against collaboration between the domestic police and the U.S. military
Operation Urban Shield.
excessive use of force
lead to deaths of unarmed Black and Brown people.
Black Lives Matter!
The militarization of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is aggressive against water protectors.
Water is life!


LAND THEFT AND IMPERIAL ASSIMILATION
Chamorros fight the Mariana Islands Range Complex
Imprisoning their Islands and Seas as war training zones
Liteksan, home of ancient Chamorros and mother species of endangered tree
slated for destruction by Live Fire Training.  
The MIRC serves as a Western Pacific corridor
to connect with Hawaii’s military sites of the North/Central Pacific.   


Puerto Ricans fight to self-determine their political status.  
A plebiscite asked these questions:
Do you want to be 1) Independent/Free Association, 2) Keep Current Territorial Status or 3) Join U.S.?
70% boycotted the colonial election.  
27% of registered voters went to the polls and voted for Statehood.


CONCLUSION   
These movements root their problems in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Rebalance Policy
connecting these places to weaponize our oceans and lands.
It's being strategized and implemented here in Hawai’i at Camp Smith, Pacific Command and Security Research Institutes in Waikiki and the University of Hawaiʻi.
We need to flip the “mutual militarized security” script to “mutual genuine security”.


  • We can make connections between indigenous Hawaiian and working people from militarized countries to stand together against militarism, corporate extraction and destruction of the natural environment
  • We can create decolonization and demilitarization education for all because we each need ancestral help to do long haul work of building societies that don’t depend on bases and war.

Crafting a Pattern for Peace



May 23, 2017

Dear Friends,

Continuous war and investment in war will never bring peace. Instead, we can invest in genuine security by supporting efforts that are building peace by working for the health of our environment, cultures, and peoples. Women’s Voices Women Speak is asking for your help to fund a delegation of eight women to represent Hawaiʻi at the 9th International Women’s Network Against Militarism gathering in Naha, Okinawa “Challenge Militarism and Create a Sustainable Future.”

At this meeting, WVWS will represent Hawaiʻi’s own desire and vision for peace with other women from Korea, Japan, Okinawa, the Philippines, Guam, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. At our meeting we will share strategy and analysis about policy, economics, environment, education, the health and safety of women and children, and international grassroots solidarity. Through these ongoing talks and relationship building, we can create the channels for other sources of knowledge to help us see beyond the propaganda that wants to keep us divided and fighting against each other.

Donations will also help support activism after the eight delegates return to Hawaiʻi, including a community report to share our findings from the meeting and also a campaign for education and organizing in response to Rim of the Pacific war games (RIMPAC) in 2018, a transnational maritime exercise that takes place in Hawaiʻi every other year.

Please donate to WVWS effort to organize locally and internationally at our donation page: https://www.gofundme.com/stand-with-us-for-peace and check out the video about why we are going and what we stand for. Another way you can help is to spread this email, the gofundme page, and the video throughout your networks, asking for others to stand with us by investing in peace.

In Solidarity,
Women’s Voices Women Speak

Thank you to those who have already contributed funds:
Hawaiʻi Peace and Justice
Urgent Action Fund
Hawaiʻi People’s Fund
Global Fund for Women
Attendees of Kauaʻi to Korea Event
Hawaiʻi-Okinawa Alliance