Leaders from across the 10 campuses of the University of Hawaiʻi affirmed their support for the mass public demonstrations and the Black Lives Matter movement here in Hawaiʻi and beyond, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. Among the common themes in the messages is the commitment to stand against racism and discrimination, and a call for true societal change, not just police reform, to achieve social justice and equality for all.
“We stand with and support our Black colleagues, faculty, staff and students and those who experience hate, bigotry, or discrimination on the basis of personal characteristics or choices. Black lives matter.”
—UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology program leaders
“Let’s not cover our ears when the day is done, but instead look at how we can help to dismantle the individual, institutional, and societal forms of oppression that continue to rear their heads time and again.”
—Rachel Solemsaas, Hawaiʻi Community College Chancellor
“The national turmoil is a reminder of how critical it is for all of us to embrace our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and to strongly advocate with compassion. The College’s core values of Community, Integrity, Diversity and Respect remind us that we are all human beings; benefiting from celebration, knowledge, and acceptance of one another’s differences.”
—Carlos Peñaloza, Leeward Community College Chancellor
“As an institution of higher education, we promote access and equity for you, our students, and we need to do this relentlessly and courageously on every level so that we can combat institutional and individual injustices.”
—Karen Lee, Honolulu Community College Chancellor
“Now is an opportune time for solidarity. We have more work to do, each and every one of us, because our experiences and our actions are our humanity. Truly listen, stay engaged and keep the dialogues going so we can emerge stronger as a campus community. We are in this together.”
—UH Mānoa Campus Climate Committee
Messages sent by UH leaders, campuses and units:
- June 1 – UH President David Lassner
- June 1 – UH Hilo
- June 2 – Hawaiʻi CC
- June 2 – Honolulu CC
- June 3 – Leeward CC
- June 3 – UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
- June 8 – East-West Center
- June 8 – UH Mānoa Library
- June 12 – Kapiʻolani Community College
- June 15 – UH Mānoa Department of Political Science
Email only messages
June 1—UH West Oʻahu
Reading time: 11 minutes
This is a challenging time! We have been facing a global pandemic that has decimated communities of people, young and old! We are experiencing its impact on our lives in ways we could not have imagined. Then this week we were stunned by the nonsensical, horrific death of George Floyd. I watched with pain, anger, sorrow and disbelief! I know many of you have family, friends, colleagues in Minneapolis—I wondered how this was impacting you?
Later, a friend texted me a photo of MIGIZI Communications ablaze!! Burnt to the ground a victim of the protest. This is a youth empowerment community based organization for Native American young people that I had worked with for nearly 10-years. A fundraiser was immediately begun and on their Facebook page MIGIZI leaders wrote: “Despite the flames, we as a community burn brighter. Thank you all for all the support we’ve been receiving. We look forward to showing our resilience once again.” What wondrous courage and strength!
Another friend forwarded me a tweet (I’m not a tweeter so folks have to send me stuff) from former President Barack Obama. I share his thoughtful words with you here:
“I want to share parts of the conversations I’ve had with friends over the past couple days about the footage of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota.
The first is an email from a middle-aged African American businessman.
“Dude I gotta tell you the George Floyd incident in Minnesota hurt. I cried when I saw that video. It broke me down. The ‘knee on the neck’ is a metaphor for how the system so cavalierly holds black folks down, ignoring the cries for help. People don’t care. Truly tragic.”
Another friend of mine used the powerful song that went viral from 12-year-old Keedron Bryant to describe the frustrations he was feeling.
The circumstances of my friend and Keedron may be different, but their anguish is the same. It’s shared by me and millions of others.
It’s natural to wish for life “to just get back to normal” as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of are is tragically, painfully, maddeningly “normal”—whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.
This should’t be “normal” in 2020 America. It cant’t be “normal.” If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better.
It will fall mainly on the officials of Minnesota to ensure that the circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are investigated thoroughly and that justice is ultimately done. but it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station—including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day—to work together to create a “new normal” in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
Here’s what I know, we have walked many miles and we still must walk further with more purpose than before! Each stride must be meaningful, each step intentional. As educators we have the opportunity to cultivate a humanity that lives into the deeper meaning of “Aloha!” Thereʻs a book that I just recently reviewed written by National Book Award-Winning author Ibram X. Kendi. The book is entitled, How to be an Antiracist. Here is a powerful quote from the book that is truly compelling:
“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of not racist.”
My prayer is that we continue to be humbled by the beauty in our world and the good spirits of humanity as we inspire and aspire to teach and do what is socially just.
Maenette Benham – UH West Oʻahu Chancellor
June 1—UH Mānoa Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work
Reading time: 11 minutes
We bear witness to a time in the U.S. when there is a confluence of two powerful events—mass protests over the death of Mr. George Floyd and the escalating impact of COVID-19. This past week, explosive national protests over the brutal killing of Mr. Floyd have devolved into violence and chaos. Underlying fear and anger prompting these mass protests result from racism and other forms of inequalities that continue to permeate U.S. society.
In this same period, the U.S. reached the grim milestone of over 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. Hawaiʻi has one of the lowest infection and mortality rates from COVID-19 when compared with other states. However, the indigenous people of these islands—Native Hawaiians—along with Pacific Islanders experience higher rates of positive cases than other ethnic and racial groups because of underlying health inequities and social determinants of health.
In a time of perilous realities, the Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work remains committed to social justice and health equity. In our fields of social work, public health and gerontology, we continue to respond to the needs of our island homeland and our campus community. Our call to action is in our commitment to the education of our students and the striving for social justice and health equity for Hawaiʻi and the global community.
- Social work students create a survival resource guide that supports students and their families during COVID-19.
- Public health students volunteer with the Hawaiʻi Department of Health through Oʻahu’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Public health epidemiologist and member of the U.S. Army Reserve, Dr. Thomas Lee forecasts COVID-19 impacts for Hawaiʻi.
- Public health economist Dr. Victoria Fan helps provide PPE to behavioral health and homelessness providers.
- Social work experts Dr. Rebecca Stotzer and Mr. Robin Arndt coordinate a webinar series on vulnerable populations and COVID-19.
- Gerontologists Drs. Peggy Perkinson and Christy Nishita volunteer for a KHON2 telethon to raise money for kupuna during COVID-19 through Kupuna Food Security Coalition.
Our call to action is in our commitment to the education of our students and the striving for social justice and health equity for Hawaiʻi and the global community.
Dr. Noreen Mokuau, Dean
Mr. Mike DeMattos, DSW Chair
Dr. Tetine Sentell, OPHS Chair/Director
Dr. Margaret Perkinson, COA Director
Ms. Theresa Kreif, Assistant to the Dean
June 5—UH Mānoa Campus Climate Committee
Reading time: 11 minutes
The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is proud of its campus diversity and understands the importance of standing up in times of adversity. The protests occurring locally and on the continent demand social justice and equality across our nation.
Let us stand together with our African-American community members against all forms of racism and discrimination. We encourage our students, staff, and faculty to reflect deeply on the actions below that we can each take to be proactive, connect with one another, and have constructive discussions that build strong communities.
- PROMOTE RESPECT by treating others the way you want to be treated.
- CELEBRATE DIVERSITY through opportunities for cultural awareness.
- EDUCATE yourself about the issues and learn about the systemic challenges that lead to the Black Lives Matter movement and all stands against racial injustice.
- ACKNOWLEDGE anger and frustration exist and let it fuel the pursuit of PEACE and POSITIVE CHANGE.
- REFLECT on your own biases and privileges and COMMIT to do better.
- HONOR each other’s VOICES by listening to what others have to say and seeking to understand.
- EXTEND KINDNESS and COMPASSION by reaching out to those in need.
- EXERCISE INCLUSION and CARING through micro-affirmations: tiny acts of genuinely listening, providing opportunities for growth in others, giving credit to others, being generous, and providing comfort and support.
- CHALLENGE INJUSTICE by taking action that you are comfortable and maybe even uncomfortable taking to be more aware.
- PRACTICE SOLIDARITY and AFFIRM the experience of others who are speaking out about injustice such as systemic police brutality or racism.
- CHALLENGE all forms of SOCIAL INJUSTICE so we can truly achieve a society of equity and inclusion.
Now is an opportune time for solidarity. We have more work to do, each and every one of us, because our experiences and our actions are our humanity. Truly listen, stay engaged and keep the dialogues going so we can emerge stronger as a campus community. We are in this together.
In solidarity and with aloha,
UH Mānoa Campus Climate Committee
June 10—UH Mānoa Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation Campus Center Team
Reading time: 11 minutes
Aloha UH Mānoa ʻohana,
We hope this message finds each of you and your families healthy and safe. We come to you now with a message that we believe is relevant at this time in the wake of unprecedented and large scale mobilization for racial justice and in opposition to violence against Black lives.
In 2017 a group of staff, faculty, students, and executive leadership at UH Mānoa collaborated to apply for and ultimately join the first cohort of Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers. After a competitive application process, UH Mānoa was selected as one of 10 campuses from across Hawaiʻi and America to lead this important effort. Our selection was not because we as a university have this “all figured out”, but more so because we demonstrated the desire and the potential to move our campus and communities toward a future without racism. We have shared this information with you in various forms in the past, but we wanted to reconnect with all of you to share our unfolding story. In particular, the tragic killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others—along with the large scale mobilization in support of Black lives and racial justice—have caused us to pause and reflect on our work as the TRHT lead design team and why we believe it is so important for our campus.
First, each of us on the team have experiences that motivate our commitment to end racism. Some of us are Native Hawaiian and experience the intergenerational racism in our homeland, inextricably linked to the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Some are immigrants to Hawaiʻi who, along with our families, have both experienced and participated in various forms of racism and settler colonialism. Others of us are Black Americans who have come to Hawaiʻi literally running for our lives and finding some refuge here from the violence we and our ancestors have experienced. Our diverse group collectively believes that the intersectionality of oppression, racism and violence experienced by our communities in Hawaiʻi, throughout the U.S., and across the world must end. In this particular moment, we are reminded of how important it is to stand up for Black communities who face ongoing systemic and virulent racism and violence, which is completely unacceptable.
Second, we all have hope and believe in our university, and our university ʻohana. We are drawn to the core TRHT Campus Center belief that universities can and must be a leading partner in promoting racial and social justice. Working in a higher education system that collectively has a history of educational and institutional racism can be challenging at times for anyone, and as such we recognize that the foundations of western higher education are less than perfect. At the same time, we know very well that higher education is an incredibly powerful tool that can and should be used to address inequality. At UH Mānoa, there are many, many people and programs outside of TRHT (some we have partnered with and many more that we would like to work with) that are leading amazing initiatives moving us closer to a Hawaiʻi—and ultimately a world—free of racism. They all give us hope and courage.
Third, we believe that envisioning a future without racism is critical to moving forward together as a community and that a Hawaiian cultural lens provides a firm foundation to achieve such a vision. In particular, UH Mānoa’s TRHT team imagines a (k)new future in which every individual, family, and community who lives in Hawaiʻi knows how to and feels compelled to mālama (tend to, care for) one another so that we can collectively fulfill our ultimate kuleana (responsibility and dear privilege) to mālama āina; to care for our island home to ensure the vitality of Hawaiʻi for current and future generations. The ʻōlelo noʻeau that some of you know, He aliʻika ʻāina, he kauwā ke kanaka has guided our visioning process.
Since 2017, the TRHT team has been hard at work learning, designing, piloting, and refining strategies for our campus and communities to work towards truth, racial healing, and transformation in a manner that invites each one of us to identify and fulfill our particular kuleana. This summer, we will be convening the dozens of students, staff, faculty, executives and community members who have participated in our pilot cohorts to plan next steps to scale up this work, and further engage with all of you.
Our pilot work has taught us so many lessons: We are reminded how important our individual journeys of reflection and growth are for systemic change. We have come to embrace the power of turning to wonder in difficult times. For example: “I wonder what she’s feeling right now” or “I wonder what my reaction teaches me.” And perhaps most of all, we see the profound value of envisioning futures without racism. So, in these complex times, we will continue our personal growth, turn to wonder as a tool for empathy and self love, and invite everyone to use their radical imaginations to envision the beloved futures we can and must create together.
Finally, we have included a few resources within our engagement framework that we find to be particularly useful at this time as we uplift and stand firm in the conviction that Black Lives Absolutely Matter.
- Aʻo (To learn from one another)
Peanut Butter Jelly and Racism (3min video)
Race & Racism: Illumination Project (9 pages)
America’s Racial Challenge (1 page)
The Pōpolo Project’s Syllabus & Reading List
- Alu (To connecting & collaborate with each other)
Weekly and monthly email list related to UH Mānoa’s TRHT work
- ʻAuamo (To carrying the responsibility together)
Obama Foundation Resources & Calls to Action
Donate to the Pōpolo Foundation
We look forward to the many ways we can and must collaborate with each of you to end racism. Please always feel free to connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The UH Mānoa TRHT Team
Kaiwipunikauikwēkiu Lipe, PhD
Director, UH Mānoa’s TRHT Campus Center
Program Officer, Native Hawaiian Affairs, UH Mānoa
Interim Director, Institute of Hawaiian Language Research and Translation, UH Mānoa
Matthew Kamakani Lynch
Director, Office of Sustainability, UH System
Operations Coordinator, Native Hawaiian Place of Learning Advancement Office, UH Mānoa
Creighton M. Litton, PhD
Professor, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH Mānoa
Director, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, UH Mānoa
Siobhán Ní Dhonacha, PhD, MFA
Interim Assistant Director/Faculty Specialist, Honors Program, UH Mānoa
Executive Director, Institute for Climate and Peace
ʻĀina Connect Coordinator, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust
Daniella Bottjer-Wilson, PhD
Faculty Specialist, Center for Teaching Excellence, UH Mānoa
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Social Sciences, UH Mānoa
Monica Stitt-Bergh, PhD
Specialist, Assessment and Curriculum Support Center, UH Mānoa
Charmaine Mangram, PhD
Assistant Professor, Institute for Teacher Education, College of Education, UH Mānoa