Starting the dialogue that begins asking questions.

FLUX Hawaii had the unique opportunity to participate in WE VALUE HAWAII: A Day of Art, Music and Dialogue, presented by Creative Modern Activism (CMA HI). It was a full day of festivities, including bike workshops, DIY button-making, printmaking, handmade bookmaking (by yours truly!) and all day entertainment by Bruce Shimabukuro and Brian Ishii, Stephen Agustin, Narwhal, Jon Osorio, Monkey Waterfall, Black Square, The Jumpoffs and Youth Speaks. Straight nutty how many awesome things happened that day. It all centered around a panel discussion with invited politicians (Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Rep. Tom Brower, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie) and local community leaders: Jon Osorio, Mari Matsuda, BOE member Kim Coco Iwamoto and Ramsey Taum.

A few awesome ladies (Wei Fang, Christa Wittmier, Nicky Maryott and myself) were asked to give testimonial statements. Here’s the statement I gave:

I want to start with a quote from an interview I recently did with slack key guitarist Makana for our upcoming issue:

“Our archipelago is so exotic to people, that that is the hook to bring them here. But people and corporations dress their product in a cloak, so when you go underneath or behind it, there’s no sense of relationship to place for 90 percent of what’s out there. You can only go so far away from your sense of place that it becomes obvious to even the lowest common denominator, non-thinking idiot who just wants to get laid and drink beer. Hawai‘i is even going to stop appealing to them because at some point, we’ll have no value to offer. Once we lose our sense of place I think we kill Hawai‘i. We kill it. To come here and just not feel like you’re here anymore, what a horrible potentiality.”

The arts are essential in establishing our sense of place, so that people visiting our islands experience something profound, unique.

The arts aren’t just important to our future, they are essential if we want to continue being a tourism-based economy. If we want to people to continue coming back year after year, we need to think about ways of creating a unique experience for them here.

People come to Hawaii to experience the culture, they want to be captivated and to be in a place that is unlike the place they came from. I think if we can show how our experiences here infuse our art, music, film, our theater, our luaus, visitors will have a much richer and more memorable experience here in the islands.

If we don’t reevaluate what is valuable about Hawaii – and do everything to perpetuate those things that give us value – people won’t want to come here anymore.

It’s funny that this idea of what is valuable in Hawaii should be the topic of discussion for tonight, because that is exactly what our upcoming issue is about. We’re doing a COMMODITY issue, where we wanted to explore what gives us value as a place, and what makes us so unique?

And we realized it’s our people, it’s our culture itself that makes us unique from anywhere else in the world, our ideas of aloha and taking care of the land. The beaches and the sand and the sun are all great, but Hawaii isn’t really about that because you can get that even in California – I know I spent four years in Malibu and it’s just as beautiful there. The amount of artists and musicians I’ve met doing this magazine – we’ve got some amazingly talented people here, people who actively want to better themselves and the areas around them.

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People feel like they don’t have a future here. Someone even as successful as Makana was contemplating moving away to the mainland … To potentially lose someone of that talent level – who, has the capacity to bring in revenue to the State as well as perpetuate Hawaiian culture around the world – that we might lose our Makanas– that is a sad thing.

We definitely need to put more value on the arts, it does need to be supported more, financially, to ensure that there are opportunities for our young, progressive, active, artists and musicians.

I was born here, I grew up here. I don’t want to end up in a place that’s creatively bankrupt because everyone has left. Because ultimately those same people who are thnking about leaving, they are what makes our islands beautiful, they are what gives us value.

We were so honored to to be a part of this event. Many, many thanks to CMA HI for putting this together!