PUHI — Still here. Still together. Still standing strong.
That’s the message about 200 marchers sent out Saturday afternoon as they rallied in support of those who have long been protesting plans for the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island.
“’Aloha ‘Aina’ is more than just two words you see printed on T-shirts,” said Waipualani Flores. “’Aloha ‘Aina’ really represents patriotism for our nation, and not only that but our love of the land, our love of the people of Hawaii.”
The unity march, part of a coordinated statewide rally, began at Kauai Community College and went along Kaumualii Highway before returning to KCC. Throughout, those at the rally chanted, sang, held flags high, held hands, and wore red shirts that said “See You On the Mauna.”
Passersby honked horns, waved, and shouted in support. Some held their hands out car windows.
The gathering organized by KCC students and community members was aimed to bring attention to efforts to protect the sacred land at Mauna Kea.
A flier for the event said, “Together We Rise.”
“We cannot do this alone,” Flores said. “In order for us to thrive and exist, we need everybody here. You have to come and show up and be a part of us.”
Chanel Josiah said, “there’s still a lot of misconceptions about what’s going on and why we’re here, why we’re still in opposition to the TMT,” she said.
For some, it’s environmental reasons.
For others, it’s cultural.
And others, it’s social. It has reached a point “they are tired of seeing large corporations getting the say and not doing anything by the rules and still being allowed to move forward,” Josiah said.
Jaysie Shimabukuro, a graduate of the KCC Hawaiian studies program, helped organized Saturday’s march.
“We’re all standing together, all of the islands in solidarity, with Mauna Kea, to show that we’re here, we’re here to protect it, and we’re not going anywhere,” she said.
She said some at the KCC campus wanted to show that while the University of Hawaii has one point of view on the TMT issue, “we want to show that we don’t agree with it. We want our voices to be known.”
Shimabukuro said she took Hawaiian studies because “there was a connection there that just made sense to me.”
She said what is happening on Mauna Kea, plans for the TMT, are not right, so she and others must stand in unity.
Shimabukuro recently went to Mauna Kea, and said being there “was amazing.”
“They’re so organized up there. There’s so much respect and aloha. It was moving. I cried,” she said. “It was an emotional time for me.”
She hopes those who saw the unity march ask questions and want to know more about TMT and why so many oppose it.
“Education is so powerful,” he said.
“You either stand on one of the sides, but you’re educated. Hopefully, we can bring people in and they’ll see us and do some research and say, ‘I’m with them.’ They’ll come and stand with us.”
Pua Rossi-Fukino, instructor of Hawaiian studies at KCC, was proud of the students at the rally.
“It’s really empowering to see my students here because very often when they take my class and they have so much energy, and they don’t know what to do with that energy. For them to be empowered by something like this is really part of the reason why I do the job that I do,” she said.
Rossi-Fukino said it’s important that so many on Kauai want to protect the sacred ground at Mauna Kea, “and have a love for the land.”
“We may not always agree on everything. Just the fact that there is a strong majority of Kauai people that are for the mauna, the people that are up there, that’s the main message we want to send,” she said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.