Marching is not easy.

It’s hot. Tiring. Parking is always a challenge. It’s much harder with children or kupuna in tow.

It’s even harder to organize. There are permits. Security. Dizzying amounts of organization. It is a massive undertaking.

Despite the challenges, over 20,000 people braved the heat — mobilized themselves, their friends and their families — to take to the streets this past Saturday. Starting at Ala Moana Beach Park and winding  down Kalakaua Avenue, the day’s events ended with jubilant festivities at Kapiolani Park.

Whether on horseback or on foot — or among the many children being towed in wagons by their dedicated parents — it was an awe-inspiring sea of red shirts and Hawaiian flags flowing through Waikiki as Hawaiians and allies raised their voices in chant and song.

Save Sherwood Forest supporters demonstrate along Kamehameha Highway in Waimanalo.
Save Sherwood Forest supporters, demonstrating recently along Kamehameha Highway in Waimanalo, have been inspired and guided by the protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Regardless of the spin by TMT proponents, there is no doubt that people participated in support of the mauna and in response to the ongoing efforts to build TMT.

And although the demonstration may have physically ended at Kapiolani Park, the political movement that has emerged must continue to build.

To The Voting Booths

I know many Hawaiians who have not believed in voting in U.S. or Hawaii state elections. The logic is simple and fair: if you do not believe in the legitimacy of the federal or state government, voting in those elections is counter to that belief. If you believe the state is fake, don’t participate in it and that includes voting.

I offer this competing thought: Regardless of how you feel about the current ruling government, the reality is that many Hawaiians have the ability to vote in its elections.

You get a vote. Use it.

Our past bonds must become our future strength.

A Hawaiian voting block would significantly alter the political landscape of Hawaii. Hawaiians would become a powerful political force unlike they have been for decades, unlike we have been since the Monarchy Era. Our population has grown to numbers unsurpassed in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is an opportunity we must not squander.

We don’t need to agree on federal recognition or the legality of the overthrow. We do not have to have every detail of our way forward resolved. We don’t need to agree on everything to be powerful.

The political monolith we must become is not one of political thought, it must only be one of civic participation.

Many outside the Hawaiian community mistakenly believe that we need to consistently agree on everything. The only thing we need to agree on is that we want a better future for our children and our islands.

Because they are our islands. We are bound by common genealogy that ties us to this incredible place. And you know what they typically call people who share a common genealogy? Family.

Being a part of this family means we are born with distinct kuleana, both rights and responsibilities that grew out of Hawaii and its political history. Like it or not, fulfill it or not, this kuleana exists.

Our past bonds must become our future strength.

The reality is that most Hawaiians I know, and I know a lot of Hawaiians, share common values. We have an unyielding love of land, family and culture. We treat each other well, maybe not all the time, but I have no doubt of the genuine aloha we share for each other.

That love comes from our tie to our nation and our heritage. It was our Queen who once wrote, “Love of country is deep-seated in the breast of every Hawaiian, whatever his station.”

When I see tens of thousands of Hawaiians taking to the streets across islands and ocean, I know these words remain as true today as they were when they were first written by our Queen.

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About the Author

  • Trisha Kehaulani Watson
    Trisha Kehaulani Watson is a Kaimuki resident, small business owner, and bibliophile. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii and J.D. from the William S. Richardson School of Law. She writes about environmental issues, cultural resource management, and the intersection between culture and politics. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can follow or contact her on Twitter at @hehawaiiau.