Diversity And Equity Must Guide Our Journey Ahead - Honolulu Civil Beat

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About the Author

Kelvin Taketa

Kelvin Taketa is the past president and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation and served as a senior executive for The Nature Conservancy for 18 years.


We are about to embark on a journey the likes of which none of us has experienced.

What is heartening is that so many people in our state share a common vision of our destination: a sustainable economy in which all people are treated equitably and with aloha. How fast we seek to reach our destination or the road we take will be debated in the weeks and months ahead but it is worth pausing here to think about the journey itself.

No matter what, COVID-19 has revealed two things: That it disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable in our communities, many of whom are vulnerable because of isolation, poverty or limited access to health care. It has ripped off the scab to reveal the wounds of a society that has not promoted equality as a fundamental value.

At the same time, the global nature of the pandemic, exacerbated by 21st century mobility and the diabolical way that one may be infected by seemingly healthy people, has proven that a shared communal response — and not simply a protective moat around our own — is the only way to beat this disease.

Oahu based canoe club volunteers and community members circle up and hold hands in prayer as they prepare to hand out food donations to families in the Papakolea Hawaiian Homestead neighborhood of Honolulu, HI, Sunday, June 14, 2020. Several local canoe clubs came together to organize this food drive and distribution event during what would normally be their busiest time of competitions, all canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Members of Oahu-based canoe clubs joined together to help distribute food to families in the Papakolea Hawaiian Homestead neighborhood recently. It will take all of us working together to find solutions that fit everyone to move Hawaii forward. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2020

As we think about the destination, the way we navigate the journey must include diverse voices, especially from those who have not typically had a seat at the table. It must also resist any instincts to suggest that solutions that work for some but not for all will succeed in the long run.

If anything, the recent events revealing the effects of structural racism in our country underscore these challenges. Our interconnected, interdependent world has proven the folly of that kind of thinking, and we haven’t even begun to deal with climate change.

This journey will be a marathon for us. We need to recognize that recovery, to get people back to work and right the economic ship of our state, private sector and nonprofits, can seductively distract us from the hard and plodding work to actually reinvent ourselves.

We cannot afford to declare victory anytime soon and certainly not when people think we are approaching “back to normal.” There is unlikely to be any new normal and we don’t want the old normal. We need to work together to make sure our journey moves us toward our new destination.

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And because this journey will be long, I have one plea. All of the new-found energy and aloha for one another that have been exhibited in the past few months has been truly inspiring and a wellspring for optimism. Neighbors running errands for each other. People volunteering for food drives that have not done so before. Engineers and students building ventilators and PPE. Sewing machines getting dusted off to make masks. Distilleries making hand sanitizers and restaurants cooking and distributing free meals. Wow.

We must continue this work. Our communities will still need the help for many months and years to come. But most importantly, this energy is the secret sauce that will make our journey successful, wherever it takes us.

Unlikely alliances and collaborations will lead to innovative solutions, new-found friends and passions will build the connected human infrastructure and a commitment to serve others as the bedrock of our lives will be the DNA for a better Hawaii.


Read this next:

A Pathway To Peace: Ideas For A New And More Resilient Reality


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About the Author

Kelvin Taketa

Kelvin Taketa is the past president and CEO of the Hawaii Community Foundation and served as a senior executive for The Nature Conservancy for 18 years.


Latest Comments (0)

Hawaii has extensive fallow ag lands and 4 growing seasons yet we import 90% of our food (much of itfrozen and/or processed) and 30% are out of work.  What's wrong with this picture?  Fire up the ag and put people to work to feed themselves.  Especially restore the Ahupua`a system.  Fresh, local, organic.

Sally · 2 years ago

Beautifully stated.  I hope these principles will be remembered as people begin to think we are "out of the woods."  

ruthlimtiaco · 2 years ago

We could start by welcoming first responders and law enforcement to Hawaii.  There is a terrible amount of criminal behavior happening across the mainland USA.  Law enforcement should know they are always welcome in Hawaii.  We should reach out to police unions and offer their members a place of rest and refuge.

FadedShamrock · 2 years ago

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