Black Lives Matter Means All Lives Matter - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Keisa Liu

Keisa Liu is a grassroots community organizer on Maui.

Last week, I was walking with my husband, son and our family dog, Maddox, through our neighborhood on Maui when a sign stopped me in my tracks.

“In this home, we celebrate diversity,” it said. I smiled. That’s nice.

“Science is real,” it said. Yes. It is.

“No human is illegal,” I read. Truth.

“Love is love,” it continued. “Womens’ rights are human rights,” it told me. This person gets it, I thought.

But right before it told me “Water is life” and “Kindness is everything,” blue painter’s tape had been applied, and over the word “Black,” the word “All” was placed so the sign could tell me that “All Lives Matter.”

And there I stood, holding back tears. Frustrated. The slap of my son’s slippers against the asphalt faded away as the words rang loudly in my head: All Lives Matter.

For the first half of 2020, I stayed largely removed from the Black Lives Matter movement. As a Black woman, I understood why we were marching but stayed relatively quiet.

Then I watched the public execution of George Floyd. I saw, in that man, the possibility of my son being served the same injustice. I saw him calling for me as his last breath was stolen. What kind of parent am I, I thought, if I do not do everything I can to protect my son?

But I wondered, Do I even have to do anything? I live on Maui. The Kingdom of Hawaii was one of the few kingdoms that did not participate in the slave trade of our people. It served as a refuge for any runaway slave because, in these islands, the Black person has always been free.

We had an equal opportunity to learn the names of the winds, to plant kalo and to prove we could become kamaaina. Why, in this oasis, would I have to explain that Black Lives Matter means All Lives Matter?

The sign on Maui that inspired the author to write this Community Voice column. Keisa Liu

Slavery may not have made its way into these islands, but covert racism certainly did. Micro-agressions like, “You speak well for a colored person!” We’ve been called the N-word by Maui community members to put us in our place.

I’ve been told that Black men are lazy and don’t understand the importance of culture and family. I’ve seen Confederate Flag bumper stickers on trucks driving down Piilani Highway.

These little bits of racism don’t amount to much on their own, but together they begin to paint the picture that our struggles are not just a Mainland problem. They are a part of our collective consciousness that we hardly ever notice.

As a Black advocate, my work isn’t about standing up against overtly racist, Confederate flag-waving patriots. Not on Maui. My work is to deconstruct the fallacies that have been used to view the Black community.

My work is to show everyone how the Black community has been fighting for the voiceless for hundreds of years. We, as the Black community, have inched our way to positions of power in order to change the social lens used to view the disenfranchised, the misunderstood, the exploited, subjugated, ignored and appropriated lives.

In America, that has been and still is, the reality of Black life. We look at the everyday injustices the Black community faces and use them as the basis for laws that protect every citizen.

The Black community knows what it is like to live in an environment where you have to steal to eat. So we fight for food accessibility.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marches with a contingent from Hawaii during the historic Selma marches in 1965. Submitted

We know what it is like to get passed up on that job because our kink wouldn’t lay down straight. So we push for anti-discrimination laws.

We know what it’s like to fill our children’s cups with poisoned water because to the large corporations, our lives are worth less than profits. We push for laws that protect our water.

We know what it is like to be redlined out of every neighborhood except the one by the sewer plant. We push for safe, affordable housing.

We know what it is like to be sent to jail for not having enough money in our pocket. We push to decriminalize poverty.

Our name sounds too ethnic to buy a house, get a job, go to college, attain wealth. We push for equal economic opportunity.

We know almost every social injustice because we have lived it. We have spent years breaking down barriers and shattering glass ceilings in attempts to abolish them. Not just for us, but for everyone.

So when I walked past that sign, just a week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it was a reminder that, even in this little oasis, there is still work to be done.

When you hear us shout Black Lives Matter, know this movement isn’t just about protecting the Black life. Black Lives Matter is a social justice movement for every life. Black Lives Matter is All Lives Matter.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

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About the Author

Keisa Liu

Keisa Liu is a grassroots community organizer on Maui.

Latest Comments (0)

Your explanation is articulate, beautiful and irrefutable. However, to far too many perfectly good and reasonable people of all backgrounds this slogan comes across as unnecessarily abrasive, confrontational, exclusionary and divisive, even after all the explanations and apologetics are done. Just like advertising slogans can make or break a brand, political slogans can help or damage a cause. Since my formative years, I have always considered myself a justice warrior; to my mind, this slogan has been quite unhelpful to the cause of justice.

Chiquita · 2 years ago

A lot of great points raised in the article. I can speak for most locals that our Hawaiian heritage and melting pot of multiple cultures/ethnicities is what makes Hawaii unique and much less 'color blind' than the rest of the mainlaind. We've almost always lived with Aloha welcoming all people into our island home.I don't see why having a confederate flag on your truck equates to racism or hate though. I've met plenty of kind hearted folks in Hawaii from the South who are proud of their Southern heritage and were appalled about how the Confederate flag was being represented. 

KokoKai_Boi · 2 years ago

Thank You for your elegant effort to explain what to too many, especially in Hawaii, is less than obvious. But then, as America continues to struggle with its slave owning heritage, what more can we expect from people that take pride in their racism? In their bigotry?

mymanao · 2 years ago

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