SOUZA, Keoni

1 Normalization of Hawaiian language and culture is foundational to a thriving lāhui. Please share the traditional/cultural practices that are part of your daily life and any ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi background or experience.
2 What do you feel are the biggest barriers to affordable housing opportunities for Native Hawaiians? What can be done to overcome these barriers or otherwise provide greater housing opportunities for Native Hawaiians?
3 UH’s mismanagement of Maunakea has garnered significant attention in recent years, and for many is yet another example of sacred sites being neglected, mismanaged, or even desecrated across the islands. What have you done to better ensure the appropriate treatment of Hawaiʻi’s sacred sites and spaces?

Photo: Keoni Souza

AGE: 36
OCCUPATION: Real Estate Agent, Traditional Hawaiian Musician/Entertainer
SCHOOL(S) ATTENDED: Kamehameha Schools – Kapālama Campus, Kapiʻolani Community College

  1. It is our kuleana to normalize, or re-normalize, the Hawaiian culture and language not only in the islands, but also around the world. We must do so in order for our lāhui to move forward, to thrive, and to perpetuate our cultural identity for generations to come.
    Growing up with my beautiful, full-blooded Hawaiian grandmother, I was raised with ʻŌlelo Hawai’i in my household. I was also fortunate to have attended school at Kamehameha Schools, Kapālama. It was there that my knowledge and love of Hawaiian mele, oli & hula had grew, and after joining various performance groups, I was led down a path to where I am today. I have been performing Traditional Hawaiian Music for the last 20 years, performing all over the world with various friends as well as my Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winning and Grammy Nominated music group “Nā Hoa.” I lean on my kūpuna, “old-timer” musicians, my friends and family, to help me perpetuate and continue the legacy of storytelling through Traditional Hawaiian Music. I currently sit on the Board of HARA (Hawaiian Academy of Recording Arts) where I hope to influence positive change within our music community.
  2. As a licensed real estate agent, I am immersed daily in the housing market and see how difficult it is for individuals and families to purchase homes. I am fortunate to utilize my skill set in this area to assist families in the home buying process so they can secure a piece of real estate in Hawaiʻi and start to build wealth. I understand through my dealings with clients the need for a place to call home. I am well-versed in this area, and this informs my perspectives on the issue of affordable housing.
    I have an issue with the term “affordable housing” because there are too many strings attached to the word and oftentimes, “affordable housing” is, well, not really true to its word in being affordable when implemented. As such, we need to find alternative means of typical affordable housing solutions and focus on creating inexpensive housing throughout our archipelago, not just on Oʻahu. I will (1) position OHA to collaborate with the building trades and nonprofits to create inexpensive housing solutions, and (2) work with DHHL closely to formulate ways in which we can provide housing solutions to our beneficiaries in a timely manner (this will be key as I believe “affordable housing” for Native Hawaiians is realistically only Hawaiian Homestead lands) and (3) educate the Hawaiian community on the home-buying process.
  3. I support the rise of our people as we continue to fight for Native Hawaiians to be at the forefront of all decision-making that affects the ʻāina. As Hawaiians, we understand that we are stewards of the land. It is our kuleana to care for the land so that it can be there to provide for generations of kānaka to come. In order to do that, we need to be present, be engaged and advocate for what we know is pono to protect our sacred sites and places. The fight for protecting Hawaiʻi does not start and end with the monumental places we hold sacred like Maunakea, but continues on throughout each moku and ahupuaʻa, down to the ʻohana in our communities that we dwell in.
    Regarding the ongoing fight against telescope development on Maunakea, I am a supporter of the kiaʻi and over the past few years I have joined in the support of protecting Maunakea. I believe the UH’s management lacks the care and immediacy that is needed to care for one of the most treasured spaces of our people and changing of leadership is ultimately what is needed. OHA should be the organization that fills that role.

View more of this candidate’s manaʻo from the Ka Wai Ola News 2020 Primary Election Survey