By Kainoa Azama
In this time where faith in government is at an all-time low, with poisoned water, bribery, and ongoing investigations into state and city officials, we are left with few options. Do we let the machine continue to be oiled and function to serve private interests or do we reclaim and restore faith in government?
The formation of the Honolulu Youth Commission posed a unique opportunity for our elected officials and for our youth, providing a way for youth to have a voice in government, and truly preparing us to govern. The question remains – will our officials listen to us?
The commission has worked hard to bring our voices to the forefront. We have passed a dozen resolutions including calling for revitalizing ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi through a pilot program to offer courses to employees of the city and state, creating job opportunities for youth at the city, and urging property tax caps for those living on important agricultural lands. However, our voices at the commission are only as strong as you, our fellow ʻōpio and keiki.
A challenge to our youth and to our greater lāhui is to openly discuss at home, school, and in the broader community the problems before us, and possible solutions. It is our kuleana to create an environment that cultivates greatness for all of our ʻōpio and keiki; preparing them to be critical and visionary thinkers will be essential to create the changes we need here in Hawaiʻi.
Why wait to get involved? Practice testifying now. I used to be nervous going before city and state officials at hearings, it takes a strong naʻau to do so. If youʻd like to practice getting into the groove of things before you do, then come testify before us and let us help you strengthen your voice.
My message to our youth is that we cannot represent you because you can only represent yourself. However, through sharing your views via testimony or email, we can begin to collectively find solutions. Let us learn from the current system of dysfunction, so when we come of age, we can make it into something that functions. Systemic change cannot happen with just 15 of us, we must find collective resurgence. Help inform us how we can better serve you, and together let’s find and push forward solutions because learning and making change is a kākou thing.
Kūpuna such as Mahealani Cypher often mention the need to think about the “seven generations,” a reminder that our actions today impact the future. Ramsay Taum said it best, “we are accountable to our children’s children’s children.”
The time is now for us to hold our decision-makers accountable, but does that only mean our public officials, or does it include ourselves? I hope to see and hear from more new faces and voices at our upcoming meetings, ʻauhea wale ʻoukou e nā ʻōpio, e hele mai, e haʻi mai!
To learn more about the Honolulu Youth Commission, visit www.honolulu.gov/yc.
Kainoa Azama is the Chair of the Honolulu Youth Commission. He is a student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and hails from Koʻolaupoko, Oʻahu.