By Jacob Aki
Nā Kamaliʻi Talk Story was created during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020. The purpose was to create a safe space for youth to come together and have discussions that were typically only done with adults. This idea stemmed from members of Oregon-based Ka ʻAha Lāhui O ʻOlekona Hawaiian Civic Club (KALO) who wanted to hear the ideas and concerns of their ʻōpio members.
“In conversations with the ʻōpio, they expressed their frustration at not having opportunities to learn about historical and cultural issues that were affecting their future,” said Kumu Hula Leialoha Kaʻula of Ka Lei Haliʻa o Ka Lokelani and a member of KALO. “Hearing those concerns, we, our club continued to meet with youth members of KALO to pitch the idea of creating Nā Kamaliʻi Talk Story.”
Excited, motivated, and without hesitation, the ʻōpio quickly began to reach out to their peers and worked to put together their first panel discussion. The first Nā Kamaliʻi Talk Story focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and featured Dr. Richard Leman (Chief Medical Officer, Oregon Health Authority), Dr. Richard Leman, Senior Epidemiologist Tila Liko, and educators Wiliama Sanchez and Steffany Wong Pacheco.
These discussions gave the ʻōpio an opportunity to ask questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it was affecting their education and their communities. This was just the beginning for many of these ʻōpio.
For sophomore Chloe Rodrigues, a haumana of Kumu Kaʻula, Nā Kamaliʻi Talk Story is important because she believes that it is a platform that allows her and her peers to share their voices, perspectives, and experiences.
“We have learned so much by having our questions answered by professionals, hearing their point of view, and learning from the insight they provide,” said Rodrigues. “We also have an opportunity to share our perspective with them on the issues that are important to us.”
Rodrigues and her peers recognize that platforms like Nā Kamaliʻi Talk Story provide them with the opportunity to have open and honest conversations that also help to create generational understanding and shrink the gap between kūpuna, mākua and ʻōpio. More importantly, it helps to elevate the voices of ʻōpio.
“Through Nā Kamaliʻi Talk Story, we are able to learn about the issues while also being able to be a part of the conversation,” said Rodrigues. “We no longer have to watch from the sidelines, we’re able to jump right in.”
To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/KALOHCC.
Jacob Aki is the director of communications for the Hawaiʻi State Senate and president of Kaiwiʻula Strategies. He is from Kapālama, Oʻahu, and active in various Native Hawaiian civic organizations such as Hale O Nā Aliʻi O Hawaiʻi and the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.