Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Hawaii De-Tour

I'm on my way back to Guam right now, but I'll be stopping over in Hawai'i for a few days to visit family and also to work with the American Friends Service Committee there. They've lined up an interesting schedule of events for me, places to speak at, interviews, people to meet, and plenty of stories to listen to.
I call this a "de-tour" because one part of my trip will be taking a "De-Tour" around Hawai'i, which is short for a "demilitarization tour." In it I'll drive around and see different sites of military poisoning or contamination, different sites of resistance, and meet with people at different levels of Hawai'is struggle for environmental justice and Native Hawaiian (Kanaka'maoli) sovereignty.
My presence on this tour is all about helping build solidarity networks between Chamorro activists on Guam and Hawaiian and Native Hawaiian activists. I'll be talking to people about Guam's situation, its legacy of military occupation, development and abuse, and what similarities and disimilarities there are. Guam and Hawai'i, as well as 50% of the world fall under the command of a single military entity, PACOM or the Pacific Command, which is based based at Camp Smith in Hawai'i. The vastness of the territory that PACOM controls is no secret, but is place front and center on their website:

U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) is a Unified Combatant Command of the Armed Forces of the United States. It encompasses about half the earth’s surface, stretching from the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. There are few regions as culturally, socially, economically, and geo-politically diverse as the Asia-Pacific. The 36 nations that comprise the Asia-Pacific region are home to more than fifty percent of the world’s population, three thousand different languages, several of the world’s largest militaries, and five nations allied with the U.S. through mutual defense treaties. Two of the four largest economies are located in the Asia-Pacific along with 10 of the 14 smallest. The AOR includes the most populous nation in the world, the largest democracy, and the largest Muslim-majority nation. More than one third of Asia-Pacific nations are smaller island nations that include the smallest republic in the world and the smallest nation in Asia.
If there is any hope for building peace and not war in the Pacific, transforming our islands and our region from the tip of the spear, to something else, it will come from working with other locations that fall under PACOM. Its not enough to work on our own lands, our own problems, we are tied together in so many ways, whether we know it or not. And there are powerful planners in the Pentagon or in Camp Smith who are tirelessly working for ways to dictate the destiny of our islands. We are weakened by not recognizing that simple fact.

Some of the things that I'll be doing is meeting with High School students from Waianae who are in an environmental justice summer course. I'll be participating in a demonstration at Waimanalo Valley, about the occupation and abuse of military lands there. I'm also scheduled to be interviewed for the OLELO Community Television Station and also by Carrol Cox for his radio show.

It looks to be an exciting next few days, so stay tuned for updates and info from my trip.

For more info on these sorts of events in Hawai'i, you can always visit DMZ Hawaii.

For more info on the AFSC and its mission in Hawai'i, I've pasted info from their website below (warning, the website looks like it hasn't been updated in six years or so):

AFSC work in Hawai'i began in 1942 with a program of service to Japanese residents suffering persecution after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Friends' opposition to the Vietnam War led to initiation of the present program in 1968. The Hawai'i Program offers grassroots, social analysis-based economic workshops. Advocacy work is initiated by others and focuses almost exclusively on state public policy affecting "welfare." AFSC's focus is to assure that state policies bridge work and welfare. In 1996, collaborative work between the STRENGTH Coalition, Honolulu Friends Meeting, and the Committee on Welfare Concerns resulted in state legislation with less negative long-term impact on the poor.

Also, AFSC gained recognition among peers, Department of Human Services, and selected state legislators as a credible advocate. In addition, the program has compiled and distributed packets of information about Hawai'i and provided these through AFSC-sponsored educational workshops.

Demilitarization Program (Honolulu, Hawai'i): The program examines the political, economic, and social role of the military in Hawai'i and advocates for the return of lands to Hawaiians. There is a unique focus on educating the general public on the extent, costs, and purpose of the military presence in Hawai'i. Actions involve a direct presence on military lands (i.e., picnics, hikes, caravans) and are repeated annually. Deliberate choice for innovative, popular education methods of presentation, making material accessible to the general public.
Accomplishments include coalition with community to successfully halt open burn and open detonation of military waste in Makua Valley, annual car caravan conducting educational programs at military sites, alternative July 4th observance, and picnic at Bellows Beach (Air Force recreation facility); increased discussion of alternative land uses in media and general public, recognition of AFSC as an alternative voice to the military's presence by media and academics. We focus on military destruction of land/environment and percentage of military lands withdrawn from ceded lands trust. AFSC-Hawai'i materials are used by academics, peace, and sovereignty groups.

Same-Gender Marriage Advocacy: To date the purpose of the program has been to support plaintiffs in a landmark court case challenging State prohibition of same-gender marriage and to participate in legislative hearings on the subject. As a non-Hawaiian/Quaker organization, AFSC has worked with Na Mamo, a local organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Hawaiians, to discuss Hawai'i's tradition of diversity and openness to diverse relationships among Pacific cultures as a value to be perpetuated.

Hawaiian Sovereignty Program (Honolulu, Hawai'i):AFSC is the first non-Hawaiian organization to take a public stand in support of self-determination. One of a few organizations working as a bridge between non-Hawaiian and kanaka maoli (native Hawaiian) communities through educational workshops, presence and participation in actions, activities, press conferences, called by na kanaka maoli.
Our book, He A lo Ahe Alo (Hawaiian Voices on Sovereignty) and national speaking tour have been strategies to bring attention to the sovereignty movement nationally. Parallel work on demilitarization is unique in the State.

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