HONOLULU — Native Hawaiian leaders gathered Thursday at the Queen Lili‘uokalani statue to call for unity amongst Native Hawaiians in the fight to beat COVID-19.
Due to an increase of the highly contagious delta variant, COVID-19 is ravaging through Hawaiian-predominant communities across the state, including Wai‘anae, Nanakuli, ‘Ewa Beach and Hilo.
Many of those in attendance at Thursday’s press conference believe that the Native Hawaiian community has reached a breaking point and cannot wait for government action to save them from this pandemic.
“Epidemics of measles, whooping cough, influenza and Hansen’s disease swept away the lives of nearly 95% of the Native Hawaiian population in the 1800s, and it is said that nearly every child born in 1848 died from these diseases,” noted Dr. Diane Palmoa, chief executive officer of the King Lunalilo Trust and Home.
“Just as our ali‘i did, we cannot wait for any government agency or entity to save us. We must take action to protect the lahui from being further devastated by the impact of COVID-19,” she said.
Since the delta variant became the dominant source of infections in Hawai‘i, Native Hawaiians made up 27% of the confirmed cases in the state with reported race data. Native Hawaiians only represent 21% of the state’s population.
“When we look to our past, our ancestors would not want to see history repeat itself, and we call on our community to take this as seriously as they would if they were here today,” said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, chair of the Native Hawaiian Legislative Caucus.
“As Native Hawaiians, we have kuleana to protect our lahui, and we must make use of the tools available to help us stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Keohokalole, who represents Kailua and Kane‘ohe on O‘ahu.
The leaders called on community members across the state to take up the kuleana. They asked individuals to start conversations with their neighbors, letting aloha, compassion and mutual responsibility for community health guide the way.
Following the press conference, a consortium of Native Hawaiian organizations launched a social-media campaign and a series of PSA videos that acknowledge the important historical context for the Hawaiian people and underscore the importance of taking action.
“We have kuleana to protect our ‘ohana, to keep them safe from harm. There are multiple tools we can turn to, and it is up to us to choose to use them,” said Na‘alehu Anthony, director of COVID Pau and co-founder of ‘Oiwi TV.
“We are the descendants of survivors. We owe our existence to the choices they made during periods of tragic loss and imminent danger. What do we want the next generations to know about the choices we make today?” Anthony asked.
Twenty-three leaders stood united in their call to the community, representing many other leaders from across the state in recognition of COVID-19 safety protocols limiting outdoor gatherings to 25. All participants used masks and social distancing while on-site at the Capitol.
Source: The Garden Island