Mana: Junot Diaz Breaks Silence


Author Junot Diaz writes a powerful personal essay, “The Silence” in the April 16 New Yorker. It is a letter to an anonymous fan who approached him after a reading, stood in line and asked if the sexual abuse alluded to in Diaz’s books happened to the author.

This is Diaz breaking the silence, not that day, but many days and years later. It is his emergence away from the mask that both shields him and destroys him.

As a teacher of English teachers, I always caution my teacher candidates to not allow themselves and their students to automatically make leaps in literature. Not everything is personal autobiography for the authors. It is a dangerous assumption to make.

However, this type of evidence, the mana, that spiritual power of a writer writing about his/her writing and how themes in their life intersect and seep out into their work is valuable and must be collected and held in our “teacher memory” so that we can help our students delve deeper into the psychological, spiritual and aesthetic power of literature.

What is sacred:

Iʻm still afraid–my fear like continents and the ocean between–but I’m going to speak anyway, because, as Audre Lorde has taught us, my silence will not protect me.




Papio by Eric Chock

It’s April which means it’s poetry month and I am always a slow starter but I do like to try and highlight poems this month so this is by Bamboo Ridge editor and poet Eric Chock from A Hawai’i Anthology edited by Joseph Stanton, 1997.

This papio caught by my fisherman hubby on Hilo Bay 4/1/18.



This one’s for you, Uncle Bill.

I didn’t want to club the life

from its blue and silver skin,

so I killed it by holding it

upside-down by the tail

and singing into the sunset.

It squeaked three times

in a small dying chicken’s voice,

and became a stiff curve

like a wave that had frozen

before the break into foam.

In the tidal pool

we used to stand in

I held the fish and laughed

thinking how you called me

handsome at thirteen.

I slashed the scaled belly,

pulled gills and guts,

and a red flower bloomed

and disappeared with a wave

like a last breath

your body heaved

on a smuggled Lucky Strike and Primo

in a hospital bed.

You wanted your ashes out at sea

but Aunty kept half on the hill.

She can’t be swimming the waves at her age

and she wants you still.

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To share something is to risk losing it

Although the blog is 20 years old, I just started reading it but the first post I read is timely for my writing process. Jason Kotke shares  this video which is a parable about sharing this Broccoli tree and what we gain by its loss. In essence:

To share something is to risk losing it, especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale and where everyone seems to want to be noticed, even if only for cutting down a beloved tree. […] And the truth is, if we horde and hide what we love, we can still lose it. Only then, we’re alone in the loss.

The connection, because shouldn’t I always pay attention to relevant connections, is that the message is answering my questions that got me stuck yesterday and stopped my writing flow.

My first question that stopped my writing: how much of the back story do I need to tell and how do I tell the truth without sounding victimish or angry brown female-ish? No one wants to read that and I have to keep in mind that there will be editors and “peers” reviewing the work so no turning people off. For this one, the Broccoli Tree message is to share what I love. I don’t have to go down the rabbit hole if I am focused on sharing what I love. Yes, I have to talk about how decisions were made and why but I can generalize it, use other researchers’ similar findings without calling people out where I work. So parable as universal rather than personal truth.

The second question is from one of the co-writers. Three of us were working together on separate sub topics on one Google document and I started writing questions at the end of one of my sections and then just staring out the library window at so much sky. He thought that I needed to talk about insider versus outsider. I didn’t want to go there because I don’t want to deal with those terms when I am talking about inclusivity. He does not have to deal with the connotations of the terms as a tenured, white, male faculty member. I as a non-tenured, Indigenous female walk a cultural tight rope and choose not to see myself as insider and the participants as outsiders. I am a facilitator and a third space conjurer, cultural grounder and feeder. He listened, I listened, none of us came to any kind of solution or compromise and then we left it like that. I think we both understood that we were heard but I am just going to sit on it a little.

What then does the Broccoli Tree say about that? In watching the process of Patrik Svedberg who created the IG account and shared his weekly pictures of the tree with the world, I learned that I can look at the same thing over and over and what it will show me is the subtle changes over time and seasons. This process may look like it is rooted and steadfast, but I need to be aware of how elements, people, interactions, the tree itself work to change things so that 200 pictures taken at 200 different times/seasons/days will not look exactly the same. This process, this writing – each little question, each direction that the writing takes about this one project will be a little different. I just have to know at the end of the process what story I want to share, editors and peer reviewers be damned.

The interesting thing is that was not the take away lesson I was going to write about when I started writing the above paragraph. That just shows that perhaps the light shifted in the room, the breeze stopped and I saw something different from what I thought I saw earlier.

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What IS the process?!

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I am guilty of owning this bit of advice: trust the process. I say it all the time. Literally. For every situation where someone asks me why are we doing this? Where? What? How? My answer is always the same. Trust the process. It’s my own fault then that as a small group of us start trying to write about our work around professional learning communities, I am given the sub topic of trusting the process which forces me to then define, demystify, bullet point out, one two step the “process.” Darn. I like to do intentional things behind the curtain and then magic happens, but should I just explain that a lot of the process is guided by na’au (gut-level) decision making based on an awakening of my own Indigenous self?  That is somewhat wrong too. I have mentor ideas that I have connected to my own ideas, analyzed them at the gut check level and moved them forward or discarded them according to what feels pono for a specific situation. Not really useful to anyone else.

I am still at the thinking as I write stage. I call this my palu stage. The word palu in Hawai’i sometimes has a wrong connotation. For locals, to vomit is to palu, but in the Hawaiian language, that is not the right word. So in a sense I am not vomiting out my thoughts in some verbal diarrhea rant. That kind of explosive, volcanic vomit is luaʻiI am also not just quickly writing out train of thought squirrel observations. . .ooh shiny flow like water sentences. That kind of flowing, watery vomit is puaʻi. Palu is fish chum, usually made with fish heads and guts, mixed together for the purpose of baiting fish. Palu writing is my way of using both my guts and my head to start forming connections. The pieces are not always set, but I am trying to throw some palu out on the water to see what kind of interest it brings up.

Here are some of the materials I am trying to massage to create this palu writing that talks about process, not about what it is, but what the intention of the process for this professional learning community is first. Then we talk about the how.

Yarning Circle (Bennet-Mclean, 2000) encompassing both modern and historic communal gathering processes found amongst many Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Talking Circle introduced into the Reconciliation movement and adapted from Native American Cultures (Picou, 2000). Both derive from Indigenous Peoples’ methods recorded through the stories, songs and ceremonies as mechanisms for inclusion into the transfer of knowledge, participation in the decision-making process and identifying shared goals and desired outcomes for community. (Aseron, Wilde, Miller and Kelly, 2013).

Cultural Safety Circles (CSC’s) borne of the Indigenous experience and found within traditional ways and cultural practices. CSC’s are an acknowledgement of traditional methods for sharing, learning, and collective knowledge development and maintenance. The application of CSC’s can help provide a collective space where definitions for cultural and educational exchange take place and can also be identified. It it through this application that the inherent issue of cultural safety, specifically where it pertains to higher education participation, can then be explored to a deeper understanding. (Aseron, Greymorning, Miller, Wilde, 2013, p. 412)


Bennet-Mclean, D (2000). The yarning circle.

Picou, J.S. (2000). The “Talking Circle” as sociological practice: Cultural transformation of chronic disaster impacts. Journal of Clinical and Applied Sociology (2) 77-97.

Aseron, J. Wilde, S., Miller, A. & Kelly, S. (2013). Indigenous student participation in higher education: Emergent themes and linkages. Contemporary Issues in Education Research 6(4) 417-424.

Aseron, J., Greymorning, S.N., Miller, A. & Wilde, S. (2013). Cultural safety circles and indigenous people’s perspectives: Inclusive practices for participation in higher education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research 6(4) 409-416.


Speaking in Tongues

The Girl on the Couch

Anzaldúa, G. (2009). Speaking in tongues: A letter to third world women writers. In Anzaldua, G. & Keating, A. (Eds.), The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader (39-48). Durham: Duke University Press.

This  epistolary essay (written in the form of letters), was drafted beginning in 1979 and published in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981).

What is Sacred:

How do I begin to talk about what is sacred? In Hawaiian thinking, the word for future is ka wā mahope, or the time behind, after. It is a very different concept than the western idea of one’s future being brightly shining ahead. The difference is in who leads and who follows. In Hawaiian thinking, those of us in the present are following our ancestors who are in front of us and we are leading our grandchildren or the generations behind us. With that lens firmly rooted, then I feel like what is sacred about this essay/letter is that Anzaldúa reaches back into the future to pull me forward. I feel like she is writing specifically to me. She has heard my frustration as I try to write with my authentic voice in a seemingly hostile academic environment and she assures me that she has always been in front of me waiting, patient and naked. When I am frustrated and on the edge of compromise, she says:

My dear hermanas, the dangers we face as women writers of color are not the same as those of white women, though we have many in common. We don’t have as much to lose — we never had any privileges. (39)

I do believe that the audacity to take time from surviving to write is a huge limitation to me. As part of my tenure process I have to write and publish, and yet there is so much to do in creating a program for my students where cultural humility and teaching through culture will actually engage hundreds and thousands of children so that work comes first. Growing and sustaining our pathways to grow our own educators comes first.  It definitely comes before my writing. Anzaldúa quotes Luisah Teish who is addressing a group of mostly white feminist writers about the Third World women’s experiences:

If you are not caught in the maze that [we] are in, it’s very difficult to explain to you the hours in the day we do not have. And the hours that we do not have are hours that are translated into survival skills and money. And when one of those hours is taken away it means an hour that we don’t have to lie back and stare at the ceiling or an hour that we don’t have to talk to a friend. For me it’s a loaf of bread.  (29)

So what is her solution to me, not a Third World woman, but a struggler nonetheless? These are just highlighted snippets, but I tagged this post with the word “enough” because these little pearls have to be enough of a reminder for me that when I am beating myself up or feeling like I have nothing worthwhile to contribute, it is enough.

• Forget the room of one’s own – write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus or the welfare line, on the job or during meals, between sleeping or waking. (31)

• It’s too easy, blaming it all on the white man or white feminists or society or our parents. What we say and what we do ultimately come back to us, so let us own our responsibility, place it in our own hands and carry it with dignity and strength. No on’s going to do my shitwork, I pick up after myself. (32)

• It’s not on paper that you create but in your innards, in the gut and out of living tissue. (33)

• The meaning and worth of my writing is measured by how much I put myself on the line and how much nakedness I achieve. (33)

• I say mujer mágica, empty yourself. Shock yourself into new ways of perceiving the world, shock your readers into the same. Stop the chatter inside their heads (34)

• If you are going to spit in the eye of the world, make sure your back is to the wind. (34)

• Throw away abstraction and the academic learning, the rules, the map and compass. Feel your way without blinders. To touch more people, the personal realities and the social must be evoked — not through rhetoric but through blood and pus and sweat. (34)

Finally, because that last page of the essay is so so rich, the paragraph leading up to my favorite line so tight and heavy and naked, I have to share it, but I set the last part of the paragraph on my own. It is not written like this in the original, but if I have not listened to Anzaldúa by this point, she leaves with one last pearl for me in case I did not hear her all the other times:

Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire. Don’t let the pen banish you from yourself. Don’t let the ink coagulate in your pens. Don’t let the censor snuff out the spark, nor the gags muffle your voice.

Put your shit on the paper. (34)

The best part of all, after all the “can you hear me now?!” rhetoric, is that it ends quietly and simply,




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My son shames me into feminism


What is missing from the screenshot above is the text from my Boy 3 about the Anzeldúa article that I sent to him called “Letters to Third World Women Writers.” He said the letter was “really fantastic.” He had hundreds of pages to read and he read my piece I sent first.

Sometimes, not as often as I allow to happen, the most teachable students are my own boys. I have been enjoying our little two day exchange and I have used this as an opportunity to really read more feminist writers like Anzeldúa, especially feminist writers of color.

I am taking full advantage of my university library to read more widely even though this is what I put on my FB about this whole thing.

 I keep saying Indigenous women really do not have the luxury to write about feminism, and that feminist white writers write from the kind of privilege we do not own. We write about lāhui kine tings.

My notes on the letter will be posted soon, but I just wanted to keep this little snippet somewhere for when I happen to come across it again in the future. It will just be a hidden pearl until then. I know Ursula Le Guin is not an Indigenous female writer, but she died a little while ago and I always find her writing to contain such snippets of mana wahine-ness.

We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.

This is from a commencement address she gave at Bryn Mawr College in 1980.


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Meyer’s Holographic Epistemology


Princess Leia

Source: Meyer, M. (2013). Holographic epistemology: Native common sense. China Media Research 9(2), pp. 94-101.

What is Sacred:

First, Manulani Aluli Meyer is my mentor. She helped me to formulate my masters thesis at the University of Hawaiʻi Hilo before she left to do work in Aotearoa. The fact that we are both at the University of Hawaiʻi West Oʻahu at this time cannot be circumstance or chance. Therefore, I continue to work with her and I continue to learn with her as part of my own journey toward conscientization (Friere). She is one who speaks in prophecy so it is not always simple to interpret, but this article keeps giving me pause. My understanding is right at the edge. Perhaps I need to first break down my mis-understandings before I can move to connection.

The title is holographic epistemology. As an English teacher who is really a poor reader, I always need to break things down into familiar terms. In other words, I need to make “maps” of language (Hayakawa, 1939). I understand epistemology as ways of knowing. It is a philosophical understanding of how we know, what it is that we know, where did this knowledge come from (the origin) and the limitations of this knowledge (time and place?). So when I talk about Hawaiian ways of knowing, it is about using old/(k)new knowledge from the kupuna to make sense of this modern world. Not what would they do if they were living now, but how would they adapt based on their own maps of knowledge? I digress. This is not my point.

Perhaps my misconception of this map is in the word holographic. My understanding of the word holographic is a document that is handwritten.  The Beat poet and Volcano resident Albert Saijo used to turn in holographic manuscripts to publishers. They were never typed. But when I read this, she is talking about holograms and the ability of the hologram to not only show a three-dimensional perspective, but also in the technology of the lasers, by cutting an image up into pieces, we are also able to see that “the whole is contained in all its parts.” That technique of making a modern hologram, according to Meyer, is best understood with an ancient mind (p. 94). Ea


Connections to Current/Future Work: 

I’m still working on my own understanding. However, here is where I easily connect my work to hers. Or she carries me, which she knows.


An Indigenous world view thus begins with the idea that relationships are not nouns, they are verbs. (Hoʻopili – Hawaiians understood this idea of relationships as a verb. Pilina – join, cling. Hoʻopili – to cling to, to join, to adhere, to connect and intertwine. )

Relationship as a verb infers the intentional quality of connection that is experienced and remembered. Here we begin our walk into Indigenous epistemology; into the simultaneity of the unseen and seen. We are entering a wide-open field of knowledge production and exchange with priorities in practice, relevance, context, consciousness, and shared common sense. (p. 98)

So our connction, our pilina, is not in what makes us “Other” but what makes us same. What are those ways of knowing that allow us to “cling” to each other? How can we use our own common sense, built on our (k)new understanding to move forward collectively? If we are the individual parts of this hologram, then how do we hoʻopili? That is the work, yes?


Re-Centering and Silo-ing


I write my random notes and thoughts on several blogs because I have lost so many pieces of paper in my need to purge and in my reaction to my husband’s “my diagnosed” paper hoarding problem that this is the easiest way to find things again. The issue is that I try to organize and really get a grasp on what each blog should be for. Some are easier than others. Others morph as I close things down and move things. This blog is originally my KS blog I used for poetry month and later as my weekly PD blog for my middle school staff. This blog was also started as my way to talk to myself about my dissertation process and re read and re vision my thoughts to make it through. Then it became a research place.

My other blog, Pure Mana’o was just that, but I challenged myself to do a reading a day for one year and connect it to my current/future work. The reading a day came from the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs that hired me at the University of Hawai’i West O’ahu, my first higher ed job after 23 years in the middle/secondary arena. She talked about reading a chapter every day to prepare for her exams and how when she took her doctoral exams things just clicked because of the process.

I am cult-like in my belief in the magic of process so that became Pure Mana’o. However, because I am fully aware of my issues, daily is a suggestion, not a mantra, so it will probably take me three years plus to finish both reading and blogging about 365 days worth of academic writing. I try not to spend an inordinate amount of time on the posts. They are just my initial connections. If I wanted to spend more time, then I really should be writing an article for publication.

Long story long, my need to silo random thoughts leads me to this new realization that the Mo’o Project, now that my dissertation is over and I am working in academia, really should be about the presentations, the articles I am working on, and a place to house the daily readings that are not connected to the classes I teach, but more connected to collecting scraps for research and possible future writing.

Here is my attempt to both re-center my multiple piko (which are my blogs) AND silo myself which is a bad thing in education, but a good thing in reigning in my brand of crazy.

Now to find a picture to put on the top of the post because for me, pictures are metaphors and summaries and kaona and unsaid intentions.

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How to Choose Your Dissertation Topic


The doctoral (Ed.D.) program I was a part of at the University of Hawaii Mānoa is currently on their third cohort so one of my colleagues asked me to talk to them about how I chose my dissertation and how I created my own frame for writing.

The presentation is here.  Cohort III 180224

The first three slides are a series of questions to ask in order to choose a dissertation.

  1. What is your puna?Find your spring, your puna, the source of your passion. . .talk from that place, positionality. How do you position yourself so that this is what nurtures you? Find the source of the waiwai. For me, it was professional development, birthing programs that throughout my career gave me the most strength so that is what I did in my dissertation. I created the alana project which was a culture based PD course built around writing project structures.
  2. What is your kuleana?Why are you doing this? Who are you doing this for? Who is your community? How do know what your community needs? What is your kuleana within this community? Kuleana is complex. Embrace that complexity. Every indigenous person lives in complexity. We survive history, geography, politics, social inequalities. . .complexity. In order for me to continue to fulfill my kuleana to my moʻopuna, to the seven generations of moʻos, the complexity has to happen on the ground and I need to know before I even start that I will be stepping forward and responding in a space that I do not control, so how do I embrace that complexity in order to auamo kuleana? My kuleana is to my moʻos and how do I nurture teachers that are worthy of my moʻos and what I dream for them.
  3. Is this moʻo worthy?Is your project a part of your moʻokūʻauhau? Is this a moʻolelo you want to tell? Is this worthy of your moʻopuna? If yes, move forward. If no, don’t force it. E kaʻahele i ka māʻawe i ka pono. Travel on the good trail, the trail of goodness, righteousness (pono)
  4. The last slide is about why I had to make a different frame to tell my story. Intentional transformation.”There is a need to be intentional in order to be both transformative and rigorous” Graham Smith

    Careful, purposeful preparation ʻAʻohe ulu e loaʻa i ka pōkole o ka lou No breadfruit can be reached when the picking stick is too short. So at the point when the tool is not right, use/create a better tool – the birth of the moʻo frame came from both intentionality and frustration in using too short of a stick.

Keiki are ʻOno


Relationship building with students is a huge “this we believe” in middle school philosophy, but what we are saying is that Hawaiian ways of creating relationships is different in that it privileges Hawaiian thinking and aligns with Na Hopena Aʻo

What makes these activities more focused on the outcomes of a strengthened sense of belonging, responsibility, excellence, aloha, total well being and Hawaiʻi is that we focus on strengths-based – especially the strengths they bring from home and share with us. We also choose activities that see ʻāina (land and sea) as community, as identity, as sense of belonging, as kuleana, and as part of our well-being for living in Hawaiʻi. Finally, we see ʻohana (in the large definition) as part of students’ superpowers and their sense of hā. Attaching our slides and the directions for the activities we did with participants. The Na Hopena Aʻo link above holds the video that is on the slides.

Keiki are ʻOno H2

Keiki are Ono

Update: the thing with using student teachers is that some veteran teachers, even our own mentors, feel like these are just students, and therefore, what do they have to offer? But I have larger plans for these student teachers and I loop up with them to set these plans in motion. My intention is to create new teachers that are already on their way to being teacher leaders, so the more I can push them forward (see my blog post on throwing the babies out), the stronger our teacher work force will be. They hold mana, just that not everyone recognizes it. Not a problem. But don’t act shocked when they are ready to take over your department.

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