I just turned in my third article a couple months ago and as a 50 year old academic, that is pretty lame. I went to AERA where they were introducing some social justice pioneers and one of them published 7 books and like 200 articles. Yeah, I haven’t been doing anything but teaching for 27 years so I am already near my end and not even close to that.
Still, what I noticed about my very slow writing (like an article every year and a half) is that half of the battle, no, 3/4 of the battle is this push back on my part of not sounding too white. I sometimes use words that are not English (like kuleana), but I have to use it because it means more than just my obligatory one word definition that I give it (obligation). However, if you know, you know, and if you don’t know, I really don’t care if all you think it means is obligation. Maybe I’m not writing to you. . .yet.
Mostly, though, I shift my pronouns away from I to we and then reviewers keep asking me who the “we” is. The we is me, but it’s never just me. It’s the difference between indigenous thinking and western thinking. You know that saying, pull yourself up from your own bootstraps? There is nothing indigenous about that. Individual success is never done individually. There are paths and jungles and oceans that were crossed to get me here. It takes a village. That makes more sense to me. Those are the we, the village, or in my case, the lahui.
What does this have to do with the picture above that just looks like rocks and stuff? This is a picture of my grandmother’s garden, a menagerie of shells, rocks, abandoned toys, driftwood, a lone skateboard wheel. Every day, my grandparents would walk the two miles along the coast to Kaʻanapali and while grandpa sat on the bench to watch the water, grandma would walk the beach picking up more “seeds” for her garden. This garden ran the length of the house from her bedroom to the kitchen door. It was filled with anything and everything that caught my grandmother’s eye – from sea glass to puka shells to non biodegradable plastics. She would haul her treasures up the hill to Fleming Road and plant them in her garden. This garden is the story of me, both as that face shaped rock that she picked up, but also as a grandmother now, it is about the “seeds” I look for and pick up. Things that maybe are not worth much to someone else, but let me show you what makes each thing sacred. This is my treasure, this is what I teach from, this is whom I teach for and about. As a native Hawaiian teacher who teaches through a lens that privileges my grandmother’s garden, I teach through aloha ʻāina, a Hawaiian moʻo pedagogy and praxis of sustainability, metaphor, generational knowledge, ancestral memory and sacredness of “we.” I may stand in front of you barefoot and alone, but I bring with me multitudes. Welina.