Reverend Abraham Kahikina Akaka, brother to our founder Senator Daniel Akaka, once remarked, in Hawai’i’s Statehood address, that “unity is diversity in harmony.” At the Akaka Foundation, we believe this exemplifies the Aloha spirit of the state of Hawaii, and serves as an ideal beacon for our broader aims regarding forest preservation and community stewardship to align with.
With this in mind, and as our country grapples with its complex history of racial inequalities, the Foundation wishes to express its continued commitment to that same Aloha spirit Reverend Akaka expressed so simply and eloquently. As with the United States as a whole, Hawai’i’s history, since the time of its first contact with Europeans, has at times been beset by racism and oppression, effects of which linger today. Our mission, set for us by the example of the late Senator Akaka and the indigenous people of these islands, is based on the principles of Aloha ‘Āina and Malama ‘Āina, ancient philosophies that are by their very definitions inclusive of all the peoples of a land.
It was in the spirit of those Hawaiian ideals that Senator Akaka promoted legislation to recognize Asian-American veterans who fought for the United States in World War II, resulting in belated and posthumous medals finally being awarded, and worked for compensation for members of the Phillipine Scouts, a unit made up mostly of Filipino and Filipino-Americans who fought for the United States in World War II but were denied the usual benefits for U.S. veterans.
In addition, Akaka fought for the descendents of native Hawaiians to be recognized as indigenous people who deserved federal benefits alongside other indigenous peoples of U.S. territories. While that particular fight remains to be decided, the Akaka Foundation continues to value the traditions of the island’s native inhabitants by working to wed an ancient and symbiotic relationship with ‘Āina with with more western ideas of forest preservation. Our hope is to foster a kind of stewardship that benefits not just Hawaii in the abstract and the planet as a whole, but also the diverse populations of Hawai‘i in a direct, local way. Stewardship, for us, means both community involvement and community benefit.
The foundation recognizes that the goals of inclusion and diversity in our larger mission are contingent upon listening to voices in our communities. We strive to hear the concerns not just of the most vocal and privileged, but also, and especially, those whose voices sometimes don’t rise above the din of public discourse due to factors beyond their control. Part of this, we hope, is accomplished through community outreach and discussion, but we also believe in a philosophy of diverse hiring practices that strives to bring those local voices into our ranks.
As with much of our country, there is still a lot of work we can do to address the inequalities and injustices that continue to harm people along racial divides, and our hope is to continue to listen to those who have so often been left out of the conversation. We reserve the belief that one way to address these issues is by restoring a sense of community responsibility to the land, the ‘Āina that sustains us.