Kumu Crew: Outreach

May 4, 2016

In from Starr Johnson ‘98


Yesterday we had a busy day doing outreach to diverse groups. Our morning started in a small Episcopal Church meeting hall with the Rotary Club, briefly sharing with the service organization about our voyage. They were keenly interested in both Hōkūle'a and what we have learned during the past two years of the Malama Honua voyage. Although our presentation and Q&A was brief, they appreciated our visit and even took a photo to put in their newsletter.

We then whipped across a few towns into Norfolk, VA, to do outreach at Campostella Elementary, a public elementary school which appeared to be entirely African-American – principal, faculty and students. Of particular excitement from the five of us on the education team was that Pharrell Williams' (singer) son was in the class we were visiting – so we were "HAPPY!" (If you know his song you get it!) We did not just meet with one class of second graders but three. All at once!

For those in the Winnie Units, you can imagine that having 60 second-graders in a cafeteria with little to no open space was a bit of a challenge, but still a great time! We shared our oli kahea, showed them our updated video from the stops of 2015 which is particularly engaging for younger students because it shows a lot of youth and indigenous peoples from around the world dancing. It was interesting to observe the young students watch the film because they would giggle with all the cultural clips of which they were unfamiliar (hula, Aboriginal and Balinese dancing). For some it seemed as if they had never even heard of Hawai‘i, so it was especially exciting for us to have them leave the cafeteria knowing what "aloha", "mahalo" and "Malama Aina" meant!

After the short film, we broke them up into groups to explore working with lines (ropes), canoe gear and the star compass. Moani (fellow crew member and my former student from Hakipu‘u Learning Center) even taught them all the names and motions to memorize the houses of the Hawaiian star compass. They were such a spirited and active bunch of kids and their enthusiasm was infectious. They all wanted to do every station first and over and over again. When they left they were heading out the door yelling "aloha!" Although Jim Crow Laws are thankfully long gone, it has been apparent that the communities we have visited are not very blended. Schools and communities seem to be almost entirely white or entirely black, which has been a new experience for us coming from Hawai‘i.

Almost all the coastal towns, schools and sailing or boating communities we have interacted with have been almost entirely white, so we all enjoyed taking the drive to a district further away to work with this vibrant and wonderful community and school!

When we arrived back in Yorktown we made both ourselves and Hōkūle'a look tidy because we had a VIP canoe tour with the president and provost of the College of William and Mary. I was a bit nervous knowing that the president of such a fine university and his wife would be asking us questions, but they were all really nice and in the end not so intimidating.

Following the tour, while shoving pizza down in the car, we rushed off to get to a lecture we had to give, hosted by Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (William and Mary). The event was well attended, mostly by retirees, but also some college students. Three of our crew members presented different aspects of Polynesian Voyaging and this voyage.

Kaniela did a fantastic job sharing about canoe life; whether the audience is a group of second-graders or octogenarians, he captures their attention with incredible humor, knowledge and sincerity. It has been really awesome watching him and all our crew members get stronger and more comfortable presenting both formally and informally.

Thankfully, today was not nearly as busy as yesterday, but just as important, because we took time to malama and aloha our māmā Hōkūle'a. Emptying every birth, we scrubbed her til she gleamed! Cleaning is important on any ocean-going vessel, but feels especially intimate when cleaning and caring for Hōkū. The entire crew felt so proud of our clean wa‘a! Because Kaniela and I were asked to serve as captains since Uncle Bruce left, we had to take a photo to send to our dear Captain Bruce so he would know we were keeping up his tidy ways and giving Hōkūle'a the love she deserves. Leg 20 flies in over the next couple days and they will be happy to take over such a beauty!

Mahalo for following!