Exclusive Excerpt

Excerpted from African Americans in Hawai`i: A Search For Identity
With Introduction by Kathryn Waddell Takara, PhD.

The contents of this book are straight and unforgettable. Through reading these selected essays and interviews that validate Hawaii’s African Americans’ contributions and the historical issues, the reader will also discover issues of identity and pain, resulting from the derogatory images of blacks in western art, literature, and the media that have permeated the local psyche and eroded a positive self image and respect for blacks.

The reader of this book will be left with fresh new images of and respect for blacks in Hawai`i, after learning of their 19th century migrations, leadership roles, successes and contributions to the whaling industry, medicine, business, education, science, civil service, the arts, social work, the military, and politics. The reader will learn that some blacks, before Oprah and other celebrities who have bought homes in the islands, have lived large and often very successful lives and often gone unrecognized in the lush and verdant beauty of the Hawaiian Islands.

In this book, Adams presents selective histories of black residents in the Islands. She presents interviews of some outstanding black residents who talk story, politics and ethics, chewing the water, sharing their experiences of life in the Islands. She presents significant cultural and community organizations and events demonstrating how the small African American community, especially on O`ahu and Maui, works together to perpetuate values and to build a strong community and exemplify their civic responsibilities.

Adams recognizes the power of words to represent and unveil history. She includes essays documenting migrations of blacks to Hawai`i in the 1800s and the histories of those black men who left slavery, families, and/or communities behind. Their initial acceptance into a generous and welcoming local Hawaiian community, their contributions to the small and evolving cultural and business worlds are extolled. Some chapters reveal the increasing alienation and exclusion of blacks and Hawaiians in the growing immigrant community, leading to the current paucity of blacks in the islands compared with other immigrant groups, including Caucasians, Asians, Southeast Asians and Europeans, given their relatively strong representation and successes amongst the foreigners in the early 1800s.

Black contributions to the military in the Pacific theater, island politics, education, sports, medicine and culture are highlighted. The struggle of blacks to navigate between race and culture, ethnicity and history, has been energized by their enduring spiritual tradition, gallons of patience and buckets of hope. As blacks slowly emerge from a storm of stereotypes, unseen sharks of prejudice still lurk just below the surface of respectability and fair play in the form of glass ceilings, preferential hiring patterns, poverty and homelessness, absence in the media, invisibility in advertisements and tourism, and lingering images that stereotype, demonize, or otherwise make blacks look different and inferior.

Unfortunately, the role of blacks in world civilization and history is almost unknown in the islands, and in the past, youth, especially those with dark skins, have had few positive role models to inspire them to strive for success. With the recent election of President Obama, it is hoped that there will soon be a more balanced teaching of black history in the Department of Education and higher education in Hawai`i, including mythology of ancient dark skinned African gods and goddesses, like Osiris, Isis, Nefertiti, the Queen of Sheba, the early African architects and astronomers, the black Magi, the ancient African universities and history of medicine and surgery, the mathematicians who envisioned the Pyramids, the black Madonnas and Saints, the countless agriculturalists, environmentalists, musicians, actors, healers, dancers, and the genius of black inventors, scientists, and artists. If for no other reason than the future unity of our country is at risk, the values of continuity and connectedness seem important goals to cleave to.

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