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Top Paradise Islands

Storyteller, Scientist, and Spirit of the World

By Brittany P. Anderson

The cobalt blue ocean strikes gently throughout the horizon whereas an azure sky is dotted with wisps of cotton sweet clouds—it’s an idyllic day on the Hāmākua Coast. A grounding voice breaks the silence, like rocks tumbling within the winter surf; when Kalani speaks, even the clouds cease to pay attention.

M. Kalani Souza’s information of Hawaiian tradition, science, and the humanities intertwine to kind the person that tales can be instructed about lengthy after he leaves this realm. Revered Hawaiian kupuna (elder), unafraid of talking fact, Kalani sat down to speak story about his life, his distinctive outlook on the world, and what he sees for our future.

A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okāhi
All information isn’t taught in the identical college

M. Kalani Souza. photograph courtesy of Tom Zablan

It was recognized early on that Kalani held an distinctive expertise, a disposition fitted to learning Hawaiian traditions. He was taken underneath his grandfather’s wing to study the ancestral customs and tradition. 

“Individuals say I’m a Hawaiian practitioner, however I achieved working towards, there’s no working towards, I’m simply Hawaiian,” Kalani says gruffly.

He grew up dwelling in Wailua Nui, Maui as a rustic boy along with his toes within the grime. Acknowledged for his pure skills, he secured a spot within the prestigious Punahou Faculty for fourth by means of eighth grade. Metropolis life in Honolulu was a big shift for the younger boy.

“I didn’t know I used to be a poor Hawaiian till I went to Punahou. The children defined it…kids could be merciless. I didn’t really feel poor,” he says in a hushed tone. 

On the finish of eighth grade, Kalani left Punahou and entered public college in Waipahu, the place his household lived. It was a stark distinction to the elite non-public college he beforehand attended. At the same time as an adolescent, he noticed the shortcomings of the general public training system. “Going to public college in Waipahu taught me quite a bit about how different individuals have been dwelling,” he says.

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Kalani moved to Kamehameha Colleges, which was once more a shift in perspective. Lecturers have been abuzz, labeling him as a former Punahou scholar, introducing him as such in every of his lessons. The opposite college students weren’t as thrilled with the newcomer. “The primary day I received into fights, the lecturers put a goal on my again as a result of now everybody thought I used to be this wealthy child,” he says mockingly. Kamehameha Colleges has a zero-tolerance coverage for preventing, however the principal understood the state of affairs and helped lead Kalani down the correct path.

Click on the quilt to see this story in our digital journal.

Going from being seen as poor to perceived as wealthy is an expertise that left a long-lasting impression. Receiving and enduring his classmates’ judgment opened his eyes to the concept that the human journey is one thing distinctive to every particular person. The younger man flourished at Kamehameha Colleges. By his junior yr, Kalani was voted class president, and the next yr elected scholar physique president.

It isn’t shocking that Kalani may go from being crushed as much as Mr. Recognition—he’s charismatic, eloquent, and possesses unchained intelligence.

After a brush with loss of life in 1988 the place he was introduced again to life at Queen’s Medical Middle on O‘ahu, Kalani’s life-course grew to become clearer. “All my elders have mentioned since ‘88 that you just had one thing necessary to do,” he continues with comedic pleasure, “Probably not how I felt about it. I’m so in love with life. I really like all the pieces. I ain’t by means of having experiences but. There may be a lot marvel right here—I simply needed to stay round.” 

He ali‘i ka ‘āina, he kauwā ke kanaka
The land is chief, man is her servant

Kalani greeting his mom in 2016. photograph courtesy of Jean Tanimoto

“We’re all related—all the pieces is related,” Kalani says after relaying the story of Wākea and Papahānaumoku. As a storyteller, he’s traveled worldwide delivering highly effective lectures bringing Hawaiian cultural values to the lots. He’s all the time engaged on one thing new—leading edge—but on the identical time steeped in historic custom.

Amongst his many roles, Kalani is a coastal neighborhood resilience coach with FEMA and serves as a cultural competency advisor for the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He’s referred to as to steer and take part in workshops on catastrophe preparedness, neighborhood relationships, information methods sharing, indigenous environmental stewardship, and local weather change adaptation.

It looks as if at each flip, Kalani is working with environmental leaders for the betterment of Hawai‘i Island and the planet. “Deal with the earth with the respect that you’d your elders as a result of that tiny sea creature may BE your nice, great-grandmother,” he says as we snort collectively at such fact. As he demonstrates, simply since you are science-minded doesn’t imply it’s a must to solid apart conventional Hawaiian ideas.

Kalani strikes between catastrophe planning, engaged on meals sovereignty points, writing numerous proposals, and recording podcasts. The undercurrent working between all of them is the power for dwelling creatures to outlive in concord collectively. 

There’s a sense of urgency in Kalani’s voice as he speaks on meals safety. Ever-present intense power surrounds him, and it heightens when speaking in regards to the island’s future, and the planet. 

“My grandfather all the time mentioned the most effective time to plant a tree was 10 years in the past,” Kalani says. He believes that everybody ought to put together for meals insecurity, a degree he says, “We’re going to hit.” Kalani speaks of emulating the early Hawaiians, rising and elevating sufficient meals for his or her communities. When making use of a cultural lens to meals safety and resiliency, he sees a community of small household farms and yard gardens producing sufficient meals for a household and their neighbors. To reside in a world of Kalani’s making can be like dwelling prior to now and the longer term on the identical time.

‘A‘ohe loa‘a i ka noho wale
Nothing is gained by idleness

Kalani with spouse Julie. photograph courtesy of John Russel

Kalani asks, “How can we get our greed, our consumption underneath management, so we will be part of the household of the planet once more?” There’s a lengthy pause till he unpacks the query. Kalani believes we’re all related to 1 one other, to the earth, and all the pieces round us. “You’re the earth encased in pores and skin,” he says. He isn’t solely off base. Based on research, soil and the human intestine comprise roughly the identical variety of lively microorganisms, however our intestine microbiome range decreased dramatically with our trendy way of life.

The important thing, as he explains, is for people to work together extra with nature and work collectively to make the planet more healthy. “Everybody’s received to do it higher,” he says passionately. “We have to throw the racism away as a result of all of us must work collectively to ensure we’ve clear water and clear air.” 

Kalani is an advocate of a paradigm shift, emphasizing moms and girls main society into a greater place. This outlook stems from his understanding of Hawaiian cultural values, which holds moms and girls as a car of transferring information. “For the sake of our kids we’d like ladies to steer,” he pleads.

To usher within the subsequent technology of leaders, Kalani is working with the UN Youth Advisory Council. “The following technology ought to have an equitable seat on the desk. The dedication of our framework ahead, we should always take the following technology into deep consideration, as a result of they are going to be taking on,” he relays in a sobering tone. 

The earnestness wherein he speaks is as refreshing as it’s polarizing. Choosing up on this he provides, “Individuals say, ‘Kalani why you bought to be so sincere about all the pieces? Can’t we sugarcoat it just a bit?’ No, not for the sake of the youngsters!”

Kalani acknowledges the tip of the plantation period has left kids up and down the Hāmākua Coast with few alternatives. “The suicide price for teenagers is excessive in Hāmākua. Once you develop up right here you don’t understand you reside in probably the most stunning place on earth,” he says concernedly. He speaks for a second about drug habit ripping the island aside, leaving hopelessness and despair in its wake. Based on the Jail Coverage Initiative, the overwhelming majority of these incarcerated in Hawai‘i are of native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander descent. 

Kalani (again row) sporting La‘amea’s helmet, pendant and cape. photograph courtesy of Luyrier “Pop” Diamond

“Youngsters assume, is that this all I’ve to sit up for? The few with alternative, luck, or brains go away.” Kalani is aware of that a lot of Hawai‘i Island’s proficient college students search alternatives off-island, solely to return with a renewed ardour for his or her island dwelling. “After they come again, they go to the land. They throw in and throw down as a result of they’ve been capable of exit and see the world and also you come again to understand what we’ve right here.”

Not all college students have the chance to go away Hawai‘i Island and expertise different cultures. They by no means have the possibility to return with a restored sense of function. Kalani sees this as an unbelievable alternative, as solely he can, to carry college students from world wide to the island. Considered one of his many initiatives is growing a UN college, to carry college students from different nations into the island neighborhood. “We will’t take all the youngsters on an around-the-world journey so why not carry youngsters from world wide right here?” he asks rhetorically. 

Kalani is as humble as he’s fascinating, clever as he’s sensible, balancing historic traditions with trendy points nimbly. The talk-story session involves a detailed simply as a seaborne violet cloud makes landfall. A heavy however passing bathe fills the house the place his voice as soon as held, as if deliberate as an encore efficiency by Kalani the kupuna, storyteller, scientist, and spirit of the world. ❖

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