Special to Hawaii 24/7 by Roya Sabri
At the end of my first day as an intern under Margaret Masunaga, Deputy Director of the County of Hawaii Planning Department, I found myself sitting in the courtyard of the Mauna Lani Resort’s shopping center watching the film “Aunty Nona Beamer.”
Part of the Big Island Film Festival it told the story of Nona Beamer and how she revitalized the Hawaiian culture through her constant aloha spirit.
Nona lived aloha in the music she played. She lived aloha in her love for the language and the hula. She lived aloha by truly respecting Hawaii’s history and its people.
One of her students even said “she was Hawaii.”
Keola Beamer said she frequently reminded him to “Malama ko Aloha” or to keep his love. After reflecting upon my first day as an intern for the Hawaii Planning Department, I realized that this was my biggest lesson for the job.
It was a late day.
I met Margaret at the office at 2:30 p.m. to go to the Mauna Lani Resort where the Big Island Film Festival was taking place for the weekend. We were going to the Mayor’s Welcome Reception, which was an, “invitation only welcome to filmmakers, press, sponsors, and Ali’i Pass holders.”
Though I wasn’t a member of any of these categories, Margaret was considerate to invite me to join her on this special evening.
Mayor Billy Kenoi’s welcoming speech at the festival was a tribute to storytelling. He lauded the Big Island Film Festival for bringing the art of storytelling via film to the island.
Later, when Margaret and I were sitting down to watch a few films after the reception, the festival showed a promotional clip with three men sitting in lounge-chairs on the beach debating the value of the experience of watching blockbuster films versus that of investing in independent films.
The blockbuster in the film industry parallels the role of the car in transportation planning. Both have roles in their respective fields, but have spread like fountain grass. They have become monopolies which promote consumer culture, that which contrasts the values of independent films and public transportation, both of which are more sensitive to the place within which they reside.
Aunty Noni reintroduced real Hawaiian music to a place where hapa-haole assumptions of Hawaii had become the prevalent culture. She did the equivalent of replanting the native forest where fountain grass had taken over. Everything has its niche in a place, but the ecosystem is placed out of balance when one component forgets aloha.
On my second day, Margaret mentioned that when attending a community event, it is better to dress in aloha-wear than to wear a suit. With a suit, one may seem presumptuous. With aloha-wear, one is promoting an image of respect for the community.
This message resonated with me after my first day at the film festival. I am so grateful to have been reintroduced to the concept of aloha on my first day of work. I can now come to work every day with the purpose of connecting with Hawaii’s story of aloha.
With this purpose in mind, I may be more able to help promote the aloha that is an inherent foundation of Hawaii.
(Roya Sabri is interning at the county Planning Department at West Hawaii Civic Center. She was valedictorian graduate at Kealakehe High School last year and currently attends Cornell University, where she is studying Planning, and Landscape Architecture. She has a special interest in plants native to Hawaii.)