banner


 

 

I happened to be watching television the moment the verdict in the Rodney King trials were announced. I remember hearing the story and simultaneously, in my head, seeing fire and smoke over an LA skyline. I said aloud to a friend, "Oh my god, LA is going up in flames!" I knew riots would break out and I knew they'd be widespread. I was devastated.

The next day I woke up "knowing" I had to organize a gathering - a demonstration of community grief and outrage. I had never done anything like that before, but I just knew I had to do it
I was teaching a meditation class at the time and told a few members of my class what I needed to do. I never knew what my students did in their life or jobs but it turned out that two of them were in television and radio. They knew how to get information out and offered to help me organize the demonstration. Waikiki was selected as the site because it is a place where the international community comes to stay on O'ahu.

Over 500 people showed up at Triangle Park that evening. I still had no idea of what I was going to say. I had made about 50 leis from plumeria that friends and I collected from graveyards around the island. I was passing them out when I was handed the mike and told I had to say something. At this point, I was beyond nervous. I was in Dali-land. Out of my mouth however came a prayer for guidance. I asked the ancestors how we were meant to believe in the goodness of life when all around us we saw corruption; how we were to keep the faith in our community and institutions when those institutions reflected faithlessness and degradation. I called upon god and the ancestors to show themselves to us, to give us a sign that greater realities existed than the ones we were used to seeing. Everything poured out of me like I was in a bathroom without control of my bowels.


 

When I ran out of things to say, I found myself exhorting the crowd to scream out their pain, their angst, their rage. Five hundred people, making a lei around the park by holding hands, stood staring at me. I waited a second and began to scream from the deep pit of my belly. It was a wail that expressed the darkness of my own soul and it pulled all the breath out of me. In the stunned silence that followed, my lungs were desperately trying to fill themselves with another scream. But before I could recover, a man I had never seen before - judging by his crewcut and stature, I pegged him as military - jumped into the circle and started screaming. There was no mistaking his angst and frustration. A woman beside him started crying. Then more and more people began wailing, screaming and yelling. Regular everyday kind of people - local and tourist - out of their own confusion and horror, were screaming. The cameramen from the TV stations put down their cameras and started screaming. The chief of police, a legislator, even the cops who were there to watch over the crowd, all joined in the screaming.

After that I invited people to speak out in an open mike session. When the energy shifted, a march ensued down Kalakaua Avenue. After the first marchers returned to the park, it began to rain. In Hawai'i, there is a belief that when nature shows itself, like through rain, at the end of or during an event, it is a sign - ho'ailona - of spiritual blessing.

Mamo Kim, 2003