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So, she would just make us read, so we had our noses buried in Tolkien when we were like, fourth grade, and then we were just reading Albert Camus in seventh grade. So, kind of like embracing like, intellectualism, if you will. And like, I call it the blessed schizophrenia of trying to reconcile these three separate, completely different worlds; right? Like, I mean, being part of restoring our ancestral practices and being immersed in not just taro farming, but community organizing. The other was like, just having a love of reading, and especially like, not just reading to escape, but authors that like, more philosophical bent; right? You know, and like, those three realities kind of didn’t sit well with each other, especially as I got older and my peers became more and more who I identified with, and I started to reject the other two a little bit more.

That kind of took a while to weave those three strands back together into something.

Kamuela Enos’ vision for his community of Waiʻanae on West O‘ahu considers his deep regard for ancestral values, as well as an appreciation for contemporary innovation. Kamuela Enos Audio Download the Transcript Transcript The poverty we see in our community—and I say this a lot, was recent and learned behavior.

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Like anything that you’re taught, you can unlearn too.

So, it became like, well, how do I unlearn this, how do I find a way to restore, you know, that sense of purpose, that sense of connection. Kamuela Enos is the director of social enterprise at Mao Organic Farms in Waianae, Oahu, a low-income area where he offers internships to teenagers and young adults.

Versus, you’re stupid, you don’t know how to sit in a classroom. you know, we were all doing that together as a way to lift each other up. And you can make a bad platform, as well as a good one. Kamuela Enos’ parents did not insist that he return to high school after dropping out during his senior year. But he could see the test scores, and he was like: Everyone here is struggling; you shouldn’t be in this line. Then I went from like, I’m going to celebrate getting my GED, to it was a long and reflective drive home to Waianae. And you’re not there as a calling, you’re there because you have to be.

She also brought air conditioning to her media classes. It was a fun that was really volatile, and it became un-fun really quickly. However, they required two things: he had to earn a general education diploma or GED, and he needed to get a job. And what that really lifted up for me was the time I spent in Kaala with my dad. Like, we’re working in a place where we’re caring for land.

Did it get bad, sometimes result in people getting hurt? But to me, it became something to reflect on, ‘cause it’s not just the thing that happens in our communities, it happens in communities all over; right? How people respond to historical traumas, and what vehicles or mediums are there for them to medicate. Kamuela did so, working minimum wage jobs after picking up his GED from Waipahu High School. We weren’t making a lot of money, but we had a sense of purpose, I had a sense of love for what I did.

So, do you think you and your friends didn’t know it, but you were feeling the effects of historical trauma? There was this older Japanese guy who was handing out the GED diplomas kinda just looked at me and he’s like: What are you doing? He was like: What are you doing; you shouldn’t be in this line. And it was at that point that I realized the value. I was like, you know, not only was I unhappy in the jobs that I was doing, but more important, I felt a lot of people I was working with was unhappy, and I felt like I want to do something about this dynamic. You go to college, and you drop out of college, [CHUCKLE] ‘cause you realize that you’re unprepared to go to college.And then, he took up work with an organization that worked directly with at-risk youth. it was called The Rap Center, where he began to take students—young adults, actually, not students, that were kind of out of the system, hanging out at the beach parks, walking in the mountains, to kinda get them away from where they would just hang out and associate, and do all the things that were leading to their delinquency, back up into the mountains to kinda understand, take them out of their environment and put them in a new environment. I think back in the 70s, it was just like: You know what? And I think that was a really important thing for me to understand.And there, he started seeing all the remnants of the taro patches. We’re just gonna clear this place out, bring water down, and reclaim it. Like, he wasn’t just trying to reclaim ability to grow food, but he was trying to reclaim the ability to grow people, and therefore, the ability to regrow community.He comes from an ohana of cultural practitioners who turned to the wisdom of the past to create a better future for their struggling communities. One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox. They work on the farms in exchange for a stipend and college tuition assistance.After a few stumbles of his own, Enos found his path to his calling in life: serving others, while perpetuating Hawaiian ancestral responsibilities. His father, Eric Enos, is a cultural practitioner and activist who co-founded Kaala Farms years before Mao with a similar mission to heal at-risk youth by having them connect with their roots. I think part of what I think the reality was, is to be raised in a family that was doing something that was in front of a curve. My father was Eric Enos, one of the founders of Kaala Farms, was doing aina work, restoring traditional practices, what is now an actual industry. It was borne out of this idea reclaiming land and identity as a response to the Hawaiian renaissance, of having had that part of our identity kind of been told explicitly to step away from.You know, it’s important for you to assimilate into contemporary American society, and to, you know, be a good American, and to take all the vestiges of your ancestry, your language, your practices, and put that behind you. You know, I remember that, ‘cause I was really young.

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