The Kekauoha ‘Ohana and the Halekūlani

Kekauoha FamilyI can’t express the depth of my admiration for the way my friend Weldon Kekauoha and his wife Rona have handled this incredible situation. Weldon’s wife Rona was approached by a security guard at the Halekūlani Hotel after another hotel guest suspected that they were not guests (because they looked local) and requested that security confirm that they were guests. After doing so, he refused to confirm that the complaining guest was a registered guest herself. The attitude of the visitor who initiated the incident, private security guard who first approached their ‘ohana, and supervisors up the line including the hotel’s general manager share culpability.

As this was going down, I couldn’t help but flash back to what happend to my family and I when we were turned away by an immigration officer at Dublin Airport. Not long after we returned, someone said to me “well, I guess you’ll never be going back to Ireland again”. To his suprised, I said, yes, of course I would. I couldn’t hold an entire country, land of many of my ancestors, to blame for the acts of a single misguided individual. Whether his actions were the result of discrimination against our multi-racial and multi-ethnic family (something I found hard to accept but suspected by our many friends there) or not, we’ll never know.

The hotel has reached out an apologizied to Weldon, a Grammy-nominated and Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winning recording artist. But one has to wonder if the “corrective actions” taken by the hotel will result in real change. I do take issue with their claim that they “have taken all corrective actions necessary”. How do we know what they’ve done? How does Weldon? I don’t believe that they should be the ultimate arbiters of what is necessary. Perhaps bringing in the The Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA) or the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce or other agency is warranted. It seems that there needs to be an institutional intervention here, and not just one targetting the pesonnel involved in this event.

There are many out there, in discussion forums and Facebook comments, that they will never patronize Hakekūlani again. If any lesson can be learned here is that there is always something to learn, a way to make a negative into a positive. If there was indeed institutional discrimination, bias, or bigotry going on at Halekūlani or other hotels in our state, this is an opporunity to address it. They should be given the opportunity and motivation to do so.

10 thoughts on “The Kekauoha ‘Ohana and the Halekūlani

  1. Wanda Certo

    There is a methodology in obtaining corrective actionL 1. Identify the problem (which Weldon did). 2. The organization needs to develop a problem statement. 3. Determine the corrective actions to take for the immediate incident as well as for systemic problems, i.e., what happened in their organizational culture that permitted the incident to occur. 4. A corrective action plan. 5. Implement the corrective action(s) and finally and most importantly 6. Follow-up to determine the effectiveness of corrective actions. Let us hope that the Halekulani will seriously address the issues. I would wish that they would provide their corrective action plans, implementation and follow-up with Weldon if they are seriously sorry for what happened to Weldon and his `ohana.

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  2. Harry Betancourt

    FROM HOTEL WEBSITE In May, House without a Key hosts guest musicians for four Tuesday evenings as a nod to the hotel-wide continuing commitment to fostering and supporting the arts.
    These special musicians spotlighted are part of Mele Mei, a state-sponsored music and dance festival, which aims to celebrate Hawaii’s music and make the state of Hawaii the destination for national and international participants and visitors. The musicians are selected for their pedigree; they are all recipients or nominees of the popular Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, often considered the Islands’ Grammy Awards and mark of musical excellence.”

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    1. Harry Betancourt

      The Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce should have a word with this ‘elite’ organization and get written assurances ‘security’ be neutral and even handed.
      Monitored henceforth as in ‘strike one’ …..

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  3. tiare reed-hauanio

    they should have made the complaining guest leave!! Halekulani needs to change it’s name to Haolekulani. They want to make money off our land and our culture but in truth they HATE Hawaiians. What a bunch of Bigots! Haolekulani is a BIGOT Hotel!!

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  4. Casina Waterman

    Eo! You are so right. Many incidents occur and we don’t follow up with changing the cycle. This occurs quite frequently to the Hotel Industry workers. They strive to give their guests a very comfortable, and memorable experience. Discrimination in any form should not be tolerated. I know first hand. Mahalo for the write up and Aloha goes out to Weldon Kekauoha Ohana.

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  5. Starr

    Absolutely! I am grateful the kekauoha ‘ohana was gracious and courageous enough to handle this situation with integrity and aloha. And it is inspiring. And Hawaiians are everywhere feeling the collective pain that I saw on Weldon’s face AND it is a good thing to bring to light and address, with open hearts and minds, not clouded by our the scars we carry. It is time to HEAL.

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  6. bully

    Keola, my wonderful friend and ‘brother’ I apologize for my lack of participation in your awesome blog. You are a wealth of knowledge and mana as we all know. I always enjoy your contributions to us Hawaiians as well as to Humanity! This story about Weldon’s recent experience at Halekulani is something that many of us Hawaiians have experienced in our own home. Our lands if you will. But, hey I don’t ‘own’ any property in Hawaii and have recently moved to the mainland due to my life’s circumstances. However, I’m not complaining mind you. Just establishing a geographical fact if you will. My heart will always be Hawaii:) I am Hawaiian and have the pedigree to prove it :) Lot of good that does me. I am ashamed I cannot speak the language. Hell I barely speak English well. :)

    The bottom line is that there exists all kinds of prejudice. There are many who white and have white blood who are NOT “ha’ole”. There are many with Hawaiian blood who act “ha’ole”. I see the treatment of Weldon and his family as not one of skin color but one of the color of his money if you will. Socio-economic prejudice is one of the hardest things to prove yet it’s very blatant. Do you own a place in Kahala? Or Black Point? I don’t. I don’t know many Hawaiians or ANY Hawaiians that do. How about Diamond Head? Or even Waikiki itself? I’m talking REALLY OWN the property. LAND and ALL! We’ve been “forced out” of our own lands as the Native American Indians have been forced to be thankful for the many desolate places they have been ‘sequestered’.

    You know I’ve worked for and with Hawaii’s Charter Schools since 2002. I’ve loved it! I loved with the schools and school leaders at that time were fighting for. I loved that they placed a high importance on our rich Hawaiian culture. More importantly the language.

    A very good friend of mine whose daughter was studying birds explained that the birds “listen for the song of another of their kind” That was to help them navigate and to make sure they got back from their journeys for food and needs for their survival.

    You sang and continue to sing our song. You’re responsible for Apple’s having Hawaiian fonts and keyboard capability on their operating system since the introduction of OS X. That may not mean much to others but, to this day I think that’s AWESOME! I love you for it! :) I’ve been able to share that little tidbit with my grandkids. I’m very proud to have met the man who did that for my keiki! :)

    I doubt anyone but you will read this and I don’t really care. But, the main point and reason for even taking a moment to do this on your blog is to tell you that I CARE brah! I’m only one person. I should probably “practice what I preach” and learn Hawaiian. But, I’m proud to have grandchildren who speak the language and understand our culture better as a result of doing so.

    I just don’t want them to learn the wrong things that life will throw at them. I want them to embrace all their differences. I have grandchildren who are part Hawaiian, part Chinese, part Japanese, part Tongan, part Mexican, part Portuguese (that’s white ain’t it?) part Irish, English, Scottish, French, North African (yup we got black blood in our family too) and whatever else I may have forgotten. The point is. who are they to or who would they be if they made overt prejudiced remarks against a particular race, color or creed? They wouldn’t be any better than the person they’re attempting to “put down” with racially derogatory comments. Don’t get me wrong. I am NO angel. I have done this more times that I hate to admit. but, hey, I’ve also learned to stop that behavior. Because it is not right. That simple. I’m 58 and still have a long way to go. But, let me tell you this my man. I am and have been blessed by knowing wonderful human beings in my life such as yourself.

    I guess the real point to this is commentary is that we have to investigate from within to understand our own prejudices and the prejudices of others. We have to embrace education of the self. Learning our weaknesses and strengths no matter how long it takes to do it. As long as we have breath we can learn. :) I learned that Weldon was and is a class act. His rants were placed on Facebook. An excellent use of social media for sure. Although his intent wasn’t to cause racial tension he did bring up a point that many of Hawaiians can relate to. We are and have always been treated as “low class citizens” if that. I can go on and on relating experiences in my life that will only serve to support the treatment or more accurately the mistreatment of our people. I have been called “nigger”, “spic”, “dago” “wop” in my life. It only served to anger me for not being recognized as Hawaiian. How’s that for a kicker huh? :) I can tell you that I didn’t handle myself with class in many of those instances. I was young, foolish, prideful, rebellious and cocky (to say the least) and usually ended up in violent confrontations as a result of it. Weldon has my vote for being a class act as a result of his experience, his spirit and his own sense of honor. At least that’s my opinion. He also makes me proud to be Hawaiian because of his actions. He didn’t act foolish or “take matters into his own hands” physically. He wrote. He expressed his rage through writing. He told his side of his story and someone listened. A whole lot of someones. Some of the replies made me cringe because, in my humble opinion, it was emotionally driven and therefore re-active rather than pro-active support. Hey, I understand that too. I was that way when I first started with the Charter Schools. Literally to the point of making a stupid statement about how HI DOE didn’t know s–t :) Hey,I still believe that but then again, who am I?

    Anyway brah, that’s my “2 cents”. Being part “Potogee” probably took it up to a nickel :) Oh well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! :) Mahalo for being a brother and friend to me and many others who have had the honor and privilege of knowing you. And Mahalo to Weldon for sharing his story. Halekulani had the class to send a very positive reply to Weldon and his ‘ohana. That was awesome! :)

    a hui hou :)

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  7. Marnie Weeks

    I wondered how this visitor got the impression that only haoles were guests at this hotel, so I went to the Halekulani website and looked at every page. While there are only a few photos on the site, they feature haoles (mostly blonde) as guests and mixed Asian-Hawaiian (what we would call “local”) only as entertainers or the staff ready to cater to a guest’s every need. Clearly, this image of resort life from colonial days persists and needs to be updated. So, one thing the Halekulani can do immediately is fix their website and promotional material to reflect a balanced racial profile of both guests and staff. And then make sure it’s true.

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  8. roger anderson

    i been trying for about three weeks to find more info on the kekauoha family genealogy because i have been wondering about my mom’s side of the ohana.my mother is rosemary kamailei(kamae)anderson she is the daughter of gloria kekauoha. so if you can help me with this or give me a website so can look it up………………. thank you very much………..

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