LAHAINA - Queen Lili?uokalani was the star recently at Lahaina Public Library, when a cultural group honored the deposed monarch with readings, music and discussion in a program called "The Legacies of Queen Lili'uokalani."
Part of a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the state library system, the session took on a somber tone after a film about the queen's life story.
Some 75 attentive listeners crowded the newly refurbished library to hear passages from the queen's classic autobiography, "Hawaii's Story," sing "Aloha'Oe," which she composed, and share their own feelings amid tears and laughter.
A crowd of 75 heard tributes to Queen Lili'uokalani at Lahaina Public Library and shared their opinions on the overthrow of the monarchy.
Some 37,000 residents of the Hawaiian Kingdom had petitioned the U.S. government to reverse the annexation of the islands and restore the monarchy. There were only about 4,000 people opposed.
"All of us have been disenfranchised," Launiupoko resident Irene McPhee noted. She told Lahaina News after the program that "we are a part of the 99 percent," an apparent reference to the fact that the overthrow was largely engineered by a small group of businessmen, with the majority of citizens opposing the change.
The celebration addressed issues surrounding the overthrow that Hawaiians "don't say much about, but we feel it," said Leimalama Lee Loy, head of the 150-year-old Iolani Guild founded by the queen herself. The guild planned the event in partnership with the state library system.
In a telephone interview from Oahu, Loy noted that newcomers to Hawaii "sometimes ask if we are angry. We aren't. It is done, and we have moved on."
Asked for short descriptions of their reaction to the presentation, one woman began by saying, "I felt shame." Another said, "it brought back the pain," and another commented, "I had an overwhelming sadness." Hearing excerpts from the autobiography, a fourth said he was struck by what a wonderful writer the queen was.
One longtime resident born on Oahu, who now lives on Maui, said, "I have hope. I have never felt like an outsider here. As a child, I once thought I was malihini (newcomer) because of the color of my skin. I was quickly corrected. You are kama'aina - one of our family," she was told by Hawaiian friends.
"I have always felt embraced and hope that what Hawaii's people have taught me, I can carry on," the attendee said.
Kahu David Kapaku, whose descendants have been here for centuries, said his prevailing view is that he is "invisible." Calling the meeting informative for visitors, he told Lahaina News later that the event did not address some of the things he is most concerned about.
"Two years ago, we were at 20 percent; today we are at 15 percent. The U.S. is still lending a deaf ear to Hawaiian issues. Our voices are relegated to cultural issues as long as we perform hula, speak Hawaiian, paddle canoe, etc. We are Hawaiian," he said
Hawaiians don't speak out on other big issues, such as economics.
"We are still being viewed as minorities in our own land," he said.
Providing a light touch with earthy language, another long-timer of Hawaiian and Japanese ancestry complained about the quality of poi, the staple food of Hawaiians, which today is watered down, she said.
"You have to grow your own, otherwise it is $6 a pound," she noted, compared to 49 cents a pound for potatoes, today's stable.