By Alycia Grace, Fall 2016 Intern Alumna
It seems all the United States is buzzing about the recent presidential elections. The results have left us with a lot of questions - “I don’t know anyone who voted for Trump, how could he win?”, “Is he really the better of two evils?”, “Am I going to get deported?”, “Is anyone ever going to take our country seriously?”, “Is this the start of an apocalypse?”, “Did we enter a parallel universe?” A lot of Americans are experiencing a sense of insecurity and seem unsure of what to do about it besides complain. At least, that’s what my Facebook stream is showing me. The crew over at HiP Agriculture has a different take on the news. For them, the election is a call for action. To feast together, to share knowledge, and to dance.
This Saturday, HiP Agriculture is throwing the 7th Annual Kohala ‘Aina Festival, the Big Island’s largest party with a purpose. The festival falls every year at the beginning of Makahiki season. A time of rest, celebration, and for building communal bonds post harvesting season in Hawaii. The name Kohala ‘Aina derives from the location of the festival, North Kohala, and ‘Aina which means “that which nurtures.” This year co-founders Dash and Erika Kuhr are working with a team of 126 volunteers to bring 3,000 community members, teachers, and musicians to the land. Now, when others are feeling like the country has lost hope, is the time to see what good can happen when we all work together.
The Kohala ‘Aina Festival is a zero waste and off the grid event. If The United States does go up in flames, no one would really know until after 10pm. Everything entering the festival will be recyclable and reusable. Not sure which recycling bin to use? That’s okay, a volunteer will be there to help you make the right decision. The food will be all organic and grown on the island. Many booths will offer vegetarian and vegan options as well. Sean Murray, general stage manager and bass player for musical act Ka’ahele shares, “The best part of the Kohala ‘Aina Festival is the community, location, and overall high vibe and high intention set with the festival. Just more of a festival geared to sustainability, permaculture, education, Makahiki season, and Hawaiian culture. All those things rolled into a big party…” Just by merely attending this event, you have become an activist. Your presence and participation make a statement that you care. A level of consciousness is displayed when you choose to invest your time, energy, and dollars on a community level. And when the community comes together with a purpose anything is possible, even having a no trace event. No matter who the president is.
“A good friend of mine told me, 'friends don’t let friends put on events.' It's freakin' intense, and to throw yourself in that fire you have to be a hard core activist; it’s not for the faint of heart,” shares Dash. There’s a sense of peace amongst the chaos when there are so many people dedicated to the same cause. Friends have been arriving all week to help make the festival happen. “The air feels jovial and celebratory, I feel at peace about it all.. It is intense though,” says Dash. “After 7 years of hard work, this will be the first year we will really get to enjoy the festival and there’s so much support here.”
The festival is going to be a place where iron sharpens iron. Where learning is unintentional from like minds gathering but also intentionally woven in. “I’m really pleased with the layout of the festival this year and how the education and Keiki (kids) are at the heart of it. And on both sides of the sound system promoting the message outward, the music,” said Dash. This year Kohala ‘Aina will be offering workshops such as mycology, fermentation, and Hawaiian culture. As well as classes geared towards Keiki. Sean is stoked about education too. “This year I’m most looking forward to the Hawaiian education and seeing it take a higher roll in the festival….there’s so much knowledge to be gained and experienced, and shared with the community.” The first Kohala ‘Aina Festival was focused on food sovereignty education and the festival has held on to its roots as it has expanded. “We served a locavor feast and 80 people came, it was in the park,” shares Erika. There was no stage or ticketing booth. Just passionate farmers and good food.
Farmers are not the only ones concerned about the community and their food. Many musical artists sing the same tunes as the farmers and volunteers. This years headlining artists include names such as Paula Fuga, Nahko and Medicine for the People, OKA, Tubby Love, and Paul Izak. Other musicians are on the line-up are Hawane Rios, Ka’ahele, Fara Tolno, and many island artists. Sean shared the chosen musicians message best saying, “The rock star life style of the future is being super conscious and healthy and happy…not having superficial kind of things that might have been associated with success through out history.” I jokingly asked him, “Like sex, drugs, and rock & roll?” To which the bass player replied “Yeah, more like food, love, peace & understanding.”
This is a time for change. Trump isn’t going to make America great again. More community action is going to make America great. More education is going to make America great. More food sovereignty is going to make America great. And more dancing is going to make America great. Dash left me with these words: “There’s festivals all over the world right now. And young people are coming together to listen to music, learn, and transform. I think its time we use the festival movement to actually produce something beautiful in the world, beyond the festival. We need to start creating action. I’d like to see every festival start planting trees like, lots of trees…like, what are we f***** celebrating the end of civilization!? The destruction of our planet?! I don’t understand why people are gathering and celebrating. So at Kohala ‘Aina we are celebrating the education of youth, increased food production in our bioregion, and planting trees; it’s something that we should celebrate!” The papaya dressing on top of the salad, if you will, is that all funds raised from ticket sales and donations will go towards garden education in the public schools and hands on farm education.