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Josie Howard of We Are Oceania is honored as MLK Peacemaker

Each year, Church of the Crossroads (Honolulu, Hawai‘i) honors and recognizes a leader from the community through their Martin Luther King, Jr. Peacemaker Award.

Pictured: Josie Howard, 2022 MLK Peacemaker Award Honoree, and Jim Howell, Chair of MLK Peacemaker Award planning committee. Photos courtesy of Christy MacPherson.


Crossroads member Cheryl Ho, who nominated Josie Howard for the award, recalls two dates in the past year. April 5, 2021: the police shooting on Kalākaua Avenue which led to the death of Iremamber Sykap, a 16-year-old Chuukese youth; and April 14, 2021: the police shooting in Nu‘uanu which led to the death of Lindani Myeni, a South African professional rugby player, husband, and father of two young children.


Her intention is to highlight the need for awareness of the systemic racism that results in things like police violence against Micronesians, Blacks, and other marginalized communities.


In an uwē (lament), Cheryl expressed her otherwise inexpressible sorrow and anger for our not having known the stories of these two persons—and in the case of the youth, the legacy of generations of trauma his people inherited as victims of U.S. nuclear testing.


Cheryl shares the English translation of her lament:

…My throat was dry; no tears; my voice was empty… But now, here is my voice, wrung from the depths of my being: Alas!!! Alas!!! Where are you, both of you? Grandson of your grandparents; Precious child of your parents; Beloved of your wife; Protector of your babies; of your brothers and sisters— Wail for your families; Wail for your grandparents; Wail for your wife; for your babies; Wail for your brothers and sisters; for your friends… Alas~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Pardon me please, both of you: Where were you from? "From Chuuk, the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean." "From KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa.” Alas…… I wanted to be able to talk with you…I am so sorry...


"My nomination of Josie Howardʻs work as worthy of a Peacemaker in the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. was a partial response to that lament. It symbolizes a hope that we will gradually grow into relationships of mutual trust, knowledge, and understanding with the Pacific Islander community encompassed by We Are Oceania," shared Ho in her introduction of Howard as the MLK Peacemaker.

five people standing and smiling for a photo at Church of the Crossroads

Pictured: David Popham, Jim Howell, Josie Howard, Cheryl "Hi‘ipoi" Ho, Linda Rich (Crossroads Worship Committee). Photo courtesy of David Takagi.


Church of the Crossroads' Moderator Lee Takagi shares:

Josie Howard, CEO of We Are Oceania (WAO), was celebrated on August 14th as Church of the Crossroads’ 2022 recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker award. In 1989 she established WAO in response to the growing needs of the Micronesian/Pacific Islander community. Josie has followed Dr. King in the way she gives voice and visibility to Hawai‘i’s newest and oldest immigrants, the people of the Pacific Islands. Josie spoke about humility, how initially it was hard to accept this honor, as her Chuukese culture celebrates people working together as ‘ohana, not being held up individually and honored.

Staff from the Youth Empowerment Center, which Josie started last year, accompanied her and shared slides of their work in the schools and with the Pacific Islander community. A special offering was collected to support the vital work of WAO. We encourage you to support their work at weareoceania.org.

The sermon, entitled "Enduring", and based on Hebrews 11:29-12:2, was given by Hawai‘i Conference Minister David Popham. Rennie Mau, moderator of Hawai‘i PAAM (Pacific Islander Asian American Ministries of the UCC) and pastor of Ewa Community Church, and members of his congregation also joined the celebration.

Crossroads member Kumu Hi‘ipoi Ho’s granddaughters danced a hula composed for the modern voyaging canoe, Mo‘olele. They danced to also celebrate master Micronesian navigator Mau Piailug who trained Nainoa Thompson to become a navigator. Church member Will Kyselka initially taught Nainoa the stars of the northern and southern hemispheres in many sessions at the Bishop Museum Planetarium.

Photo courtesy of Christy MacPherson

Also part of the celebration was Ewa Community Church who visits a sister church every month. Myrna-Lyn Abang shares highlights of their visit in this video:


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