KS Kapālama alumni champion Hawaiian approach to 2020 Census

Sept. 8, 2020

Contributed by Samuel Kippen

Kamehameha Schools Kapālama alumni Connor Kalāhiki KSK’19, Koloikeao Anthony KSK’19 and Leinani Roylo KSK’17 launched “Helu Kanaka,” an online initiative to improve Native Hawaiian participation in the 2020 Census. The campaign reframes the census in a Hawaiian historical and cultural context.

“Talking to kūpuna and peers, many have shared with us that they do not complete the census because of a baseline distrust for the government,” said Kalāhiki, who is pursuing a degree in environmental studies and public health at Brown University. “This distrust is rooted in our traumatizing history, but the only way to move forward is realizing the unique opportunity the census provides us to build our communities – to uplift the Lāhui. It is our kuleana.”

The group of KS graduates is running a digital media campaign in partnership with the Center for Native American Youth, which has provided funding for the project. At their website, helukanaka.com, community members can learn how to complete the census. The webpage also covers the history of census-taking in Hawai‘i, which dates back to before the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was established.

“While a negative prejudice against getting help from the government may be valid, this frustration and the lack of understanding within the Lāhui resulted in unsatisfactory participation in the decennial census,” said Anthony, a Stanford University art major. “Without the participation of the entirety of the Hawaiian community, there was a statewide misallocation of money and not enough resources were assigned to the health and well-being of our kānaka.” 

The trio came together thanks to fellow alumnus Brody Yamada KSM’17, a Brown University student.

“Brody interned at the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) and reached out to us for help promoting the census in our community,” said Roylo, who is studying mechanical engineering at Brown University. “Our KSK team members have different but complementary skills and academic interests: Connor – policy, Keao – art, and I am studying engineering. We all believe that this opportunity supported by CNAY would be a great chance to help the Lāhui, especially during the pandemic.”

Read more about the initiative and the importance of completing the census at helukanaka.com. Follow Helu Kanaka on Instagram at @helukanaka to win free stickers and T-shirts for sharing your census confirmation.

About the 2020 Census

The 2020 Census is the most inclusive civic activity in the country, covering each person in every household. Census results are used to allocate seats and draw district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures and neighborhood boards. Census results are also used to allocate more than $800 billion in federal assistance annually. According to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, every person counted equates to about $2,600 in federal funding flowing into the State of Hawai‘i per year for 10 years.

Complete the census online at 2020census.gov