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  • Anela Barboza

Breathing a Simple Truth

I wrote the post below last year, when I was still healing from the trauma of my former career and job. I look back now and ache for the past versions of myself that had to sacrifice dignity to find success and sustenance in a world that did (and does not) honor land-based relationship.


Today, Iʻm blessed to be on a different path that does not require me to live outside my truth. Itʻs been a gift to heal from this body of trauma, to leave this organization and this young personʻs stunted view of the world where it belongs. I grieve for the inequity of the situation, the unfortunate success this kid will achieve, the harm he and others continue to do, and the bullshit structures that invent and support this kind of power from their own inadequacies and lack of perspective.


The post was about finally speaking a simple truth that had been suppressed for my safety. And yet, it took me over a year to truly liberate the truth I set out to share when I wrote it. What is different now is that I no longer have to fear what one person or family will do in retaliation when I choose to speak. My livelihood and survival no longer depends on my ability to silence my authentic self.


So this morning, Iʻm holding an intention of healing for all of you who endure and exist in silence to feed yourselves and your ʻohana. Your real labor is not lost, keep in the practice of breathing life into your voice however quietly, painfully, or angrily. There are others who are waiting just to hear your story when the time is right for you.


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October 29, 2019


Once, a young boss asked me a question during my performance and wage review.


He asked what I thought of ‘the Native Hawaiians’ (meaning me and us) protesting Mauna Kea. He then went on to tell me that it was unfortunate that ‘they’ (also us) couldn’t see the benefit that this science would give the world.


I was frozen.


I sat silent, afraid. Afraid to be perceived as difficult, dangerous, or just plain inconvenient.


We both knew I was inferior to him. I was dependent on his approval for my job. I was also the only person of color in management, which meant no allies or need for racial awareness. And I was a woman with only a state college degree, older than my boss, completely uneducated in racial advocacy with ability to feed the kids and pay for their college, squarely sitting on the shoulders of my response.


So I held my breath, and along with it, the anger and fury of the power he dangled over me.


Long after I left this job, I held my breath deep inside my abdomen. My jaw would clench, my throat tightened, and all would be still from my navel to my eyes.


I’ve been afraid to write about this since, keeping this embarrassing scar hidden from plain sight like my words hidden inside my breath.


Today, let’s stand in liberation of truth.


What I wanted to say then, with no way to articulate it is that yes, I am 100% against taking ancestral land and using force to build controversial structures that will permanently alter the natural environment and further diminish the value of a people. I was then. I am now. And I will be until the last Aloha ‘Āina.


My time living in the practice of Kapu Aloha at the base of Mauna Kea showed me that dignity for land, self, and others allows us access to the highest form of ourselves. And that creates safety to take action that can rebalance and restructure unearned power.


Yes, it requires a mad amount of discipline. But like many things, honest and humble practice gets us most of the way there.


Extending the deepest gratitude to those who have walked with me along this path of healing and return. And sincere mahalo to all the kūpuna and kumu along the way who have received me under their guidance.



As leaders, we have the potential to empower lives, or wreck them. It is our job to know which way we are trending.


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